Gordo enjoys a substantial pub meal well worth travelling for

Over the past twenty years or so, Hayfield and Glossop have slowly but surely lured the twenty-somethings out of Manchester up to an area of quite outstanding natural beauty. Its jewel in the crown is Mettrick’s the butchers - buy their pork pie or risk shuffling off this mortal coil disappointed. (Leave the shepherd’s pie alone though.)

Served with hot toast, it’s my dish that no chef has ever been able to beat. Except Luke. The bastard.

The Pack Horse is in Hayfield and finally gets onto my list of places to review as my daughter offered to take me for a Sunday roast; she’d dragged her husband Wayne around the mountain that separates Glossop and Hayfield. She finished up at the restaurant throwing a couple of pints of strong lager down her neck whilst Emma, the co-owner of the gaff got to brush up on her first aid skills sorting Wayne out with the defibrillator. 

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Luke And Emma
Luke Payne and Emma Daniels

It’s a traditional stone-built, spacious handsome bruiser of a Pennine pub. It’s got tables out front; the interior has had a modern refurb, with light wooden floors and half-partitioned rooms with walls covered in art, mainly landscapes that reflect the beauty of the setting.

I was greeted by one half of the young partnership of Luke Payne and Emma Daniels. Emma is a professional with a smile that would melt the heart of a werewolf fresh off a fog on Kinder Scout. Her team at front of house are dynamite. 

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Oysters
Lindisfarne oysters (£1.50 each) to start things off

The menu is one of the new post-modern British affairs starting to emerge from the sea of mediocrity that consist of steak and grills, the ‘my mama’s’ Italians and, dear me, another fucking pizza gaff. Luke and Emma cut their teeth in soulless battle cruiser restaurants; Emma front of house and Luke in the kitchen managing the microwaves. He developed into a good cook at home; the fact that he has Nose to Tail Eating, Fergus Henderson’s game changing cookbook in the kitchen says it all. A brief few days in the L’Enclume kitchen with Simon Rogan got him thinking and it shows in the dishes.

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Charcuterie
‘Cobble Lane’ charcuterie (£7)

There are snacks on the a la carte menu that can also be taken with a pint. It does function normally as a pub as well, they include sourdough with cultured butter (£4) that would make any chef jealous; ‘Cobble Lane’ charcuterie (£7) that smelled really piggy (a good thing) and Lindisfarne oysters (£1.50 each), which we had plain, and a Manchester Egg (£6.50).

Manchester Eggs sound like they have been around for many years. They’ve been around ten years or so. I think the great chef, Rob Owen-Brown at The Mark Addy served me one first. About a week later, the charmingly mad Ben Holden burst into Confidentials HQ at the time with a tray of, you guessed it, Manchester eggs. Both guys claim ownership of the recipe. To be fair, I can’t be sure.

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Scotch Egg
Manchester egg - whoever came up with the idea first, doesn't matter. It's a good one.

They are pickled eggs surrounded by black pudding rather than sausage, encased in breadcrumbs and deep fried. The acidity of the vinegar lifts the ordinary into the bloody good category. 

Then you have Luke’s. He soft-boils the egg, drops it into a vinegar bath for 18 hours, encases it in a black pudding mixture that is more boudin noir than Bury, covers in panko breadcrumbs and cooks to get the outside super-crispy, the black pudding steaming hat and the egg still runny. A fantastic piece of grub.

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Crab
Whitby crab on toast (£8) - better than Gordo's
2020 10 26 Pack Horse Scallops
King scallops (£12)

Every now and again early on a Sunday, I buy a few crabs off the Anglesey Fish man in Chinatown. At home, the crabs get the big trip to the ocean in the sky first, in a stock pot of boiling water; then I spend an hour picking the meat, brown and white, mixing them with butter, mace, a little bird-eye chilli, lime zest (careful), sea salt and freshly crushed black pepper; the mixture is potted and sealed with melted butter and fennel tops. Served with hot toast, it’s my dish that no chef has ever been able to beat.

Except Luke. The bastard. His Whitby crab on toast (£8) was better than mine. Moving on, Shetland king scallops on a roasted squash purée with pickled mushrooms topped with crispy cavolo nero (£12) were at the top of their game.

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Venison Wellington
Venison wellington (£26)
2020 10 26 Pack Horse Lemon Sole
Shetland lemon sole with samphire and potted shrimp butter (£18)

Venison loin Wellington, miso roasted chicory pickled blackberries and red wine sauce (£26) was again a top-drawer dish with truly fabulous ingredients cooked with the confidence of a master chef.

My whole Shetland lemon sole with samphire and brown potted shrimp butter (£18) was generous, sexy and gloriously flavoured. I don’t like samphire. However, I’m not holding this against the dish. Lamb neck nihari (a traditional Pakistani stew) pie delighted and would have been given a 10/10 if it came with a side boat with more ‘gravy’.

Beer battered pickled onion rings (£4) did not come frozen from a plastic bag. They are genius. The idea of pickling the onion rings prior to battering and deep frying them is simply wonderful. Luke clearly likes sharp flavours.  

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Lamb Nihari Pie Copy
Lamb nihari pie (£16)
2020 10 26 Pack Horse Onion Rings
Genius pickled onion rings (£4)

Custard tart (£5) is one degree behind the best in the world and will finish up one degree ahead by the end of next year.  A tip-top spiced Kentish apple and pear crumble and chestnut ice cream (£6) could have been improved by a cheeky Salford custard. Chestnut ice cream does too much elbowing, I think.

Cheese, (£10) well presented but chef needs to be a little more adventurous. It’s a bit supermarket deli to be honest. Great cheese boards can, once news gets around, encourage cheese perverts like my daughter to travel. 

2020 10 26 Pack Horse Custard Tart
Custard tart (£5)
2020 10 26 Pack Horse Cheese
Cheese board (£10) could do with being a bit more adventurous

The service is exemplary whilst the wine list is good but needs a little more work. We drank a bottle of Henri Gaillard Côte de Provence rosé, typical of the region; quiet strawberry on the nose and palette with some vanilla and papaya knocking about. So good we had a second bottle. Top value at £24.50. Others would be charging £35 for this.

This was a meal well worth travelling for; the food is interesting, well thought through, flavours not crowded and charming service. Emma runs a tight ship out front. Get there while you can.

The Pack Horse, 3-5 Market St, Hayfield, High Peak SK22 2EP

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Also read - 'Bursting with personality' - Hideout Lounge & Grill at Innside by Melia, Manchester, reviewed

2020 10 27 Pack Horse Receipt

The scores:

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.

  • Food 8.5/10

    Oysters 9, charcuterie 8.5, bread and butter 9, Manchester egg 10, crab 9, scallops 8.5, onion soup 8, venison 9, lamb nihari pie 9, lemon sole 8.5, onion rings 9, garlic mash 8, custard tart 8.5, crumble 8.5, cheese 7

  • Atmosphere 3.5/5

    Handsome and modern boozer

  • Service 4.5/5

    Exemplary and dynamite