Food Review: Old Eyre Arms, On the B6001 at Hassop. Tel: 01629 640 390

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Today the thousand year mystery of the severed leg, the clock which bongs the wrong time and a rather good Sunday lunch in a pub forced to change its name.

And, if we’ve got time for it, a ghostly cavalier.

Old Eyre Arms'Nick, Lynne, Sam Smith

Old Eyre Arms'Nick, Lynne, Sam Smith

The pub is the 17th century ivy-clad Eyre Arms at Hassop, which in March added the word ‘Old’ to some but not all of its signs to stop confusion with the equally ivy-clad but more recent Eyre Arms three miles down the road at Calver. Perhaps that should be the Young Eyre Arms?

“It was a subtle change,” says Sam Smith behind the bar, hinting at previous difficulties. He helps run the place for his parents Nick and Lynne, who in October will have chalked up 20 years at what really is a picture postcard pub. The Boston ivy blushes red in autumn and is on many cards and Peak District calendars.

And they’d have to seriously cut it back to change the name on the wall.

It’s during a break in our meal that I stroll over to admire the newly refurbished coat of arms of the Eyre family above the stone fireplace.

Old Eyre Arms

Old Eyre Arms

Legend has it that the family’s founder saved the life of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings but lost his leg and thigh in the process. The grateful Bastard returned his leg, if only in the coat of arms he granted.

And sure enough there it is, or as they say in heraldry, “a human leg in Armour couped at the thigh quarterly argent and sable spurred.”

But which leg was it, left or right? Sam frowns.”It’s difficult to tell.”

After all this time we shall never know.

Time moves in mysterious ways at the Old Eyre Arms, rather like the grandfather clock in the corner by the door. “It chimes 12 at 12 o’clock but after that is an hour ahead,” says Lynne.

Come two o’clock it obligingly bongs three times.

In other ways, time stands still. The menu is still very much the same as when we last called five years ago and, come to think of it, five years before that.

There are always Derbyshire oatcakes served as a wrap, chicken Hartington (stuffed with Stilton), homemade Bakewell Pudding, made to a local WI recipe, and roast topside of beef for Sunday lunch.

“We try and take things off and people want us to put them back on the menu again,” says Sam.

The premises have been a pub since 1753. There are three rooms, oak beams across low ceilings, whitewashed walls, brass decorations, a red carpet, stuffed owl and sturdy wooden settles on which to sit.

Apart from the ticking of the clock and the sound of people murmuring over their meals – with not much of a village hereabouts people come to eat as much as to drink - it is blessedly quiet. There is, in fact, music “but if you can hear it it’s too loud,” says Nick.

It’s a big menu for a small pub but they do most of it themselves: that is Lynne and chef Mark Nadin, who seems to have been here as long as they have.

There’s an a la carte, specials board and set Sunday lunch (£14.95 for two courses, £19.50 for three). I go for the set lunch, my wife a special and a la carte, although we swap dishes between us.

With the set lunch the prawn cocktail comes in a glass rather than plopped on a plate (there’s nothing like tradition) and is well stocked with crustaceans.

Topside of beef (there is also turkey or fish) is quietly good in a homely way: two slices of very tasty meat, floury gravy, proper crisp roast potatoes, two small Yorkshire puddings and fresh vegetables.

My meal is rounded off by a highly competent individual summer pudding, with a greater ratio of fruit to bread.

Crab cakes (£4.55) are small (two) but very crabby with a crisp breaded crust and come with a sweet Thai chilli sauce.

The special is a fillet of nicely judged fillet of sea bass (£13.95) on a cheese and asparagus risotto, garnished with a nasturtium. Cheese and asparagus is a combination which does the rounds of the menu, it can sometimes be a filling for those oatcakes. The cheese makes the rice slightly stickier than you might like but nevertheless enjoyable.

Desserts are always a delight here. The summer pudding shows that, as does a homemade gooseberry and elderflower cheesecake, the gooseberries cutting through the sweetness of the filling, the elders adding a floral extra.

The Old Eyre Arms is not aiming to be a gastro-pub but does what it does in a gentle, unassuming way without bells and whistles.

Look out, too, on the dessert course for its Derbyshire pie, with apple, mincemeat and cranberries.

Our bill for food was £43.

And the cavalier? It reputedly haunts the pub and road outside but call in and find out for yourself.

On the B6001 at Hassop. Tel: 01629 640 390. Open daily in the summer. Vegetarian dishes, Children’s menu. Beer garden. Car park. Web: www.eyrearms.com

Sunday Lunch rating 4