The Chequers (Intermediate A) Froggatt Edge, Hope Valley, Derbyshire, S32 3ZJ (about 20 minutes by car from Sheffield), Tel: 01433 620 231
The Chequers has always been one of my favourite pubs for Sunday lunch, and after a short lapse, they seem to be back on top form. As it’s located in an isolated row of cottages on the road below Froggatt Edge (usually a great place for a walk beforehand) you definitely need a car to get out here. Besides serving excellent food they have a garden with nice views out the back which is a great place to eat al fresco in the summer. Not on this February day though as the drizzle kept falling relentlessly. On the plus side it meant we didn’t bother reserving though it’s probably a good idea on better weather days.
The interior is typical English country pub with the only wall ornaments of exception inexplicably being a few old wooden plane propellers on the walls, perhaps the remains of some failed attempts at flight from the edge rising up behind the pub. There’s a fair choice of hand pull beers including Farmer’s Bitter and one of my favourite pale ales; Easy Rider from Kelham Island Brewery .
The main reason to come though is the food, and they take it very seriously here with locally-sourced, quality ingredients from a host of reputable suppliers. It’s not cheap (£12 for Sunday roasts) but it’s one of the best with only the Plough in Hathersage being a serious contender locally. I hadn’t eaten here for a while as the last time I went for the pork and was disappointed to receive two miniscule chops which hardly even began to satisfy. After a suitable period of boycott in protest (in my typical cut-of-your-nose-to-spite-your-face style) I returned with my tail between my legs and meekly asked for the beef please.
It had always been a winner in the past but I think on this occasion it even surpassed those previous great moments. Two hearty slabs of melt-in-your-mouth beef, on a foundation of succulent carrots, supported a hefty smear of delicious mash holding aloft a grotesquely bulbous Yorkshire pud, all surrounded by a moat of darkly flavoursome red wine gravy. On the side, a dish of lightly steamed courgette, mange tout and Savoy cabbage; bright green and glistening with butter. Everything cooked and presented perfectly.
Although I tried to put them off due to my previous experience, my dining companions brashly ignored my warnings and went for the pork. Thankfully their instincts were right and they received a much better showing than I did; two thick shavings of flavoursome piggy, coquettishly crowned with a dinky Yorkie. The only criticism was the absence of any crackling, perhaps because we’d arrived a little late in the day. Although the pork was good (A-), the beef won out on this visit (A+). There are lots of other British and European options on the menu too, which I’m sure are great, but I’ve never been brave enough to break away from the classics.
The puddings (£5.75) are cracking as well of course. On different occasions I’ve had the Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream (A), the Chocolate and Orange Brownie with Chocolate Sauce (A), the Drambuie Crème Brulee (A) and the Bakewell Pudding (B), and would happily order all but the last one again. Although sourced from The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop the poor little pud just can’t quite compete with those other big hitters.
What else to mention? The service I’ve received from the youthful waiting staff has always been friendly although the manageress was a bit brusque this time. The pub is also a hotel and they have an outside catering company. And they’ve recently opened a sister establishment, the Sir William in Grindleford , which is where I’ll be heading for my next Sunday lunch.