THE only other time I remember being in the White Lion at Great Longstone is when I was much younger, thirsty and a member of the now deceased Peak District Imbibing Society.
Male reporters at The Star (there may have been the odd token woman) would pile into a charabanc, head for the hills and try to sink as many real ales in as many pubs as possible in an evening.
As this is a family newspaper I cannot write what we called such events (but it was alliterative and ended ‘. . . Up in the Peak.’ Truth to tell, it was organised by a chap who later scaled dizzy heights in the Central Office of Information.
I cannot guarantee I arrived stone cold sober at the White Lion then, as I most certainly did on my return visit recently.
Recommended by a colleague, egged on by a food blogger and, honestly, Sajan Abraham of The Hindu newspaper (amazing what you can find online), I went in search of a good Sunday lunch. Reader, I found it but also yet another strange case of kedgeree abuse, which seems to be gripping local kitchens.
The White Lion, one of two pubs in the North Derbyshire village, both Robinsons, is run by Libby and Greg Robinson (isn’t that neat?), now in their third year there.
The old place has been smartened up considerably and the main bar has a wooden floor, low ceiling, boxed-in beams and Robinson’s Old Stockport (nice) and Dizzy Blonde (nicer) on the pumps.
There is a tap room as well as a main bar and beyond that a restaurant, the two rooms seating 50 in all. Unlike many such pubs, there is a refreshing absence of horse shoes and copper ornaments.
The Robinsons have a reputation for good pub food, mixing classics like the beer battered haddock and mushy peas favoured by The Hindu to ritzier dishes such as roast neck of lamb with rosemary bread pudding and chorizo.
There is also on Sundays a couple of roast main courses, sirloin at £12.25 (perhaps a tad expensive), which I had, and pork loin for a couple of quid less.
Greg cooks and Libby looks after the bar and front of house.
We made it to our Sunday lunch on our second attempt, after I cried off with a debilitating illness. “He’s got man flu,” my wife explained as she cancelled.
Her starter was a twice cooked basil and parmesan soufflé (£5.25), in which the flavour of the herb was gratifyingly prominent, with a roast red pepper puree. It managed to be light and fluffy while retaining some bite.
My dish, at £5.75, was advertised as ‘black kedgeree, smoked haddock.’ Now that either meant wild rice, which is black, or rice with black squid ink. It was the latter.
It was very good but by no means a kedgeree, the second example of chefs modging up kedgeree and risotto in recent weeks. For a start Greg had used a short-grained risotto rice rather than long-grained basmati.
There was no trace of Indian spicing (or an egg) but I loved the faintly iodine flavour of the squid ink, blending well with the smoky fish.
It was great as a risotto (the grains were moist and separate), a failure as a kedgeree. This almost extinct Anglo-Indian dish must not be left to the mercy of Italians.
There is a very tempting picture of roast beef on the pub’s website and mine looked just as good, a couple of slices blushing pink as requested on top of three turned, roast potatoes with a decent Yorkshire pudding to the side. It was cut thickly and tasted really beefy.
My wife had hoped for fish but apart from the haddock there was only swordfish, which she doesn’t like, so she plumped for the vegetarian option at £10.50 and didn’t regret it.
This was a trio of dishes: a pithivier (pastry case) of butternut squash flavoured with parmesan, a wedge of Spanish omelette and, the winner as far as she was concerned, smoked cheese and onion pie with a deliciously runny filling. They were all set on a bed of mushy peas.
As with all the dishes there was plenty of flavour. Veggies sometimes get overlooked but this was a plate full of interest until the end.
Sweets cost £4.95. A lemon tart was a little sturdy but the filling had a well judged citrous zing and the grapefruit granita which came with it was simply superb: the grains of ice half melted and the fruit sharp. A treacle sponge was also commendable although not quite as light as it looked.
All in all, a good meal and others have thought so, too. As the writer of foodie blog Cheese and Biscuits, who enjoyed hummus, gammon and sticky toffee pudding after a foray from London, put it: “Sometimes all that’s needed for a good time is honesty, comfort, familiarity and great big portions.”
We paid £43.85 for food and £4.38 for drinks.
The Dawes Verdict
Main Street, Great Longstone, Bakewell, DE45 1TA.
Tel: 01629 640 252.
Food: Mon-Fri 12-3pm and 6-9pm; Sat 12-9pm; Sun 12-8pm.
Credit cards. Vegetarian dishes. Car park at rear.