You just can’t beat the combination of sunshine, drink and good food in glorious Derbyshire surroundings.
This balmy summer has changed the whole feel of evenings and it would be churlish not to make the most of it.
So we grabbed hold of an average Monday night to head out to Bakewell and put one of the town’s big pubs to the test.
The Wheatsheaf describes itself as a pub and pantry. One thing which it should be shouting about from the rooftops is the wonderful staff. They were all fairly young and so happy to help. We were immediately put at ease, made to feel welcome and given tips on the best dishes to try.
They are perfectly set up to serve locals or tourists, from tots tired from rampaging through the hills to pensioners after nothing more than a little stretch of the legs along the river. There are, of course. also water and treats available for all furry friends. The atmosphere is just right for a venue in a place which is absolutely teeming with visitors at this time of year.
The staff were keen to explain that this is still a small family business, although it is a business which has proved very successful for the family and it isn’t difficult to see why.
The group also included the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, the Bakewell Bakery, the Scotsman’s Pack at Hathersage, the Bakewell Book Shop and The Wine Waiter. So we knew we were in safe hands but we also knew they had quite a lot to live up to because of the location. It might be less than half an hour from Sheffield in the car but there are so many restaurants and pubs on the way it is hard to know which to pick. Fortunately, this one came recommended and, conveniently, is more or less the first pub you see on your right after you drive over the bridge.
After delighting in the friendly welcome, I also have to sing the praises of the food quality. We ordered two main courses which were both absolutely delightful.
I went for salmon with black garlic, broccoli, potato remoulade, salted lemon and crab mayo. A heavenly combination with an exquisite sauce. It was the crab mayo that had caught my eye and that which made the dish into a winner.
My husband chose whole sea bass in a bag (£16). What a great idea for keeping in all the flavour and juice, yet present in an usual way. It was perfectly seasoned with Indian spices, tomato and mango with a side serving of yoghurt.
Two wonderful dishes which I would recommend to anyone, although my husband did comment that he would have liked a few potatoes, bread or something carb-based to perfect the sea bass. Maybe that’s a man thing!
I definitely won on the starter front. The goat’s cheese and onion tart (£6) was melt-in-the-mouth delicious. The sharpness of the cheese combined perfectly with the sweetness of candied plums and rosemary. Exquisite. Two of the tarts are served on a bed of green leaves. They look great and tasted even better.
My husband went for the prawn and avocado cocktail which I thought was a little disappointing. It was accompanied by Reuben sauce but just didn’t have anything special to raise it to the standard of the other dishes. The Bakewell bread which accompanied it was very good though.
The smallest member of our party was over the moon when we first arrived and spotted a poster in the window. What a bonus - kids get a free meal with every adult’s main course. The usual price would be £6 but I imagine that only happens when children outnumber the adults, not a very relaxing dinner recipe for anyone.
The kids’ menu was very straight forward but our six-year-old was happy enough. The chips which came with the mini cheese and tomato pizza were great. The pizza was actually more like tomatoey cheese on toast but it tasted good and disappeared quickly.
You won’t be surprised to hear that dessert was pretty good too. Hailed as the award-winning original Bakewell pudding it couldn’t go wrong in a venue at the heart of where it was invented. Warm, gooey and stunningly delicious. What else would you expect?
I opted for pecan pie from the specials board and it wasn’t as good. I should have stuck to what they do best - when in Rome, does as the Romans and all that.
We are so lucky to have the international tourism destination that is Bakewell on our doorstep.
Sheffielders know that well enough, but I do have to give a quick mention to the glorious hanging baskets which make every pub a rainbow of colour and a delight to pass or visit.
We sat outside even though the tables are on a pavement by the main road into town. We have to make the most of the sun, after all. Although the interior of the Wheatsheaf is lovely and has all the elements which would make it a perfectly cosy place to feast in winter too.
Only the flowers hanging from the walls give any indication to the quality taking place inside the Wheatsheaf. Without them you could drive past with barely a glance. I’m very glad we didn’t do that. It was a good meal for a reasonable price served by the loveliest folk.