Standing proudly on the market place in the centre of Wirksworth is The Hope and Anchor, a grade two listed 17th century stone building. Closed in 2016 but now under new management and with around £100,000 spent on refurbishment, along with a new chef, The Hope and Anchor is now open for business. On their website they proudly proclaim that they are, “A good pub with real pub food”. Our visit, along with two long standing friends one Friday evening in mid July was a great opportunity to put that claim to the test.
Occupying a prominent position in Wirksworth it was easy to let your mind slip back to the days in 1306 when the town was granted market status and would be jammed with colourful stalls and people plying their trades many of which are now lost. Over the years, with wealth generated by lead mining and stone quarrying, this market town came to be graced by some of the most lovely, historic, stone buildings.
But now to our dining experience.
We were welcomed by General Manager Jack, who showed us to our table in the large restaurant area, the rear of which is elevated. The late evening sun poured through the windows as we sat at a rustic table with plenty of space around us, it was so pleasant not to be squeezed in elbow to elbow with other diners. The décor here is contemporary with lovely muted shades, the walls have been partially clad with wood of various colours some featuring the imprint appropriately of an anchor. There are many nice rustic touches whilst the old building still retains many original features, which is quite fitting as it’s Rustic Inns who took over this pub in November 2017 and have worked tirelessly to put together a dining and drinking experience to suit current trends.
Our waitress for the evening was Jersey who explained how much she enjoyed the food that the new chef was producing. Three of us ordered starters while one was saving herself for pudding! “It’s worth the wait” said Jersey.
My starter was tomato bruschetta which consisted of three slices of rustic bread, tomato, chilli topped with torn mozzarella. A firm favourite of mine, not too overpowering and very clean tasting, a cracking start.
Mike devoured his house pate infused with thyme, garlic and mushrooms, it was smooth and spread with ease on to the rustic bread. Generous triangles of salted butter and a homemade chutney accompanied it.
Jane chose the battered prawns, dipped and fried in a very light tempura batter and served over a fresh salad, the pot of sweet chilli and lime dipping sauce perfectly added that touch of heat and sweetness.
The farmers pie of the day was minced beef and onion which was encased in thin short crust pastry, and I chose the double cooked rustic chips. The pie was lovely and moist and was served with a boat of gravy too which was a bonus, the ‘skin on chips’ were very chunky and the buttered greens not over cooked.
Mike’s ale battered cod was served on a wooden board and was huge, even for Mike who has a healthy appetite. Lockwoods mushy peas and sea salted double cooked rustic chips were served with this and a pot of homemade tartare sauce and wedge of lemon completed the dish. His determination to finish was testimony to how enjoyable it was.
Julie tried the vegetarian curry which was quite hot and had a good variety of vegetables, her only comment was that she maybe missed a naan bread to go with it.
Finally, Jane ordered the homemade lasagne, a slight twist on the usual with smoked bacon and red wine and tomato sauce added to the beef. This made for a very rich dish, but with a beautiful flavour, and the side salad was the freshest I’ve had anywhere.
As predicted Mike and I passed on puddings, but Jane and Julie went for and enjoyed a lovely light and fresh raspberry mousse and a baked lemony cheesecake, both homemade and highly recommended.
That really sums up the food here: locally sourced wherever possible, the chef has an eye for adding that extra something which lifts this good food just up another level. The presentation too is modern with delicate flower and micro leaf garnishes where appropriate.
We had a great evening and there were many more dishes on the varied menu that we would have liked to try, and for those with not so large an appetite there is a ‘Lite bite’ menu available until 6pm. On Sundays there are traditional roasts alongside a reduced weekday menu. But, there’s still plenty there to tempt you at the Hope and Anchor.
We all agreed that the Hope and Anchor is “A good pub, with real pub food, and a good collection of real ales. The music is pleasant and not too intruding, and they have a young group of staff that are friendly, relaxed and eager to please. It’s a great place to unwind at the end of the week.