Back home with the inn crowd

Carla Critchlow in the dining room at the Manifold Inn
Carla Critchlow in the dining room at the Manifold Inn

Carla Critchlow left home to seek her fortune and travel the world; and for ten years she lived her dream, working in a hotel on the holiday island of Jersey.

But now she’s back home at Hulme End near Hartington, helping to revive the local pub.

The Manifold Inn, a picturesque old coaching house, nestles on a riverbank near the Tissington Trail.

It has recently been taken over by new owners David and Deborah Wynne-Owen. But day-to-day running is in the capable hands of Carla, who has transformed it since moving in as manager last year.

The first thing she did was spend a couple of weeks cleaning, painting and de-cluttering.

Then she refurbished the cosy bar, conservatory and dining room – which now boasts a stylish new look, featuring a row of long-hidden arched windows, rediscovered during the work.

The 200-year-old inn has also taken on the feel of a family business, with mum Kathryn Gould acting as pastry chef and cousin Diana as assistant manager. Cousins Ben, Caroline and Lorna are all waiters or bar staff and Julie a chambermaid.

Carla’s arrival signalled a change of fortunes for the Manifold – and it has had an impact on customers too, with locals returning to the pub, as well as tourists 
attracted by the letting rooms.

As a free house, the inn offers a diverse selection of real and cask ales, lager, spirits and cocktails. A new wine list offers a good range, from £14.95 a bottle.

Under Carla’s watch, the Manifold is also earning a reputation for food. The menu features a great selection of home-cooked dishes: not fancy, but good, hearty meals, well presented and made with top quality local ingredients.

The inn’s reputation is spreading, so we’ve come to try it for ourselves. First impressions are good – the bar is a cosy affair and next to the dining room is a new snug, decorated in the same warm burgundy colour scheme.

We order drinks and settle among the cushions – just right for a cosy evening meal.

Service is attentive and we’re soon tucking into starters. Smoked salmon and horseradish toasts are elegantly presented and taste as good as they look: crisp, doughy nuggets of toasted ciabatta topped with fiery horseradish and delicate slivers of fish.

My companion’s cock-a-leekie soup is the perfect comfort food on a chilly night. A hearty meal in itself, with crusty artisan bread.

He continues the theme with a bowl of beef stew: thick, rich and spicy, topped with soured cream and served with salt roast new potatoes.

My cod fillet is nicely done: oven baked, with a green Thai sauce that gives the dish its distinctive flavour and a spicy heat, without overpowering the delicate flesh. There’s also a branch of juicy roasted cherry tomatoes and a mound of roasties.

We can’t miss out on Kathryn’s desserts… Pannacotta is velvety smooth, apple pie good and sharp with short sweetcrust pastry. Both come with berry fruits, chocolate curls and ice cream – there’s a choice of half a dozen.

Three-course dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is a good value £41.65.