I’ve been inspired by a cauliflower to write this food review about the Bridge Inn at Calver.
Not just any cauliflower, to pinch a famous advertising slogan, but a whole roasted cauliflower, anointed with cumin and yoghurt and bejewelled with pomegranate seeds.
This thing of beauty, modestly and wittily named the humble cauliflower on the Peak District pub’s food menu, bursts on to your tastebuds, the spice and the yoghurt enhancing the cauliflower’s robust, intensified flavour and meaty texture, the pomegranate adding a sweet note.
Three of us made quick work of the lot and I admit to eyeing up the leaves in a moment of pure greed.
This dish was an accidental discovery as I’d been out for a gentle walk in Calver with my friends Linda and Janet, who is carrying a nasty leg injury.
We called in at the Bridge for lunch, so this wasn’t a premeditated food review where you might research the menu.
The Bridge Inn is a pleasant pub with a nice garden overlooking the River Derwent. I hadn’t visited for a few years and it’s had a sophisticated makeover, creating a relaxed, bistro-style look and Continental feel.
In line with that feel, the menu offers tapas-style sharing dishes, both tapas proper and other smaller plates of food to mix and match.
David and Samantha McHattie, who also run the Devonshire Arms at Baslow, took over the Bridge two years ago. They have a lifetime of experience at all levels of the industry between them.
David said: “We love food and particularly love the tapas style of eating. Everything isn’t Spanish, by any means.
“We love this, relaxed, sociable style of eating. I love tapas. You get to try lots and lots of different things. It’s going down very well.”
“The Bridge is now a lovely place to while away some time with friends and family,” added David.
He said they’ve enjoyed giving people something of a choice that is different from the standard Peak District pub food and gives customers a lighter lunch option.
He’s noticed at the Devonshire Arms, which has a more traditional menu, that more people are ordering two starters, rather than a main course.
The Bridge ran into controversy that became a national news story last year when it was targeted by animal rights protesters for having foie gras on the menu.
Foie gras, in which a duck or goose is force fed to artificially fatten its liver, is considered cruel and the practice is banned here.
David said he tried to have a sensible conversation with protesters about the actual production methods involved but the issue became more and more heated.
While sales of foie gras increased during that period, David said they finally took it off the menu because of one incident, where a customer was upset after being surrounded by protesters.
David said that the pub has a lot of vegan customers who enjoy their style of food.
The menu was developed by both pubs’ executive chef Darren Goodwin and the kitchen is under the day-to-day supervision of chef Jamie Varney.
On our visit, we were seated by a pleasant young man who cleverly put us in the conservatory near the door because we couldn’t decide about sitting indoors or out.
Another member of staff took our drinks order – Janet and Linda had San Miguel lager and I tried the clean, sharp flavour of the Japanese Kirin Ibichan lager.
One of the servers, Laura, took time to explain how the menu worked and recommended two to three dishes each. She was very knowledgable about the food.
The bites section of the menu is the equivalent of pinchos in tapas, a small, tasty mouthful of food, rather than a full dish. Janet tried the mackerel, lemon sour cream and horseradish pate on toast and said it was lovely.
We also ordered dishes to share, which were the cauliflower, a couscous salad, a Yorkshire pudding with beef stew, croquettes made with proper Spanish Iberico ham and a plate of patatas bravas.
I was thinking we’d under-ordered when that cauliflower arrived, its size making sure we all had a satisfying plateful.
The croquettes were perfect, silky soft and perfectly smooth mashed potato and slivers of ham in a crunchy breadcrumb coating.
The patatas bravas, mildly spiced cubes of sauteed potato lightly coated in tomato sauce and topped with garlicky aioli and guindilla peppers, were also very good and on a par with ones I’ve eaten in Spain.
I liked the Yorkshire pud and beef stew but it was slightly too salty for me. I traded Linda the last bit of it on the plate for an extra croquette, which is of course part of the joy of sharing.
We all enjoyed the light, fluffy couscous salad with pomegranate seeds, mint and orange.
I had spotted churros on the menu and I love them, so we agreed to share two portions between three for pudding.
The tube-shaped doughnuts came served in a tall glass with a little pot of dipping sauce on the side.
This is an upmarket version of a street food staple, so the beautifully cooked churros were coated in cinnamon sugar and the gorgeous chocolate sauce was flavoured with salted caramel.
Our bill came to £43.25.