THE sun is out and so are the silver surfers, a vast tsunami of them flooding into Derbyshire to make the most of the countryside.
Silver surfers have to eat and many of them, flush full of English rural pleasures and of a certain age, have a healthy UKIP-like dislike of foreign intruders such as baguettes and paninis, however tasty.
I know how they feel. On holiday in deepest Suffolk I struggled to find a roast beef sandwich but was offered something with olives in a focaccia in an oak-beamed hotel which was old when Oliver Cromwell was a lad.
At Calver, tucked away at the back of the shelves full of scented candles, guidebooks and wooden toys in the Derbyshire Craft Centre, is the prosaically named Eating House.
Take a look at the blackboard menu and tell me you don’t feel like a true Brit when you see meat and potato pie, bubble and squeak with baked ham, poached eggs and homemade chutney, Welsh rarebit, kedgeree and macaroni cheese proudly chalked up.
“People like these old-fashioned things. It reminds them of their Mum’s cooking,” says owner Katrina Locke later.
“They don’t have the leftovers to make bubble and squeak – not that we use leftovers – and it’s just too much faff to do it themselves,” she adds.
Macaroni cheese is back on the menu of a four months leave of absence but you’ll have to pine for a panini: here reigns the traditional and open sandwich and jacket potato.
And then there are the cakes. You can’t miss them. The display cabinet is laden with more calories than a bodybuilders’ convention breakfast: glazed lemon tart or honey and walnut tart, Derbyshire fruit cake, chocolate cake with strawberries, lemon drizzle, apple pie . . .”
“We once counted them all up and we’d got 20 cakes, all of them homemade,” says Katrina.
In fact, says her mother Sheila Simpson, aged 78, who catches me sneaking a photo of the chocolate with strawberries, they do everything themselves except the puff and filo pastry.
“We used to buy in gingerbread men but now we make them ourselves,” she chuckles, having just popped in for lunch of prawn and cucumber salad.
She and Katrina took over the café 16 years ago although there’s been one there for 35. It’s a separate business leased from the gift shop and the two fit nicely together.
Retired couples make up the bulk of the business during the week but the trade switches to walkers, cyclists and families at weekends, who all have the same tastes for retro food.
There are two eating rooms, one in front of the counter and another at right angles to it, but they seem empty until I realise the tables in the sunny courtyard are full.
Inside the rooms are stone walled with mini pews, roses in vases on the table, and a sign on the wall which reads “I Kiss Better Than I Cook,” also available to buy in the gift shop.
There is also a separate menu for coeliacs and vegans and many of the cakes are also suitable. “We had one family come in who said separate menus reassured them that we knew what we were talking about,” says Katrina.
So what’s the food like?
The kedgeree (£6.95) is delicately curried-up turmeric-yellow basmati rice, run through with smoked haddock, scrambled eggs and plenty of cream. There’s a good salad with it, too.
I have a little grouse at first about my meat and potato pie (£7.95) because it’s got one of the two things they don’t make, a puff pastry lid, but am soon won over by the generously meaty filling. It comes with broccoli and the sweetest carrots I’ve eaten for a long time.
We’ve got our eyes on the cakes and choose the glazed lemon and strawberry topped chocolate cake (£3.25) each to have with our coffees. And because I’m greedy I can’t resist a shortcake (£1).
The lemon is elegant and I enjoy the chocolate although it’s just a touch dry and if Mary Berry was judging she’d give it a silver instead of a gold rosette. The shortbread is all that it should be.
Mum Sheila has retired now so it’s Katrina in charge but she is keen to give much of the credit to manageress Lydia Connor who has taken the food up a notch or two.
Other kitchen contributions are from Heather Shirt and Joanne Hickman as well as Katrina herself. And if that’s how they cook I’d love a kiss!
If you like the sound of the Eating House but are not around for lunch they do afternoon tea for a tenner with cakes, scones, finger sandwiches and bottomless pots of tea and coffee.
With good coffees we paid £29. Give them a call.