There are some pubs that claim to be what they’re not, and others who know exactly what they are and are happy being there, sticking to the time honoured script.
Kim Beresford, owner of ‘The Old Poets Corner ‘Ashover for the past fifteen years, explained very clearly to me “We are first and foremost a traditional country pub renowned for our beers and rustic pub food”. No pretence here and that’s such a relief as at least I wouldn’t get a huge plate with just a dash of food posing ostentatiously in the middle.
Having said that, since our last visit fourteen months ago a lot has changed at ‘The Old Poets Corner’, which is indicative of an industry where people move around, but at least Kim is still there overseeing a new era in this lovely old pub’s history. Approaching Ashover on a chilly November evening the heart beckons to be warmed as the welcoming lights guide us in. Very soon we were seated near the huge log fire, sipping on our beers, perusing the new winter menu.
With new Manager Diane Wood and new Chef Jack Parkes now established, it was interesting to see that the menu still featured traditional pub food and hadn’t gone all ‘arty’! The market for good, old fashioned pub food, efficiently served in hearty portions is still very popular, in fact, over the last six months more than one pub and restaurant owner has told me that fine dining has taken a little dip with more people favouring going out more often but spending less each time, thereby making their budget go further.
That puts the pressure on pubs then to do ‘pub food’ really well. Having a reduced choice on the menu is a huge benefit to the diner ensuring that food is freshly cooked. And that’s where Kim and his team at ‘The Old Poets Corner’ will be on a winner. My creamy garlic mushrooms served on toasted sour dough bread were very creamy and a generous portion. The pint of whitebait chosen by my companions was delicious, crispy in a scattering of breadcrumbs, sharpened with lemon and dipped in to a pot of dressing they were the perfect ‘sociable starter’.
I followed with their ‘Famous Old Poets Meat and Potato Pie’. I was interested to see the new chefs’ way of doing this pub favourite as I had it a year ago. Would it be as good? Yes, it was, but if I’m honest there wasn’t as much pie as last time. Is that me being greedy and wanting a huge slab? Maybe. I mentioned that to Kim who immediately responded “I’m currently looking at that, it does need a little tweaking”, and that’s the beauty of the owner having total oversight. Of course, Kim was the original chef at ‘The Old Poets’ when he first bought it, so the present chef has to impress him too you see! Whilst I was busy eating and drinking Dave was tucking into his “Beef stew and herby dumplings” main and copious pints of ale. (I think he managed to sample most of the Ashover brewery beers on sale).
For me the jam sponge pudding was absolutely delicious and came with lashings of custard, and the rest of our group couldn’t resist the freshly made Bakewell tart. All in all, a hearty meal. Everyone concerned agreed that it was a great night enjoyed in the special atmosphere of an old country pub, with rustic pub food as it should be. What more could we ask for?
Later in the evening was ‘Open Mic night’ and some old country folk music could be heard wafting through the air from the opposite room. So, log fire, traditional live music, rustic food, real ale and great friendly service, all at prices that won’t break the bank, absolutely fantastic!
Our thanks to Kim and the team for making us so welcome. GP
In January (25-26) they will have their customary Burns Night event where George Cockburn and Sons (Scotlands first champion haggis makers) Haggis will once again grace the menu. It’s a night for wearing tartan too, and booking in is essential. Call 01246 590888