One car skidded into a ditch. Another 10 daren’t risk the tricky 60m downhill decent to the track leading from Barlow Woodseats Hall to Johnnygate Lane and the trip home. I’d, with the benefit of hindsight, wisely left mine on the main road at the bottom of the lane a mile away from the hall. Myself and my fellow diner, Martin Dawes had a merry little mile walk back to the car while his lovely, slightly smug (she’d warned we’d get stuck), wife Sue and Lemmy grabbed a lift in the Hall’s owner Nick’s little 4×4.
No, we weren’t on a winter survival course or some celebrity pre Christmas weight loss regime. We’d all headed, despite the slightly dodgy weather forecast and at our own risk, to sample the Sunday Lunch prepared by one of Sheffield’s best, Cary Brown, in the stunning surroundings of Barlow Woodseats Hall near the village of Barlow in Derbyshire.
Martin wrote previously and eloquently about his previous visit, albeit in the height of summer, and when he asked if we fancied going it was, as always, a no brainer.
No break for fresh air this visit. Only Raymond Briggs Snowman would’ve volunteered to go outside on this day, although the local peacocks were sniffing the air and getting the glorious aromas.
So, we sat down in the glorious surroundings of the Cruck Barn dating from around 1100AD.
Despite the sub zero temperatures outside we were lovely and warm, the heating provided by some industrial hot air blowers rather than, as in days gone by, the herd of resident cows…..and of course there were the smells. Pork and Beef roasting, the whiff of cauliflower hopefully dressed in a cheesy blanket. We were not to be disappointed:
A groaning platter of rare cooked beef that literally did melt in the mouth. Pork loin cut in doorstep slabs and not, as Fanny Craddock so succinctly put it “Those horrid little dry slivers served in restaurants” with just the faintest pink hue to them, bugger the food police. Chicken and pigs in blankets and the obligatory mound of pork crackling. I always think loin gives the best crackling, it sits perfectly on top of the joint as it roasts (unless you’re of the cook it separately brigade) and this was golden and crunchy but not so hard that Martin need fear for his bank loan priced new gnashers. Along with it came all the stuff Martin talked about before but which were so good again that I’m unashamedly talking about them…. again. Cauliflower adorned with a cheesy sauce, all brown and bubbling and with a hint of mustard in there I thought? A lovely melange (I’m doing the critics crap again) of peas, carrots and cracking Savoy cabbage, Yorkshires as I like them, crisp top, soft (I won’t say soggy, Mr Brown would beat me I fear) bottoms and crowning the lot, quite simply the best roast potatoes I think I can honestly say I’ve ever tasted (and believe me I’ve tasted A LOT). I don’t know which variety of potato Cary used and I forgot to ask him but I want some. Add to that his skill and the liberal application of duck or goose fat and we had perfection.
Well, we tucked in. I just had a small plate to start:
There are people who berate the humble????? British Sunday Lunch but do it properly and enjoy it with family and friends as a social event and it’s unbeatable. This was such a meal, good friends (even with Martin’s dodgy Xmas tie and socks), fantastic surroundings, sublimely cooked food and no washing up, what could be better?
With Lemmy on top form there wasn’t much left for a doggy bag and we all managed a dessert too. A delicate lemon posset, rich but smack in the mouth lemony with a little blueberry muffin that tasted of, well, blueberry. Lemmy reluctantly(joke over) had profiteroles with a lip smacking white chocolate sauce and Martin had to sample Cary’s legendary bread and butter pudding:
We had to say no to coffee. A word with the man himself and it was out into the mini blizzard. Cary was off to do canapes for a hundred and twenty down the road. Lucky people I thought.
A mile walk back to the car? A small price to pay. As the Proclaimers sang: “I would walk 500 miles”
Barlow Woodseats Hall: www.barlowwoodseatshall.com/