Food Review: Manners pub, Haddon Road, Bakewell DE45 1EP. Tel: 01629 812 756.

Manners Hotel, Bakewell,
Manners Hotel, Bakewell,
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Now do you want to wait while I chomp my way through starters and mains or shall we skip to the very best bit, dessert?

Thought so. Fancy a Jaffa cake? You will if you order one at Bryan and Sarah Moran’s new gaffe at The Manners, Bakewell.

Manners Hotel, Bakewell, Brian and Sarah Moran with their partner Ben Clowes

Manners Hotel, Bakewell, Brian and Sarah Moran with their partner Ben Clowes

It comes in a little Kilner jar with a layer of sponge at the bottom, then some wobbly orange jelly topped off with a very chocolatey mousse with crunchy little sugar sprinkles. There’s more chocolate, as ice cream, on the side.

The whole confection tastes just like a real Jaffa cake only better, if you see what I mean.

If you don’t, go for the sticky toffee pudding, a cube of which is so light it wobbles when you touch the dish. If this isn’t close to perfection I don’t know what is.

It’s not quite what you might expect from a sturdy looking pub just off the centre of Bakewell. In fact if you were a visitor you might not amble this far to peer at the menu stuck up in the window.

“I don’t expect they get much walk-by trade but it’s certainly a walk-to place,” says my wife approvingly, reflecting on our meal. Bryan agrees. “The beauty of Bakewell is we benefit from word of mouth recommendations.”

People remember him from the kitchen at John Hattersley’s now deceased Aitch’s wine bar across the town.

And old customers are coming from Sheffield where the couple ran their eponymous restaurant, Moran’s, on Abbeydale Road South until last year, rated the best in the city by the Good Food Guide.

The man in the Original Farmers Market Shop in town read about it in his inflight magazine en route to Bulgaria.

But despite being showered with awards Bryan and Sarah were not, deep down, truly happy. A posh restaurant wasn’t really them. What he really wanted, Bryan told the Guardian’s restaurant reviewer who rated his meal 9 out of 10, was “a handsome pub.”

And that’s what they’ve got.

They sold the Sheffield restaurant without knowing what they would do next. Then the pub became available. They both knew it: John, who is Irish, from his time in the town, and Sarah because she is a Bakewell girl.

The Manners, a Robinson’s pub on Haddon Road, had a reputation as a drinkers’ pub not known for its food. It’s been scrubbed up since the couple moved in. They run it with colleague Ben Clowes.

With a blue and white décor, big room (and a little snug), banquettes, cutlery in Golden Syrup tins and a cool but not too loud music background it has the feel of a city pub, although few will have a large beer garden out back.

We loved it but not everyone does. “One former customer from Sheffield walked in, said ‘This is not a restaurant,’ and walked back out,” says Bryan.

It may not be the kind of food you get in a posh restaurant but it is the kind of food you get if you put a chef who’s run a posh restaurant into a pub.

The mains run from fish and chips and bangers and mash to a pie, scampi, venison haunch and risotto but I go for the revival of the sweet and sour duck dish he did at Aitch’s. When it comes I don’t recall the presentation. “It’s the same, I haven’t changed a thing,” maintains Bryan.

I’m not the only one with a dodgy memory. “People tell me they loved it at the restaurant but I never cooked it there. I’d had enough of it.”

A duck breast is roasted, the flesh pulled and reformed into a cricket ball wrapped in its crispy skin and rolled in crunchy sesame seeds.

It sits in a pool of sweet-sour sauce sufficiently gloopy to recall happy days at your favourite Chinese takeaway yet intense enough to be taken seriously. Boiled rice and stir-fried vegetables are served separately. At £16 it’s one of the more expensive dishes but it will hit you for six.

My wife’s calves liver (£13) was two good slices with a couple of rashers of excellent bacon on a spring onion mash in an ocean of deep rich gravy. Mains start from £9.

She’d started with the smoked haddock rarebit (£6.50), the fish coated with cheese and grilled for a vivid contrast in flavour, offset by a perky tomato salad dressed in a lemony oil.

I’d begun with calamari (£6.50) which was, frankly, a disappointment.

Many of the rings, coated in a light, crispy batter, were rubbery but the sweet chilli dip was gutsy and individual. Your average pub would have opened a jar: Brian made this himself.

Bryan has no regrets selling up an award-winning restaurant and moving to a pub. “If you are enjoying (cooking) more, it doesn’t matter where you are,” he says.

Judging by what we ate, his first best pub award won’t be long coming.

We paid £53 for food.

Manners pub, Haddon Road, Bakewell DE45 1EP. Tel: 01629 812 756. Open all week lunch and dinner (Sunday roast). Credit cards. Music. Disabled access. Vegetarian dishes. Beer garden. Large car park. Web: www.mannersbakewell.co.uk