AT first I wasn’t sure we’d come the best way to Hassop Station Café. Instead of driving,
Surely we should have pulled on our boots and walked to it for lunch?
The café stands besides the Monsal Trail, part of the old Midland Railway, although the last passenger train stopped here in 1942.
They pulled up the tracks in 1967 and now it’s a popular walkers and cyclists’ route although you hardly need boots to stride along it. You can push a wheelchair to Bakewell.
Quite a few people inside the busy café had boots on our visit and quite a few didn’t. Those ladies who lunch at the next table had walked no further than the car, judging by their high heels, for the station café is a smart place to eat in the middle of nowhere.
You may know it as the Country Bookstore, a bookshop with a café attached. That enterprise collapsed and these days it’s the other way around, a café with a bookshop on the side.
It’s stocked by a publishers’ clearance company and titles such as Let Horses Be Horses, Coleen Rooney’s autobiography Welcome To My World, and 500 essential Container Plants have all been marked down.
But what’s this, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s latest title, her autobiography Wait For Me! on the remaindered shelves? Well yes but for some reason only by a penny, down from £20 to £19.99.
Hassop Station has always sucked up to the Devonshires. If you’re thinking that the station, opened in 1862, is rather too grand for a wayside halt - there are sweeping arches and tall windows - you’d be right. Midland Railway built a first class waiting room thinking that the then Duke of Devonshire would use it.
His Grace, who had earlier tried to stop the line going over his property, got the hump and preferred Rowsley down the line.
I confess I never visited the place under its previous ownership. New bosses Duncan and Rebecca Stokes have spruced it up and I counted three rooms to eat in, as well as the terrace on what was once the platform of the southbound line.
Despite being in an isolated position it’s a busy spot and should be even busier when four former railway tunnels are opened on the trail this summer.
There are two car parks at Hassop Station. The first belongs to the café and is free for two hours, although you don’t discover that until you are in it. The one on the left is pay and display.
The place was almost full so we suspected there was a bit more to eat than your average jacket potato with tuna. There is.
The menu runs from breakfast to bagels and burgers to sandwiches, with not a pesky pannini in sight, thank goodness. There are jacket potatoes and a children’s menu as well as afternoon teas with scones and clotted cream.
But do look out, as we did, for the specials. There’s a homemade quiche, Hancock’s pork pie (from Stoney Middleton) with Ibbotson’s Pickled Onions (made by Ken at Ashford in the Water) but we ordered chilli con carne and aubergine bake.
My goodness, the kitchen really knows its stuff.
The chilli (£7.50) was exquisite, beautifully spiced, served with a fine, chunky guacamole and home made tortilla chips. Now you don’t see that very often. There were also separate bowls of cheese and sour cream.
My wife, meanwhile, was enjoying the aubergine bake (£6.95), the principal ingredient immersed in a tomato and vegetable sauce.
“Perfect but you need some bread with it,” she said. I gave her a tortilla chip. And another.
Pudding was quite the best bread and butter pud (£3.95) I’ve had for ages and I’ve had quite a few. It comprised two thick slabs of bread sandwiching a filling of plump raisins, drenched in a very eggy custard .The inner edges of the bread were turning to jelly.
It looked like it would serve a trencherman but tasted sophisticated.
A coffee and walnut cake wasn’t too bad either.
The chef here is Karen Kennedy, previously at Millhouses Park café in Sheffield.
There’s a sign on the wall proudly stating the café was highly commended in the 2010 Derbyshire Food and Drink Awards. All I can say the winner must have been going some because the standard here is very high.
We paid a total £20.80 for food and £3.70 for coffees.
With food this good Paul and Rebecca ought to invest in a proper coffee machine to do it justice.
Well worth a visit, with or without your walking boots.
There may no longer be a choo-choo train but there’s a chew-chew station.
Hassop Station, Bakewell (on the A6020-B6001 roundabout).
Telephone: 01629 815 668.
Open 9am-5pm all week. Licensed. Credit cards. Children’s play area. Parking. Disabled toilets.
My star ratings (out of five):
Service (partly DIY) ****