The carvery is a brilliant concept; a meal served in a pub or a restaurant where cooked meat is freshly sliced to order for diners, served in a buffet style for a fixed price. It lends itself, in a casual way, to the traditional Sunday lunch. But all too often we associate it only with the large pub and hotel chains and their corporate style of cooking.
Myself and Susan had been invited to try the Sunday lunch carvery at Alfreton Golf Club where everything is cooked from fresh and served by husband and wife team Steve and Sharron Slater. The Sunday roast dinners of my childhood were huge, drenched in gravy and always accompanied by Two Way Family Favourites on the radio. So, with the promise of home cooking, how would this, our first visit to a carvery, measure up?
You don’t have to be a member to visit Alfreton Golf Club and it isn’t large. It’s only 11 holes, and for that reason it’s very friendly. The car park is in front of the entrance. A few paces up to the door, through the foyer and you’re into the club house bar. From the bar area there are pleasant views of the manicured greens. The carvery has it’s own space; beyond the bar area in more intimate surroundings. We had been greeted at the well stocked bar, where I ordered our lunchtime drinks, and shown to a beautifully presented table for 2. I noticed that the other tables were a mix of sizes catering for couples and families: small and large.
Unhurried, we made our way over to the carvery counter and picked up our ‘proper’ size dinner plates. There were 3 meats on the carving platters: a boned out turkey joint that was all meat and very moist, a blush pink gammon joint with a roasted finish and, my choice, a large piece of roast beef, still a bit pink in the middle, complete with just enough dark yellow fat. Steve carved me 2 generous, thick slices. All the meats are supplied by local butcher, Owen Taylor. Next to the meats was a tray of pigs in blankets and sage and onion stuffing balls.
Susan chose the 4th mains option: a serving of beef casserole that was rich with meat and had a deep beef flavour. It was topped with a cheese, scone style, cobbler that was beginning to absorb the meaty juices. The cheese didn’t overwhelm the cobbler but lightly seasoned it.
All the vegetables were beautifully cooked. The carrots still had a little bit of bite to them, the cabbage was green, vibrant and the flavour had not been washed away. There was cauliflower and broccoli in a tangy cheese sauce but my favourite was the cabbage and smoked bacon in a cream sauce. There was a hint of the smoky bacon in the savoury sauce that coated the tender cabbage and by the way the dish was disappearing it was a real crowd-pleaser.
There were two potato dishes on offer: a buttery mash that was seasoned with a hint of pepper and a large tray of roast potatoes; golden brown with crispy edges. The stuff a generous serving of beef is crying out for.
And finally, the roast parsnips. A much maligned root crop that has attracted some unpleasant folklore; but not here. This sweet, healthy, nutritious vegetable had been roasted to perfection.
Yorkshire puddings are the make or break ingredient of a good Sunday roast and these ticked all the boxes. They were whoppers and served with lashings of gravy. They’d been cooked in beef dripping and were crisp on the outside with a soft inner that melted in the mouth. Something that big would fight for space with the vegetables on the plate and so, for that reason it adorned, like a crown, the very top of the meat and veg.
There was a choice of 3 homemade puddings to finish the meal: a syrup sponge and 2 cheesecakes. We shared a slice of the fresh fruit cheesecake. It had a crisp biscuit base, a smooth filling and topped with a generous helping of fresh fruit.
It had been a ‘proper’ Sunday roast complete with all the ‘comfort food’ vegetables and lashings of gravy. The only things that were missing (for those who remember) were the voices of Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalfe.
The restaurant service is available for most of the time that the golf club is open; with a later finishing time during the Summer. However, the carvery is only available on Sunday. For the rest of the week there’s a varied menu; from afternoon tea to the usual pies, salads, filled baguettes, steaks and of course, fish and chips.
The Golf Club can cater for a range of events and special occasions: weddings, birthday parties, christenings, baby showers and is a peaceful setting for a respectful funeral reception.