We held our wedding reception at Monsal Head 24 years ago. The food then was unusual but plainly cooked and plentiful and the service was friendly and unpretentious. We have been back a couple of times, caught a couple of decent but perhaps over ambitious meals, seen a not entirely convincing makeover from chintzy English to Mediterranean, and always regarded it as special to us, but generally rather quirky.
We chanced by yesterday, with the car parks and local lanes packed with families enjoying the Indian Summer. It seemed impossible there would be an unbooked table - but in fact there was only one other table taken in the main restaurant. Later a number of families arrived, but with so many on the doorstep, and with food of the quality of that we had, it seems extraordinary that the main restaurant is not busier. I can only think of a couple of things - the pricing could be offputting (we overheard a couple say 'we aren't paying those prices' as we arrived'), perhaps because expensive and modest are intermingled on the menu of both restaurant and bar, and service for families seemed a little slow - but perfect for our leisurely lunch. Anyway, our food was excellent value, and stunningly cooked and presented. The soufflé we shared was imaginatively paired with sweet, young beetroot, plump raisins and tangy orange curd. The main courses - homemade beef and potato pie in a light, crisp pastry, loaded with tender, slow-stewed beef, and a varied, punchy and filling bouillebaisse, were perfect. We again shared a dessert of lime posset, sorbet and rich, tart forest fruit compote. A really excellent value high quality half bottle of champagne was an anniversary treat that helped it go down. Yes, the loos were scruffy (memories of my best man being sick in there all those years ago were not erased);yes, we spent an hour and a half eating; yes, we spent £60 on lunch for two. But this was consistently the best food we have had in a long time, the service was informal, helpful, and knowledgeable, and the location has few equals in the world. Maybe the issue is that Monsal Head can't quite decide what kind of restaurant it is. Bless it for that - next time it might be burger and chips we want after a long walk. But, one way or another, we will be back.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Monsal Head Hotel is situated at the peak of the Monsal dale. The hotel itself is steeped in history whilst the Stables bar which has stood the test of time for over 200 years still holds the quirky values today as it did then. Offering a fine selection of beers supplied by local micro breweries. Food is of the highest offering with everything from light bites to hearty meals with an enphasis on good quality local produce all made on the premises. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Monsal Head Bakewell
- Monsal Head Hotel Bakewell, Peak District National Park