Jack, Kira, Edwin, Anna, Me and Cowie have taken to calling ourselves “The Splendid Six” in honour of Jack’s former life as the voice of one of the Famous Five and our feeling of empathy towards them. Having been camping and skiing previously together we thought it was time for a weekend break in the Peak District.
Cowie found us a brilliant cottage just outside Dovedale. A cross between a picture postcard and your ideal vision of a countryside cottage it made for the perfect base to explore from. Dale Bottom Cottage, not only has a brilliant name, but backs this up by being a great place to enjoy a long weekend.
Whilst Cowie had been in charge of accommodation, Anna had organised mountain bikes which led to a fantastic day of zooming down hills and breathlessly panting up what seemed like mountains. It was a great way of building up our appetite for dinner at The George in Alstonfield, which Cowie had found recommended in our Gastro Pub Cookbook.
Bustling, warm and inviting, we were welcomed into the pub with a smile and led to our prime table next to the fire. The girls were delighted and the boys instantly started wilting like lumps of callow. Jack drew the short straw and set about roasting his left side whilst the rest of us devoured the menu.
We ordered a vast range of food and waited for quite a while before our food turned up. But we didn’t mind because we were having and the atmosphere was that of a friendly pub. In short the mood was perfect with each table seemingly competing to have a better time.
Edwin loved his smoked venison salad which as I was later to find out, was truly impressive. Anna, Jack and Cowie were in raptures about their 3 perfectly cooked scallops but less keen on the orange segments that unnecessarily came with them. I, however, was horrified that my twice-baked cauliflower and cheese soufflé was scorching hot on the outside and stone cold on the inside. I tried one mouthful and sent it back which was a real shame as that one taste was delicious. It was all rather embarrassing, but on the plus side I was given my own version of Edwin’s supreme starter for free.
Main courses were a while coming too, but we didn’t care. It just gave us more time get stuck into banter fuelled by some excellent vegan English wine (we found out later that we had been the only people ever to order it). After several apologies from our lovely waitress our food arrived to little gasps.
Fillet steaks with a deep glaze were perfectly cooked and meltingly tender. These cows certainly weren’t sacrificed in vain. My duck on a bed of lentils and walnuts was interesting. The duck was nice and pink but the skin was flabby and a bit under seasoned. The lentils were a good foil for the duck, but were just a bit dull. The walnuts added an interesting textural contrast, but were far too abundant. It was as if a squirrel had stashed his entire hoard of walnuts for the winter on my plate!
Cowie’s sea trout was beautifully elegant proving that the kitchen has an abundance of talent that just gets stretched when the dining room is busy.
We couldn’t resist indulging in dessert. The group ordered enough sticky toffee pudding to spark a heart disease epidemic. But after a day of mountain biking we had deserved it. Groans and smiles spread rather than death. My bitter marmalade tart was a bit of a Ronseal. It was bitter. It was a tart. And it was marmaladey. But I think I’ll be saving marmalade for my toast as this combination was far too combative for my taste-buds. God I yearn for a classic lemon tart sometimes!
The George lived up to its fine reputation for hospitality and warmth by making us feel as welcome as tourists from London can ever hope to feel in a country pub. Despite firing a couple of blanks during a busy service, the food on the whole was more peaky than trophy. Or should that be “peaky rather than troughy”? Another great recommendation from the increasingly indispensable Gastro Pub Cookbook.
It was a great trip to the Peak District. One we will remember for a long time with fond memories but tainted by bitter nightmares about a terrible board game called Kingmaker.