Pilgrimage to Pilsley

Six of us went to the Devonshire Arms in Pilsley for Sunday lunch on a lovely sunny day. Recently reopened after a half-million pound refurbishment, this is the sister pub of the other Devonshire Arms in Beeley, also owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and attached to the Chatsworth Estate.  The new decor is modern but with a retro feel, I quite liked the pink wallpaper with the stag skull motif in the dining area. The food here is more down-to-earth and better value than in Beeley where we had felt rather ripped off on a previous visit. Couldn’t fault milord and lady here though.

All of us had the Roast Beef which was cooked to perfection, beautifully pink, full of flavour and good value at £9.50. The Yorkshire puds were of monstrous proportions, crispy on the outside but with soft interiors hiding deep reservoirs of darkly delicious gravy, and perched on top of a quality dollop of mash and a scattering of roast potatoes. The accompanying beans, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower were also done perfectly. Nitpickers that we are, we were saddened by the absence of roast parsnips but otherwise this was a faultless performance, a new challenger for the Plough in Hathersage perhaps.

Beer wise, there isn’t a big selection but they do have the excellent Jaipur from Thornbridge and Chatsworth Gold from Peak Ales, both fine draught tipples.

The puds were pretty good too. The champ was the Apple and Blackberry Pie with Vanilla Custard which triumphed on looks and flavour. The Baked English Custard pot looked rather beige but was in fact wonderfully tasty, again. The cheese board with chutney from the farm shop was a nice nibble too.

As well as the daily specials there are lots of other good options on the a la carte menu. Starters start at £3.50 for soup and go up to £6.50 for Duck Salad with Romaine Lettuce, Orange and Pomegranate. Mains range from £8.50 for the Mushroom and Stilton Quiche to £12 for the formidabable Mixed Grill. My only real criticism was the lack of vegetarian and other roast dinner options on the menu. So, a winner all round if your a meat eater but don’t bring any veggie friends.

The nearby Chatsworth Farm Shop is a good reason to come to Pilsley in itself. It’s only a five minute walk from the pub and the chefs try to use the shop’s produce as much as possible in their kitchen. It has a bit of a posh supermarket feel, with most things in packages and a rather disappointing bread section reminiscent of Waitrose but the meat counter is fantastic and all the meat, including venison, comes from the Estate. The sausages (I went for the Old English Pork with 96% meat content), pies and pasties are great too and there’s a good selection of cheeses. After tasting, I got some mature Gorge Cheddar and Stinking Bishop. Other things that went in the basket were quince jelly, comb honey and a couple of haggis.

All in all a pretty good haul, a full stomach and a full rucksack.

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