Friday, 2 November 2012

The Crispin Inn, Ashover, Derbyshire

Pubs serving food usually fall into one of two categories these days, loosely speaking I'd call these 'crappy chain' and 'gastrofied'. There's some overlap, the crappy gastrofied chain being a particularly prominent mix of the two, but as a general rule I think it holds up.

Crappy chains, as the name implies, are usually chain pubs run by massive pubcos or similar groups. The menus will be laminated, the steaks overcooked and the chips that special variety of bulk buy chips that only exist in such establishments. Prices will vary depending on the branding applied and the aspirations of the neighbourhood, but will probably have sod all to do with the quality of the food. Whitbread are particularly adept at this, I'm convinced you can eat the same old shite in differently branded outlets of their's for wildly varying prices.

Carveries are also a speciality of the genre. Don't even get me started on your average carvery. Overcooked meat with overcooked vegetables with stale Yorkshire puddings doused in rubbish gravy all in grotesquely oversized fart-inducing portions. Great.

The gastrofied pub may also be a chain, just one with delusions of grandeur. If it is a chain it won't be obvious because the chains like to pretend their higher end offerings aren't chains at all. Irrespective of whether it's a chain or wholly independent here there will be common themes too.

Prices will be higher, main courses must never be less than a tenner. There will be much talk of seasonal ingredients on the daily printed menus, chips will always be cooked more than once and steaks will be aged for 21, 28 or if they're really showing off, 35 days (this brings no guarantee that they will actually be any good). Don't get me wrong, I normally gravitate towards this category over the crappy chain, but sometimes a more basic approach is called for.

There is a third, but increasingly rare category of food pub. Which brings me to the Crispin in Ashover, a local pub serving food cooked on the premises, that's neither aspirational and pretentious nor straight off the back of the nearest cook-chill truck.

I had black pudding sausages and mash which arrived strewn across a two foot wide plate in endearingly cack-handed fashion. Good quality sausages, decent gravy and great clods of mash like you'd cooked it yourself in a hurry made for a thoroughly satisfying plate of food.

Other dishes demonstrated a deft hand with the stodge, dumplings were declared very light and the chips were ace. Lovely and brown and crying out for stuffing in a buttery butty.

There was no need for pudding but I couldn't resist the school dinnery delights of jam and coconut sponge with custard. The same kitchen skills were on display as with the dumplings, it's not easy making a sponge pudding seem light and airy but this really was. Half a day's calories devoured in moments I would think. A sticky toffee pudding with pear and walnuts was also really very good.

Service was no nonsense. Order at the bar, someone fetches your food. We paid just over fifty quid for four main meals, two puddings and a round of drinks. Why can't there be more pubs in the third category?


The Crispin Inn
S45 0AB

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