Kelly Bishop investigates whether Hyssop is just a local restaurant for local people
No, those aren’t ex-medicine or liquor bottles for your table posies, they’re antique Bovril jars. “I got a bit obsessed”, grinned our waitress, Jess - who turned out to be the co-owner.
The bovril is in the details.
Perfectly cooked allotment jewels: rainbow chard and cavolo nero cried ‘not your average small town restaurant'
I liked the place immediately. From the little row of cookbooks on the windowsill by the likes of Tom Kerridge, Simon Rogan and Michel Roux Jr., to the rabbit ornaments and the ram skull on the wall. There’s an insight into the character of the owners that makes you come over all Lloyd Grossman (or Keith Lemon if you’re under 30).
I’d driven through Glossop and admired its pretty sandstone houses but never visited as a destination in itself. The train was less hassle than we had anticipated, with two an hour from Piccadilly that get you there in just under 30 mins.
Bang in the middle of rush hour on a Thursday we only had to stand until the first station stop and it was around £16 return for two. As a long time city girl, I relish the adventure of getting out of dodge and the views from the train are a bonus.
But why make the effort to go to a little town in the Derbyshire hills when Manchester arguably has everything a heart desires? I was lured there by Hyssop.
Beginning life as a pop-up supper club before settling in for a long term residency at The Bull’s Head on the other side of town (reviewed here), this is Hyssop's first proper home with its name above the door.
Sandwiched between a Bargain Booze and a carpet cleaners, the location doesn’t scream fine dining. But as soon as we stepped foot inside, the staff did. Not in a stuffy way, just a warm, confident welcome and straight to our table in the dining room upstairs.
Downstairs the bar does cocktails and snacks like bao buns stuffed with pork belly and sriracha.
The staff were young and efficient with a sense of humour: water refilled, stuttering tea-light swapped and dishes cleared unobtrusively. Jess winked to suggest ‘it’s just as good’ when I clarified that we were going for the cheaper of two Pinot Noirs: Baron De Pocé at £28.50. An explosive smashed glass from the table next to us caused a wobble, but was dealt with swiftly.
A wise person once told me that to really test a chef’s chops, just order a bunch of starters and desserts. Mains invariably involve some warm flesh, carbs and a sauce but starters and desserts are a chance for chef to show off.
It’s worth noting, then, that our starters and desserts were excellent.
Chicken dumplings (£8) were round and fat, momo-style and satisfyingly al dente. A burst of tarragon distinguished them from their Asian inspo.
Crab (£8) was picturesque with radish slices, tiny beads of apple and kohlrabi, lilliputian shrimps and a scattering of fragrant micro herbs - especially good when smeared on the complimentary sourdough. A small grumble, the plate was hot so the crab was warm rather than being at room temperature and that didn't quite sit right with me.
Derbyshire free range lamb (£19.50) was served with a mini shepherd’s pie with a generous kick of smoked cheddar. We had been given the option of pink or well done but the chops arrived so pink they were still twitching. A remarkable depth of flavour confirmed great provenance but the fat was disappointingly flabby, I’d have preferred it to have had more time on the heat to crisp up.
Belly pork (£16) - also local and free range - was spot on, but an accompanying chewy baton of black pudding redundant since it was already present in the more exciting pig croquette. A bowl of hefty, amber, beef fat chips and another of seasonal greens - featuring perfectly cooked allotment jewels: rainbow chard and cavolo nero - (both £3.50) cried ‘not your average small town restaurant’.
A touch more sauce on the plates to dip those chips into would have been a treat.
Strawberries and duck egg custard (£6.50) was simple perfection. Wobbly custard, heart shaped berries, strawberry sorbet and a sprinkling of toasted oats under a roof of crisp, sweet filo.
Lemon cream (£6.50) nailed the balance of citrus and dairy, elevated by sharp raspberries and crunchy caramelised white chocolate. A garnet coloured ball of raspberry sorbet and a confetti of what looked like beetroot leaves packed a vivid visual punch.
Hyssop is aiming high, the cookery rooted in classic technique but with creative flourishes. Provenance is key and the ingredients shine.
With plenty to rave about in our meal and just a couple of elements that slightly missed the mark, I reckon it’s well on the way to becoming a destination restaurant.
In the meantime the residents of Glossop are very lucky indeed.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
crab 8, dumplings 9, lamb 7, pork 8, chips 8, greens 10, strawberry custard 10, lemon cream 9
Warm, homely but efficient.
Characterful charm in a pretty town, but with the occasional loud motorbike zooming past.