Sunday, October 13, 2013

Devonshire Arms, Pilsley, Derbyshire

It can get very confusing round these parts if someone suggests dining at the Devonshire Arms. On the night we completed the sale of my house in Wakefield I wanted to celebrate with dinner at this Devonshire, it being game season and this being a speciality of theirs, but sadly they were full. So we tried to call this Devonshire instead, I'd enjoyed a meal there before so it seemed like a good alternative, but they weren't answering the phone. Maybe we got the wrong number and tried to call this Devonshire, or maybe this one. Who knows?

All was not lost, as we ended up at this Devonshire instead. Panic over. The Devonshire Arms in Pilsley is the pubbier sister to the Devonshire Arms in Beeley, just a few miles across the Chatsworth estate. Both are run by the mini-empire controlled by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire themselves (which in case you were wondering also includes Yorkshire's Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey, and the Devonshire Fell at nearby Burnsall. Must have had a crisis of confidence with that last one. What's wrong with Arms all of a sudden?).

You can tell when you're in a proper Devonshire with aristocratic proprietors, as within five minutes or so of arriving you're bound to see the Duke and Duchess posing on some piece of literature or other, looking all patrician yet welcoming, like a sort of friendlier local royal family. I imagine this is what the Queen's descendants will be doing a century hence, when we've finally gone Republican and you can't travel 50 yards in Berkshire or Norfolk without stumbling upon another Windsor Arms.

I digress. Whatever your views on the future of the monarchy (for some reason the debate never seems to run to whether or not they'd make a killing in the hospitality business) and the aristocracy the Devonshires generally oversee a pretty good quality operation.

The Pilsley outpost was a case in point. Solid, very accomplished pub grub, not at the gastro end of the spectrum, but very much in the traditional sense.


I considered leaving the photos off this post, as everything looks weirdly rubbish, more wacky warehouse two-for-one in appearance than the enjoyable, well cooked meal it actually was. We shared a bowl of garlic mushrooms to start. A big bowl of sauteed mushrooms swimming in loads of creamy, garlicky goodness. The work of five minutes by a ten year old (theoretically, I'm not suggesting they're exploiting children) in the kitchen, but if it ain't broke.... Just one minor quibble though, the bread could have been fresher.

For reasons I can't quite fathom I ordered the mixed grill. I can't recall ever having done this before, ever (maybe in a Wetherspoon's about fifteen years ago?). I love meat but have limits, and the mixed grill always seems the preserve of men with a death wish. I can remember watching a particularly portly fellow working his way through a humongous one in a pub in Lancashire once, increasingly clammy and red-faced, washing it down with pints of bitter. I'm convinced he didn't make it through the night, dead within hours to a massive coronary on the can, Elvis style.


Anyway that's the mental picture I associate with the mixed grill, so you can imagine my surprise when I accidentally ordered the bugger. You know what? I'm glad I did. Every piece of meat was cooked just right, with a nice bit of char on the outside and deep blush pink, where warranted, on the inside. There was a sausage, a well hung beefsteak, a lamb chop, and gammon and pork steaks. Only the latter, the boring one of the bunch, defeated me.


Chips and salad were proper, in that the chips had crunch (don't trust the pasty appearance on the pic) and were their own, and that the salad was lots of stuff mixed up together with a lively mustard dressing. A completely unnecessary side order of onion rings (it was A's fault, she's pregnant. Don't blame me) were the kind that you could happily eat all evening.

Not wanting to push my luck with that death wish, we retreated, thoroughly satisfied, without pudding. It hadn't been Plan A, but the Pilsley Devonshire came up with the goods. Prices are probably on the high side for normal pub food, but fine when you consider the quality. I'd rather pay £12-16 for an enjoyable plateful than the £8-12 dross that so many of the places round here offer. Orders are taken at the bar, so there wasn't really much in the way of service to speak of. They fetched the food and cleared the tables.

Would I go again? Yes, definitely. Another mixed grill? Probably not.

8/10

On the Chatsworth Estate
Pilsley
Derbyshire
DE45 1UL


http://www.devonshirepilsley.co.uk/


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