AT the end of your meal in the 1530 restaurant at Castleton owner Alicia Shearer adopts a striking pose, left arm stretched, pointing out the window towards Peveril Castle.
“These walls are so thick it can be difficult to get a signal,” she says in an Australian accent as the card machine whirrs into life.
So what’s a girl from sun-kissed New South Wales, where she grew up only yards from the beach, doing in an Italian-influenced restaurant in the soggy Peak District?
Well, for a start, she owns the place with partner Tim Stoddard, a local lad (from Thornhill) whom she met while he was doing his business degree in Australia. “I wanted to travel the world, my father wanted me to go to university so we compromised,” he smiles.
Tim came home hoping for a job in finance, then the world got money troubles. When he was growing up his family had grumbled about the difficulties finding a decent restaurant nearby. So he opened one.
Alicia has spent 14 years in the hospitality business, Tim hasn’t, but he’s already got a passion for it.
The restaurant, which has seen service in previous years as the local postie’s bedroom, a clothes shop and a bookshop, takes its name from the year the original cottages were built.
With its core menu of pizzas and pastas, together with some more ambitious dishes, it has been fondly received since opening days before last Christmas.
Alicia was front of house on our night while Tim had been in the kitchen, acting as commis to head chef Rian Skidmore.
After service, Tim seemed so mild mannered you wouldn’t think he’d monstered a diner on Trip Advisor who, on the face of it, unwisely amplified some minor complaints.
Not one to take unfair criticism lying down, he mused there ought to be a ‘Customer Advisor’ warning restaurants of uppity guests. “The arrogance and rudeness shown by yourself on the night and further demonstrated in your review is appalling.”
A certain lady from Barlow will be giving Castleton a wide berth in future.
Most people on our night were sticking safely to pizzas and pasta although 1532 can venture successfully into much more ambitious territory, as with my wife’s main.
Four fillets of place were poached around a filling of spinach mousse, shaped into roundels by blanched leeks. They came with a little pot of capers with plaice tartare – probably better described as a ceviche since the fish was ‘cooked’ in citrous – and quinoa (a South American grain).
Now plaice is usually quiet in taste but the kitchen brought out the flavours and the cooking was spot on so you didn’t mind the £14.95 price tag.
The restaurant has two rooms, one with a bar and a glass window to spy on the kitchen, and ours, with a beamed ceiling looking on to Cross Street through a Georgian shop front window.
We’d begun with complementary bread and warm oil with balsamic then followed up with small plateful of enterprising crostini (£4.50) to nibble. All, including the tapenade, were excellent.
Starters are pricier than need to be. I had two nicely sticky arancini risotto riceballs (£6.50), although the mozzarella, mushroom and truffle oil stuffing appeared to be run right through rather than emerge as a melting ‘yolk.’
The calamari starter (£6.95) sounded very Mediterranean although the chilli and lime flavour promised was not in evidence. But you did get lime in the aioli. Other starters included soup, beef carpaccio and a fish cake, the only time I’ve seen this dish marked POA (price on application) on a menu!
My main was an unremarkable calzone (£10.95) filled with spicy sausage, pancetta, mushrooms, spinach and an egg.
Also on the menu was a pea, bean and goats cheese risotto, sea bass with saffron potato, a couple of local steaks and a small slate of linguine dishes.
Your meal can arrive too fast so we slowed things with a ten-minute break before we even looked at the dessert menu.
It was worth it. Sweets are done well here. A lemon and champagne mousse, served in a wine glass (£4.95) was glorious, you could almost feel the bubbles, while a caramelised pear tarte tatin (£5.95) matched sweet grainy textured fruit against good flaky pastry.
1530 has already attracted a band of loyal followers. The couple on the table across from us, staying at a village B&B, had been eating their way through the menu over the week. Tim and Alicia are hoping takeaway pizzas will help see them through the winter.
Our meal cost £54.55 for food (four courses with the crostini), £4.85 each for large glasses of good wine (Montepulciano and a chardonnay), with coffees bringing the total to £68.10.
Just to prove you can take the girl out of Australia but not Australia out of the girl, 1532 is planning a barbie on December 29.
Cruck Barn, Cross Street, Castleton, Hope Valley, S33 8WH.
Tel: 01433 621870.
Open all week for lunch and dinner except Tues. House wine £9.95. Credit cards. Disabled access and toilet. Music. Street car parking. Takeaway pizzas.
My star ratings (out of five):