Two of the best pleasures in life (for me anyway) can both be found in a good pub.
But rarely are the two – namely a nice, locally brewed ale and a hearty home-cooked pub meal – be found in the same pub.
Nestled away in tiny Waingroves, between Ripley and Codnor, however, the Thorn Tree Inn is doing a magnificent job of combining a welcoming, homely country boozer with a some really cracking pub grub.
In the modest 22-seater restaurant at the rear of the pub, head chef Graham Aitken welcomed my dining partner and I with a smile and was full of advice about what to choose from the ever-changing menu.
I opted for smoked haddock and twice cooked chips – because you can always judge a pub on the quality of its fish and chips.
In fairness, nearly everything on there took my eye.
I wasn’t disappointed – the smokey taste of the fish was a very pleasant surprise and the chips were outstanding.
My dining partner chose a goat’s cheese tart with beetroot that she described as ‘heavenly’.
As we agonised over dessert, Graham, who has plied his trade all over Europe, including at Derbyshire restaurant of the year Dovecote at Morley Hayes, suggested ‘a bit of everything’.
Something I didn’t think our stomachs could handle.
But we gave it a good go – beautiful brownies, a stunning bread and butter pudding and, to top it all, a cracking creme brulee.
It’s as far from chain pub fare as you can go, so you expect to pay more than in your local Wetherspoon’s. But having said that, I thought the prices were very reasonable.
After the desserts nearly finished us off, we needed a sit down in the cosy bar section with an ale from Derby’s Derventio Brewery.
The pub is run entirely free of brewery ties and is doing a roaring trade by the looks of things.
All in all a top dining experience in a relaxed informal atmosphere.
Give it a try Tuesdays to Saturdays and Sunday lunch.