Sunday Lunch at the Charles Cotton Hotel, Hartington

Traditional British favourites with a twist are on the menu for diners at this country gem

A warm welcome, excellent cask ales, a relaxed atmosphere and a hearty feast are just what you need when you’ve been out enjoying the glorious countryside. Certainly what’s on offer at Hartington’s Charles Cotton Hotel fulfils this ultimate country dining experience.

Founded in 1738, it takes its name from writer Charles Cotton, who was born at nearby Beresford Hall in 1630 and is best known for his contributions to The Compleat Angler, written by Sir Izaak Walton, and his own book The Compleat Gamester.

The hotel occupies a prime position at the centre of this popular village – a haven for walkers and anglers – and, following tasteful refurbishments by owners Alan Shanks and Judy Dyer in 2010, its popularity as a place to eat, drink or stay when exploring the Peak is thriving.

Indoors, the charming décor is a lovely blend of traditional and contemporary. The chic Charlie’s restaurant – with its high ceilings and painted walls – is bright and airy, while the relaxed bar and bistro area is cosy and inviting.

The Sunday Lunch menu, created by head chef Simon Harrison, can be best described as modern British in style and offers a choice of four starters, seven main courses and four desserts (£14.95 for two courses or £17.95 for three) served from 12pm.

Starters of carrot and coriander soup with crusty bread or pancetta wrapped asparagus with raspberry balsamic were available alongside tempting main courses of pork loin and stuffing, pan-fried sea bass fillet with parsley butter sauce, spinach and goats’ cheese roulade with savoury butternut custard or homemade meatballs.

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The presence of a 21st birthday party highlighted how the Charles Cotton caters for everyone and service was prompt and attentive without being intrusive. We were helpfully informed of the focus on local suppliers and the use of organic fruit and vegetables wherever possible, which made choosing from the menu even more pleasant. This is also a place where real ales are as important as fine wines, so my partner chose a refreshing pint of Hartington IPA to kick-off proceedings.

It wasn’t long before we were enjoying two beautifully cooked starters. My dish of garlic mushrooms served in a rich and creamy sauce included chopped onions, for greater depth of flavour, and was accompanied by dressed leaves with warm toast to mop up the juices. My partner enjoyed haddock goujons in a light IPA beer batter with salad and a zestful tartare sauce: absolute comfort food.

In classic Sunday style, I chose the main course of roast beef. Despite its simplicity, this dish was anything but average. The tender meat – sourced from Stanedge Grange Butchery in Newhaven – was some of the finest I’ve tasted and arrived with a huge fluffy Yorkshire pudding and ambrosial beef gravy. Across the table, my partner’s roast leg of lamb was equally impressive, with plentiful slices of succulent meat and a mint gravy that added a well-rounded ‘kick’. Both were served with creamy mashed potato, roast potatoes and fresh vegetables.

The generosity of the portion sizes dictated that we shared a dessert, so we opted for homemade waffles, butterscotch sauce and a delicious dollop of vanilla ice-cream to finish.

After such a feast it seemed apt to be in an area renowned for excellent walks, should we have wanted to burn off any extra pounds, but you don’t have to be an outdoors enthusiast to enjoy what’s on offer at the Charles Cotton. Besides lunches, evening meals, afternoon teas and special events with guest speakers, there are live music nights and comfortable bedrooms offering a tranquil place to stay in this picturesque corner of the county. n

Charles Cotton Hotel, Market Place, Hartington SK17 0AL. Tel: 01298 84229