Food Review: The Plough, Leadmill Bridge, Hathersage S32 1BA. Tel: 01433 650319.

Plough, Hathersage, Sous Chef Mark Rowan and manager Elliott Emery
Plough, Hathersage, Sous Chef Mark Rowan and manager Elliott Emery
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I ring a posh hotel in the area to see if they do a traditional Sunday lunch. You know, roast beef, Yorkie pud and all the trimmings because I can’t see anything on their website.

“No sir, we don’t but I’ll email our menu,” says the man on reception.

He does. They don’t. There’s not a roast to be seen.

I love posh and it’s pricy but on Sundays I like to relax and that goes for my tastebuds.

They get a pretty good workout in the week so I book elsewhere.

Much later I check my computer and find Posh Hotel Man has emailed exactly three hours later with another menu.

This has no less than three roasts on and it’s cheaper than the posh menu.

Now how did that happen?

Did Posh Hotel Man not know his menus?

Or did the head chef stroll by reception to be told “You’ll never believe this but I’ve had this bloke on who asked if we did a roast on Sundays?”

And the chef said: “I’d never thought of that. Let’s give it a whirl.”

We are at the Plough in Hathersage where they do a special lunch at £14 for one course, £19 for two and £24 for three because someone has twigged that it’s Sunday.

You get a choice of roasts if you are feeling trad, or anything from lemon sole with crab risotto via beef bourguignon to seabass with saffron if you’re not.

If that seems a little over the odds for a pub it’s because the Plough has built up a pretty good reputation and produces food of restaurant quality.

Regular readers will know the Plough, just out of the village on the B6001 towards Calver has been a favourite of mine over the years. Once, after emerging replete with fine roast beef and rich gravy I was quizzed on my meal by readers who spotted me in the car park.

Giving an instant review isn’t good for the digestion!

The Plough ticks all the boxes for a Sunday lunch. Scenic run out (particularly via Burbage): tick. Atmosphere – 16th century waterside inn: tick. Independent business – not a chain: tick. Good beer – particularly well-kept Black Sheep: tick. Good food: tick. A stroll afterwards – the Hope Valley is there before you.

The Plough has a couple of bars, restaurant, terrace and beer garden which overlooks the Highlow Brook.

It’s a warm sunny day for once but a real fire is blazing as we walk in the door.

We hope we don’t sit next to that and we don’t. We get the restaurant.

But I’m curious to know if owner Bob Emery, who has run the pub with his wife Cynthia and family for the last 22 years, forgot to check the weather report.

“We always have a fire. It adds to the atmosphere,” says Bob.

I start with a well-seasoned fishcake with a crisp exterior on wilted spinach topped with a just-runny poached egg and moistened with a Béarnaise sauce. A few peas have found their way into the spinach.

My wife has a chorizo and sunblushed tomato tart with strong, punchy flavours. It’s a disc of the shortest of pastry, topped with melted mozzarella and rocket.

If it had grown up slightly differently it would have been a pizza.

The special Sunday menu is available throughout the pub but if nothing on it takes your fancy you can have a burger or really lash out and order beef fillet with oxtail risotto and roast salsify for £27.

The head chef is Robert Navarro, here for 10 years, who took up the mantle of previous chef John Parsons who put the Plough on the road to be a gastro pub.

It doesn’t claim to be, but it is.

My roast beef was glorious, two thick slices blushing pink on a rich gravy. This was fore-rib so you needed your teeth to be in good shape but the chew was rewarded by enough beefy flavour to fill a jar of Bovril.

The Yorkshire pudding was thin but spot on and there was a full complement of vegetables: roast and mashed potatoes, kale, red cabbage, beans and charentais carrots.

My wife was much more refined with her Cajun chicken (“just the right amount of spiciness for me”) on a house Caesar salad (with new potatoes but no anchovies).

If I left a bit it was only because I wanted to have dessert (restaurant critics who wail they are ‘too full’ are falling down on the job).

We had a good treacle sponge and a first class honey pannacotta, sent on as reserve because the brûlée hadn’t had time to set.

The honey flavour came through and it was just the right texture, trembling on the dish at the merest touch like the proverbial maiden’s bosom.

The Plough has a devoted following. One couple come every week from Manchester.

The kitchen is not allowed to take the whitebait off the menu and devilled kidneys are very popular here. Seasonal treats like sweetbreads are always worth a visit.

The pub has eight smart bedrooms so is worth recommending to visitors wanting accommodation.

We paid £48 for lunch and another £15 for drinks and coffee.

Well recommended.

The Plough, Leadmill Bridge, Hathersage S32 1BA. Tel: 01433 650319. Food served Monday-Saturday 11.30am-9.30pm, Sunday 12-9pm. Credit cards. Vegetarian meals. Gluten-free dishes. Music. Disabled access and toilets. Terrace. Beer garden (down steps). Large car parks. Web: www.theploughinn-hathersage.co.uk

Rating 5