Eating Out: New Moon rising over the Peak

Moon Inn review, new bar interior
Moon Inn review, new bar interior

It was once a hub for the UK climbing fraternity – the place where Chris Bonington and his buddies planned their historic ascent of Everest.

It was also a posting house with a dark secret – where an 18th century landlord hid the grisly murder of a Scottish pedlar until his body was discovered 20 years later.

Thai pork patties - Moon Inn

Thai pork patties - Moon Inn

At that time the Moon Inn was one of 15 taverns in the Peak village of Stoney Middleton. But now it is the last one remaining...

And it looks set to shine again after reopening in December with new owners and a new lease of life.

Behind the transformation are Sheffield building company boss Dave Duroe and his interior designer partner Joy Mason – who grew up in Stoney and worked at the pub as a teenager.

“I never thought I’d end up owning it!” she admits.

I remember when Chris Bonington came here to plan their expedition

Joy recalls the days when world-famous climbers pored over maps and charts in the smoke-filled tap room: “It was known as ‘the legendary Moon’ back then and I remember when Chris Bonington came here to plan their expedition.

“My brother was a local historian and he framed a lot of old pictures from those days – they’re up on the wall now,” she says.

And Joy hopes the Moon will soon rise again as a climbing pub: “We’ve got all the climbers coming back in and we’re planning a reunion.”

Restoring the Moon was a major undertaking. They finally gained possession of the former chain boozer at the end of November and set about gutting the place, building a new cellar, a new bar and refurbishing the interior.

Plum & almond tart - Moon Inn

Plum & almond tart - Moon Inn

“For far too long pubs have become a bit soulless. We wanted to update it but make sure we didn’t lose the character,” says Joy.

She had already planned the interiors, sourcing materials and antique furniture from all over the UK.

Dave’s company took care of the building work and the team accomplished the transformation in 10 days… just.

“It was everybody in! We were still polishing the table-tops and hanging pictures at 3pm on opening day,” says manager Jess Allen, who’s in charge of day-to-day running. The toilets, an extended dining area and five king-size letting rooms are still being completed.

Newly refurbished bar at the Moon Inn, Stoney Middleton

Newly refurbished bar at the Moon Inn, Stoney Middleton

“It was a baptism of fire over Christmas. The place was heaving, so we just went with it. But now everything’s finding its feet.”

Jess grew up in nearby Eyam and began her career at 14, as a pot washer at the Miners’ Arms. After university she trained as a chef, then managed two pubs in Cumbria before working her way round the world.

The chance to manage the Moon came at the right time, within months of arriving home again, and Jess is relishing the chance to put her mark on a new venture.

“Running a pub isn’t a job, it’s a way of life,” she says.

The inn, at the end of the deep limestone gorge, is a real village hub, attracting locals as well as the walking, cycling and climbing community.

The make-over has done away with clutter of recent years and given the place a fresh, bright look. But the ancient beams are still there, along with the log stove and its hefty oak mantle, crowned with chunky candles and stag’s horns.

Moon Inn review, hosts David and Joy

Moon Inn review, hosts David and Joy

The old tables have been given rustic new tops, made from polished scaffolding planks, while a collection of antique dining furniture provides elegant seating for larger parties.

Now a freehouse, the Moon serves Pedigree and Wainwrights plus a couple of local ales. The two-dozen-strong wine list starts from £14 a bottle (£3 per glass) for a pleasantly crisp French sauvignon blanc.

Chef Alan Jackson and his team offer a sophisticated pub food menu: expect beef carpaccio and deep-fried monkfish cheeks alongside the battered cod, Moon burger and curry of the day.

I start with a warm seafood medley: seared scallops, sweet and succulent, wrapped in crisp, salty bacon; four big, juicy prawns and pieces of smoked salmon, with a wedge of lemon, brown bread and butter.

My companion’s Thai pork patties lack seasoning – and a bit more chilli would add some oomph – but the dish is saved by an accompanying salad with coriander, red onion, little pieces of apple and a lime and coconut dressing.

My main course is chicken: a generous breast, stuffed with creamy ricotta and spinach and wrapped in crisp pancetta. It’s a hearty dish, served in a bowl with penne pasta and plenty of rich, tangy Neapolitan sauce.

He goes for sausages – meaty pork, tomato and spicy Cumberland – from local butcher Gary Hancock whose family have farmed the area for generations.

It’s classic comfort food, with gloriously smooth, cheesy cheddar mash, a medley of crisp veg and tasty onion gravy: great value at £8.95.

Puddings are too good to miss, so we share a plum and almond tart… which turns out to the be highlight of the meal.

Crisp, buttery pastry encases sharp, juicy plums and a beautifully light frangipane filling; a good contrast in both flavours and textures. A scoop of ice cream and a swirl of purée complete the dish – excellent.

We finish our meal with Americanos. Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is £36.90.

* The Moon Inn, High Street, Stoney Middleton S324TL, 01433 630203, The Moon Inn