When we told Sophie to take a hike, we didn't think she'd take it so literally
Autumn Sundays are made for this. Walking the dog along the Peak Forest Tramway Trail starting at the Navigation Inn at Buxworth, ending at The Old Hall Inn at Chinley. Not a long walk to be fair, but a leisurely stroll that takes about half an hour.
We stumble over old tram tracks poking out of modern tarmacked paths, dive head-first into muddy puddles (the dog, not me) and crunch through fallen leaves to get to our destination.
The menu simply says 'all the traditional trimmings' and The Old Hall really means it
The Old Hall Inn has gained a reputation locally for its farm-to-table style offering, one I have experienced before in the form of cheese and potato pie, and one I am more than willing to be present for again.
Dogs are of course welcome here, and our eight-month-old corgi relishes the attention he gets from staff who are well-versed in wet dog and muddy-booted guests.
The beautiful 16th-century Old Hall Inn is modest on the outside, its stone bricks and lantern at the front door must have welcomed thousands of cold and hungry travellers in its time, most probably not enticed by dishes like Onion Three Ways or soup drizzled with truffle oil.
A warm interior is faithful to the olde worlde theme with wooden beams, slate floors and a huge fireplace. It’s definitely been updated to suit its new clientele, who are presumably more interested in which Chilean Sauvignon Blanc will pair with their battered haddock than warming up after a long day travelling on horseback.
When I am handed the Sunday Menu, I’m disappointed that it's devoid of pie. A dish that I have held in my heart for over a year and one I was all set to enjoy again. Instead, the roast dinner option is seconded by burgers. Char sui chicken and cauliflower pakora versions sit alongside beef with jalapeño mustard and chorizo.
Enticed by more traditional pub fare, we start with whitebait (£7). The fat little fishies are given a light coating of golden breadcrumbs and make a more than satisfying starter. I do wish we’d stopped here, though.
Onion Three Ways (£8) is more interesting than pleasant. The confit and crispy shallots with burnt onion thyme puree make for a splodgy plate. Half a confit shallot slips and slides under its skin as I attack it with my cutlery but this is more of a texture issue than a flavour one - I’m left with the sweet taste of caramelised onion lingering.
Confused by the presence of Calabrian flatbread (£8), I really shouldn’t have let my curiosity get the better of me but here we are. A cold, hard base is smothered in room temp chopped tomatoes and sliced green olives, topped with a generous but unnecessary blob of garlic mayonnaise.
The whole thing is lumpy and creamy and just a world away from anything I’ve ever been served before in a restaurant. Joey Essex did better in the first round of Celebrity Masterchef.
C’mon main course, I’m rooting for you.
When a towering lamb shank (£20) is marched towards us, I start rubbing my hands together. The menu simply says “all the traditional trimmings” and The Old Hall really means it. As far as a roast dinner goes, this takes the biscuit with two types of mash as well as roasties.
A waterfall of silky gravy cascades down the lamb shank and pools on the plate below. Veggies all present and correct, too.
Lamb peels away smoothly from its bone. It’s deep and rich. I’m so relieved. So when a golden battered haddock (£16.50) plonks down in front of me with its triple-cooked bedfellows I’m ecstatic.
Meat is from local farms and butchers, fish from The Easy Fish Co. in Heaton Moor so I needn’t have worried so much about the big ticket items.
By now the restaurant is packed, and our pooch has been joined on the floor by four new pals. An occasional whine and whimper let me know that he’s getting impatient with being tethered to my knee.
Plum crème brûlée (£7.50) and vegan panna cotta (£7.50) won’t take us long, pal. Promise.
The brûlée looks neat and is Anglicised with the addition of half a poached plum. Delightful. Panna cotta is served in a glass, for ease I suppose, as set almond milk is probably no mean feat. Maple syrup and almond praline suspended on the surface make for a great little pud.
Nothing can replace real cream, but in the name of science, this makes a suitable replacement.
The Old Hall is knocking out the classics with confidence but giving me the heebie-jeebies with its attempts at diversification. Nobody hiking through the peaks is interested in cold Calabrian-style flatbread, my bet is that proper rib-sticking, full-fat, triple-cooked stodge is what’s hanging off the tab grabber in the kitchen.
“One lamb shank please, Chef.”
The Old Hall Inn Whitehough, Chinley, High Peak SK23 6EJ
Follow Sophie on Instagram @sophieshahla
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
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.
Whitebait 8, Onion Three Ways 7, Calabrian flatbread 3, lamb shank roast 9, battered haddock 8, plum crème brûlée 8, almond panna cotta 7
Easy like a Sunday morning - on a Sunday lunchtime
A packed pub with a real local feel