“ The Cobbles, Lower Peover, Knutsford, Cheshire.WA16 9PZ Tel: 01565722269 „
Visited twice this summer and was captivated! Excellent beer, attentive staff, menu of cuisine rather than pub food and hearty portions. We were lucky enough to sit outside one evening with our friends and kids ranging in age from 4 to 13. Even their somewhat diverse yet finicky tastes were catered to. And the bells were ringing for a while and it was wonderful. This is the Bells of Peover after all so to complain about the noise seems somewhat asinine. I got to taste the lamb, the fish and the steak, all top quality along with excellent side vegetable dishes and chips. And did I mention the beer?
The pub has been through various hands in the past few years since I was a regular visitor, but i believe it is now safe and definitely back to its best, and beyond. I cannot wait to return and savour more of the menu!
It's a very long time since I was last at the Bells of Peover. I think it must have been at least 15 or 16 years ago with the boyfriend before the boyfriend before my husband (and I've been married 11 years now). It's a wonder I can even remember the place at all. The reason why I can remember is because when I went, a visit to the Bells of Peover constituted 'A Big Day Out'. I was working in my first job, not on a massive salary and not in the habit of expensive meals out. I believe the boyfriend and I even took a day off work just to drive out to the countryside to have lunch because he'd heard great things about the place and it was so popular that you couldn't get near it at the weekend and it was too expensive for us at dinner time so lunch was the only option.
Back then the Bells of Peover was a yuppie paradise: a multi-award winning gastro pub at a time when nobody had even started to use the term gastro pub. We drove down in our beat up old Vauxhall Cavalier and had to hide it in a dark corner of the car park where it wouldn't be too intimidated by all the shiny senior-executive company cars. I can't say that I actually remember anything about what we ate - I just had a general enduring image of a pretty country pub full of posh people.
A few weeks back my friend Alison and I had arranged to meet for dinner. It was her turn to choose and she suggested the BOP. We knew in advance that it was no longer a fancy award-winning place and rumour reached us that it was now owned by the Chef and Brewer chain. That didn't worry me too much as I rather like their pubs. It was a lovely sunny August evening and a pub in the country seemed just the ticket.
Before going any further I think it's important to get the name right. Peover is pronounced Peever. Whatever you do, don't ask for Pee-over or people will laugh at you. It's a snobby sort of place don't you know. The Bells of Peover is in Lower Peover, in Cheshire and the largest town nearby is Knutsford though you'll probably want to stick the post-code in your sat.nav. to avoid getting lost. Fortunately once you get close, there are brown 'tourist info' signs pointing the way to the pub.
We arrived within a few minutes of each other, driving over the cobbles and parking up in the car park. My car today is rather better than 16 years ago so need to hide it in shame. The first big choice was an important one - inside or outside? We'd been blessed with one of those rare perfect summer evenings so going indoors seemed like a crime and we grabbed a table in the garden. Inside versus outside is just the first choice since you then have a choice of where to sit outside - there's a patch of closely packed tables in front of the pub which seemed to be very popular and was pretty much full, perhaps with the people who wanted to not have to stagger too far over the horrendous cobbles to get to the bar. The garden was our choice - but again, there's more to that than meets the eye since there are two garden areas, one where food is served and the other restricted to just drinks. The latter is a bit of a trek from the bar so I guess the staff don't want to be carrying food all that way.
We popped into the bar to get our drinks and since both of us had to drive home, it was a bit of a sorry affair. Alison asked for a 'St Clements' and then had to explain to the barman what it was. She then watched in characteristic disdain as he attempted to fit her drink into too small a glass before asking him for a bigger glass. Don't cross Alison - she takes no prisoners! We grabbed two copies of the menu and took them outside to our bench along with the drinks.
Having expected a Chef and Brewer menu, I'll admit I was a bit disappointed by what was on offer. It was mostly very traditional English pub food with a small effort towards a few more international dishes. I'd already decided in the car that unless they had something really spectacular, I had a yearning for fish and chips and sure enough, fish and chips was on the list along with those other traditional clichés of fish pie, gammon and pineapple, steak and ale pie and so on. I think there was a Thai chicken curry and a couple of pasta dishes too including a vegetarian pasta which I rejected on the grounds that I don't go out to eat what I can make at home. On the second sheet of the menu were so-called 'lighter meals' which included a whole trout on a bed of something or other served with a naan bread. We joked that if that was the lighter option, how big were the main courses likely to be. The prices weren't cheap - I think my fish was almost £11 and Alison's gammon a couple of pounds more - but we don't get out often so neither of us was bothered about the cost. I headed inside to place our order and returned with a small metal bucket containing the cutlery and an assortment of sauces.
We sat quietly in the garden enjoying the weather and watching a couple of dogs eyeing each other up as we sipped our drinks. The food when it arrived was a shock. I have photos but they look fairly normal because I didn't think to put in anything to show the scale. In reality, the plates were enormous and the food filled them. Imagine trying to eat off an old LP record and these plates were probably even bigger than that. Alison's gammon was a monster and my fish came with its best friend - not one but two big pieces of fish, each in a light tempura-style batter that somehow managed to avoid acting as a fat-sponge. I have no idea how they got it so light and avoided greasiness. The chips were big fat ones too - it was like our drinks had taken us into an Alice in Wonderland world where everything was bigger than it should have been.
Digging into the metal bucket of sauces we soon discovered that some of the packets seemed to have been there for a remarkably long time. I guess all the ketchup and tartar sauce had long been snaffled and we really had to hunt through the sad faded packets of French mustard and mayo to find just one ketchup sachet. I could have gone inside to demand more but I didn't like the look in the eye of the dog at the next table who could have snaffled my dinner if I wasn't looking and those cobbles were hell when wearing heels so I shut up and got on with the mammoth task of wading through all that food. At this point the idea of a whole trout on a bed of beans with a whole naan bread really did seem like a light meal. Alison pronounced her gammon to be particularly juicy and delicious but it was clear that even if we hadn't eaten for a week beforehand, we probably weren't going to finish our meals. Forget pudding - there was no possibility of that.
After we'd finally got through all that we could, we decided to go and have a look at the church that stands right next to the pub. It's a gorgeous old place with beautiful black and white decoration and a very tall bell tower. Alison's an ex-campanologist and was quite enjoying bell-ringing practice as we strolled around the grave yard, looking at the old gravestones and family crypts. Peover really is a stunningly pretty area and we enjoyed our wander, finding a couple of stray cats as we wandered around.
The cats led us back to the pub and into the snug where we ordered coffees and it was soon clear that the cats thought they owned the place, hopping on and off the tables, in and out the windows, stopping for a rub now and then. That's not so bad in the bar but I have a suspicion they were up to similar tricks in the restaurant areas too. Sipping our coffees we read about the history of the pub and looked at the photos of General Patton visiting during the Second World War. That's the reason why you'll always find both the Union Flag and the Stars and Stripes flying from the front of the pub.
One of the locals explained that the pub had recently been taken over by Robinson's brewery and was losing favour with the locals because the beer really wasn't very good and everyone was expecting it to be sold on again soon. So heaven only knows what you'll find if you visit in a few months.
The bell ringing had been quite charming for the first 15 minutes or so but as it got louder and louder and went on and on, the charm was soon waning and the noise was getting a bit too intrusive. We'd had a very pleasant evening, enjoyed our massive dinners and our stroll around the churchyard but if you want a word or two of advice, I'd definitely suggest to find out which nights they DON'T do bell-ringing practice and opt for one of those evenings to go for dinner.
The Bells of Peover