Last week I wrote about the unusual Teversal visitor centre, with its microwave pies and granule gravy. Clearly, during our weekend in Nottinghamshire this wasn’t the only place we ate out, another stop being the 15th Century Hardwick Inn, close to Hardwick Hall (which I’ve since found out is actually in Derbyshire!). We stopped here halfway through a 10-mile walk along the Teversal Trails for a hearty mid-hike feast.
It’s a beautiful building – warm and welcoming, meeting all our expectations of the perfect place to rest and recharge before hitting the road again. There’s plenty of outdoor space for sunny days, and several rooms, including one where dogs are welcome. The service was friendly and helpful, and when we asked about food we were told we could order off the menu, or take advantage of the carvery which was finishing in about 10 minutes but we still had time.
Rather than resign ourselves to scraping the barrel of a carvery just before it’s consigned to the bin, we opted for the main menu, which promised pub classics and plenty of appealing homely dishes from pies and lamb shanks to game casserole, all home-cooked apparently.
Now, I love efficient service, and it really was here. Speedy, helpful, accommodating. But it must have been some superhuman speed that enabled our food to arrive at our table as quickly as it did. I had images of the Clark Kent chef whipping his whites off to reveal superchef underneath, darting around the kitchen at light speed assembling four meals within minutes, in my mind.
Fair enough, some of the meals were slow cooked so had probably been assembled in advance, but I reckon the secret might have been in the carvery. We may have confidently thought we’d escaped the lukewarm veg and dried-out roast potatoes, but were kindly provided with them as an accompaniment to our meals.
My Derbyshire Game and Ale Casserole, which apparently included venison, wild boar, rabbit, pigeon and pheasant, was certainly packed with meat, although I’m not sure all five of those were included. It was a bowl of steaming warmth but sadly, seasoning was to this dish what reality TV is in my mum’s house – sadly absent.
Mr M’s pot roast lamb shank with shallot onions, red wine and rosemary was a generous size, but he thought it didn’t really sing ‘homemade’, more akin to a Lidl microwaveable lamb shank in gravy that we have occasionally be known to have for tea. Both of these courses were served with ‘fresh veg’ (read veg from the carvery), crusty bread, and a choice of homemade chips, jacket, or roast potatoes (again, here, read potatoes from the carvery).
One of our friends went for steak and stilton pie, which was described as being topped with thick shortcrust pastry. He opted for roast potatoes and mushy peas (pie and peas is the ‘thing’ in this neck of the woods). I think it’s safe to say that this isn’t what anybody thought it would look like.
Yeah, so it’s hearty food. But surely you want it to still look like something someone’s about to eat, not has recently eaten and then returned to the plate? Fortunately, it apparently tasted infinitely better than it looked.
The final choice was homemade beef lasagne, which was apparently rather yummy, although we were a tiny bit baffled by the carb overload that was lasagne served with a choice of potato. Hey ho, each to their own.
Don’t get me wrong, the Hardwick Inn is an idyllic place to stop during a ramble around the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire countryside. The pub itself is picturesque and has just the ambience you’d expect, while the staff are welcoming and helpful. All the things you imagine when you hear about the 15th Century Inn that you’re going to stop at.
Maybe we expected too much. Maybe our imaginations ran away with us. It was all edible, some of it pretty nice. But it just wasn’t the tasty, hearty feast I’d been looking forward to. I don’t say this out of spite, but disappointment. Nothing was so bad that it warranted a complaint, especially to the eager-to-please young staff who accommodated our every request. It just didn’t really blow me away, I’m sad to say.
We’d paid in full for our meals at the Hardwick Inn. They didn’t know I was a blogger.