Hope’s new Café Adventure is living up to its name for proprietors Rachel Norman and Billy Clegg.
The couple left long-standing jobs in June to set up on their own – catapulting themselves from the steady routine of established employment into a whirlwind of the unknown.
But the result has been a pleasant revelation: “It’s hard work and we’re really tired every night – but we’re happy,” says Rachel.
The pair met at stately Chatsworth where Billy was based for 16 years, working his way up the kitchen ranks to become sous chef.
It was a challenging role...
“I’ve done dinners and banquets for the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, as well as working in the Carriage House restaurant,” says Billy.
His responsibilities over the years included acting as head chef during a visit by the Duke of York.
But his biggest challenges included cooking for fellow professionals such as celebrity chefs Tom Kerridge and Mary Berry.
“I enjoyed working there,” says Billy. “But I’m an all-rounder and in the end there was no way for me to progress. I wanted something a bit different.”
Meanwhile Rachel had moved on from her job as apprentice chef at Chatsworth to study for a degree in archaeology.
But she paid her way through university with a part-time job at a Sheffield independent bakery: “In the end I decided that was what I really wanted to do,” she says.
After six months of anti-social hours and 2am starts, she thought again – and took a job at the Calver Craft Centre café, combining her chef’s skills with front-of-house work.
She and Billy were a couple by this time and were looking for a way of combining their shared interests. When they heard the Blue Apple Gallery was coming on the market, it seemed the perfect opportunity.
“Our two loves in life are food and the great outdoors, so we thought we’d open a foody café for outdoorsy people!”
They got the keys at the end of June and Café Adventure opened five days later, in time for the summer influx of walkers and cyclists.
It was a baptism of fire, with a new home to cope with as well as a new business – Billy and Rachel live over the shop in Edale Road, Hope.
Initial changes included a new breakfast bar and a blackboard menu, as well as information about local walks and activities. A huge wall-mounted OS map of the Peaks is next on their agenda.
Billy is in charge of the cooking while Rachel does the baking – “She’s a talented pastry chef,” says her proud partner – and they share front-of-house duties.
The café is open six days a week and Tuesday is their day off: a chance to get out on their bikes and enjoy the outdoors first hand.
In addition to the daily menu of breakfast, lunch, snacks and cakes, they also run regular bistro nights – a chance to stretch their creative talents.
We’re here to find out what’s on offer...
The café is clean and inviting, all polished floorboards and plain walls, with a counter of delicious-looking cakes and an exhibition of local photography and painted wooden signs picked out by track lighting.
We’ve pre-ordered from the bistro menu, so we go straight to our table, which is laid with cutlery, glasses, fresh freesia and a flickering tealight.
It’s BYO wine – corkage is free – so we nip round the corner for a bottle, then settle down to enjoy it with hot, crusty garlic bread.
My starter is toasted goat’s cheese with a tomato and beetroot salad. Well, it was supposed to be, but the beetroot has transmogrified into caramelised onions. Suits me: I don’t think you can beat their tangy sweetness to complement creamy goat’s cheese. A swirl of balsamic syrup completes the dish.
Ham hock terrine is good too: moist and meaty, it’s a decent portion, served with crisp pickled veg – cauliflower florets, onions, strips of carrot – and fresh leaves.
There’s a choice of two dishes for each of the three courses, which is fair enough at £18.50 per head. But it means Hobson’s choice for my non-fish-eating companion when it comes to mains.
He’s happy with a tasty pea and herb risotto, which has plenty of bite and a lovely light, fresh, minty flavour.
It comes on a bed of courgettes with a garnish of baby leeks and watercress, but the promised Parmesan shavings are missing, which is a shame. They would have added to the texture as well as the flavour.
My salmon fillet is nicely cooked, served simply on a bed of crushed new potatoes with parsley sauce, wilted spinach and a slick of pea and mint purée.
But it seems they’ve saved the best for last. We share the highlight of the night: Rachel’s chocolate torte.
It’s a sumptuous feast of the finest, crisp shortcrust pastry filled with rich, dark chocolate ganache, served with chantilly cream, a smear of raspberry coulis and decorated with a sprig of mint. Simply divine!
We also share the alternative dessert: a board of cheeses including brie, stilton and gouda, with grapes and crackers.
We finish our meal with coffee.
Dinner for two, excluding service, is £37.
l Cafe Adventure, 1-3 Edale Road, Hope S33 6ZF (01433) 623313 Cafe Adventure