REVIEW: Country pub that packs a punch

Head chef Jack Goodison at the Scotsman's Pack, Hathersage
Head chef Jack Goodison at the Scotsman's Pack, Hathersage

Jack Goodison never meant to be a chef. In fact he was heading for a career in fashion design – with a graphics qualification and 70 pairs of trainers to prove it.

But destiny took a hand when Jack decided to take a gap year and brother Greg got him a job helping out at the old Champs on Ecclesall Road.

Nick and Jemma Beagrie - owners of the Scotsman's Pack

Nick and Jemma Beagrie - owners of the Scotsman's Pack

"I started off pot washing, then began helping with salads and desserts to earn some extra money," he recalls.

"Then one day I had a phone call, saying they wanted a new chef de partie at Relish. I didn't even stop to think, I just went straight for it."

It proved a lucky twist of fate and Jack quickly realised he had stumbled across his vocation.

Within three years he had worked his way up to sous chef. But when the restaurant changed course he looked around for something new and hit upon the Scotsman's Pack pub in Hathersage.

Scotch egg - the Scotsman's Pack

Scotch egg - the Scotsman's Pack

That was in February 2014 – and a lot has happened in two years.

Most young chefs would think twice about swapping the bright lights of the city for a country inn, but it's a perfect match for Jack.

"I kind of fell in love with the countryside," he says. "This was so different to anywhere I'd worked before, but I love the views. And I like the fact that I have a chance to speak to the customers here."

He arrived as sous chef but when the head chef left, they asked him to take over.

Sea bream with crab and sweet potato risotto - Scotsman's Pack

Sea bream with crab and sweet potato risotto - Scotsman's Pack

"I didn't feel ready for the responsibility at that time... so I repaid the favour and got my brother Greg the job."

That proved a good move and a few months later Greg was promoted to an executive role, overseeing the kitchens at sister pub the Eyre Arms in Calver and the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop too.

By that time, Jack had found his feet – and his confidence. He became head chef just over a year ago and has never looked back.

The Scotsman's Pack is a 300-year-old inn that stood on the main track between Sheffield and the Peak. It was a regular watering hole for the 'packmen' who sold their wares to all the surrounding farms and villages, particularly those who brought tweeds from Scotland.

It has long been popular with the locals too – including businessman Nick Beagrie, who grew up just down the valley and had his first pint there. When the place came on the market 14 years ago, he bought it.

These days it gleams with all the love and attention you'd expect in a good country pub. There are shelves of copper plates and horse brasses; pewter mugs hang from the bar.

Ongoing refurbishment has smartened up the interior with new upholstery and a tartan carpet – a nod to the inn's name. The five en-suite bedrooms are next on the list

But the traditional character remains, including polished oak wall panelling and good hand-pulled ales.

Landlord Gary Wilson and his long-standing staff inject the kind of bonhomie that's missing in most modern pubs.

They know all the regulars: from the business types who call in on the way home to the walkers and climbers who plan their routes around a pint at the Pack. And they have just as much time for visitors.

The food is another draw. Jack and his team serve a seasonal menu, ranging from snacks – think Henderson's Relish-pickled eggs and home-made pork crackling – to pub favourites, modern British classics and weekly-changing specials.

It's one of the best pub menus we've seen in a long time.

We order drinks and choose a table at the far end of the room. It's extra busy because it's quiz night later.

I start with 'fried squid': actually deep fried in batter, but delicious even so. Sweet calamari is enhanced by a wedge of lemon and a little pot of thick, garlicky aioli. Balsamic-dressed watercress and an artistic curl of cucumber complete the dish.

A well made scotch egg is a culinary delight and this one's really good. It's served fresh from the fryer, the crisp shell cut open to reveal a good thick layer of pork sausagemeat and musky black pudding encasing a perfectly cooked egg, oozing golden yolk. A single chive and a dish of HP sauce are the only embellishments – simply great.

Main course cottage pie is the gourmet version, packed with pieces of chopped venison in rich stout gravy and topped with creamy cheddar mash.

It comes in an individual pie dish (which is easily big enough for two), with a bowl of perfectly al dente veg: baby carrots, beans and mangetout.

My sea bream is from the specials menu: nicely done and attractively presented, with asparagus spears for a bit of bite. The thing that makes this dish different is the unusual crab and sweet potato risotto.

A cross between risotto and mash in texture, it has a lovely cheesy, fishy flavour: the ultimate in comfort food. But half as much would have been plenty – and allowed room for dessert.

As it is, that responsibility is left to my companion, who can't resist the Old Original Bakewell Pudding: supplied by the sister business, of course.

Soft, buttery pastry; moist, almond-scented filling; sharp, sweet raspberry jam: it's easy to see why this dish has stood the test of time.

We finish our meal with decent americanos. Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, is £44.50.

l Scotsman's Pack, School Lane, Hathersage S32 1BZ; (01433) 650 253;