“ Address: Fernilee / Whaley Bridge / High Peak SK23 7HD / Cheshire „
Having spent an enjoyable weekend in Derby we traveled over the peaks back towards Manchester, foremost on our minds was a spot of lunch, we decided to forgo your typical chain restaurants on the edge of towns and see if we could find a pub on the way. Such things can be pot luck though, and taking such a view in mind we passed by several until we found The Shady Oak, that and the fact that I really needed to go to the toilet! It looked like your typical old time pub from the outside, lots of windows and hanging baskets, there was also several benches and tables outside, and a decent size car park to the size. What it did have was an absolutely fantastic view, lots of hills and valleys and completely unspoilt views, thankfully it was a nice clear day when we were there.
Entering inside was just like entering inside any village pub, suitably unmodern. A highly polished bar, pictures of countryside scenes, heaps of logs for the open, and yes a few brasses on the wall as well. We were greeted by the cheery barman who took our drinks order and pointed us towards an alcove which featured several tables and a good old leather sofa which we plonked our backsides on and perused the menu available whilst casting sneaky looks at the flat screen showing the Murray V Federer match. It's definitely a more traditional pub, you'd be hard pressed to find an alco-pop, but there was a good range of traditional ales.
The menu seemed quite small but when I went to the toilet I noticed their special grill and fish menus above the bar displaying various types of cuts of meat and fish dishes such as swordfish and tuna. I don't actually like this, I've invariable forgotten what was on there when I get back to my seat and I find it annoying to stand there and stare at it whilst simultaneously looking at the menu in my hand. And even more annoying is having to go and search for the desserts board at the end of the meal, which in this place is on a wall to the side of the board. With a full belly I prefer to sit and peruse a menu without having to search for it and then go back to the table and try to remember whats on it to tell the rest of your party. Still it's a personal niggle.
It was a Sunday and of course that means my partner will be looking for a Sunday roast and that is precisely what the Shady Oak offers. A main course on its own for £7.95, 2 courses for £9.95 and 3 courses for £12.95. There was a choice of starters, Home made Soup, Prawn Cocktail or Home made Chicken Pate. The main course was Roast Beef or the roast of the day or Haddock topped with prawns and a cream sauce. There probably was a vegetarian option but for the life of me I cant remember what it was! All of the above were served with the traditional Sunday dinner trimmings. For dessert you have to go and find that annoying board
Of course there is more on the menu then that, Home-made shepherds pies, other pies, etc. Practically everything on the menu was home-made, which is always nice to see as many of the traditional pubs have given way to the ready-made frozen variety.
So we decided to go and find a seat in the main part of the pub which had only one other family in it at the time. Our cheery barman had sadly been replaced however by some woman who had, as my mother would put it 'a face like a smacked arse' perched on a stool by the bar facing the alcove that most of the people were in. Before we even opened our mouths we got a 'Table for two? Table 11, over there in the corner', not the friendliest Landlady I've ever come across to be honest! Suitably chastened we trundled over to our table, certainly I felt like I was being punished for something! And of course the table was suitably wobbly but I didn't dare move and miss rocking the boat!
We're so in sync me and my partner so we both ordered the chicken liver pate and the roast beef and pork!
Our starters came suitably quickly, it was a good thick piece of grey looking pate, have a small baguette, a mixed salad of leaves, chopped red onions, tomatoes and cucumber with a balsamic vinegar and a small packet of butter. The baguette was one of those ready to bake ones, cooked perfectly and warm, the pate was a very smooth one but also very crumbly as well. It was very tasty, a definite chicken taste with a good dash of pepper, only slightly worrying was the fact that the grey pate was giving way to a slight red in the middle. The only reason I can give for this is that it had been left uncovered for a while or out of the fridge. There is of course never enough bread so I was reduced to eating the rest of it with the lettuce leaves as I dislike the rest of the salad, the pate was polished off on both sides of the table.
At this point in the proceedings I rather unexpectedly received a phone call which informed me I was to become and aunt for the first time, I give no apology for the rather large squeal I gave as well as the rather loudish 'Oh my God' which was probably heard by most users in the pub! Suddenly remembering my manners I went outside the pub. On my return I was greeted again by a good old stare from the dragon on her perch, I apologised and explained. Now how many of you out there would say congratulations when someone told you this? Not her, I just got a flat out stare, it was frankly quite embarrassing and definitely starting to change my view on the place. Thankfully I began to realise that it wasn't just me, she was rude and uninterested in anyone coming in, even those who appeared to be regulars, put it this way, I doubt whether any of the passing trade customers would bother coming back.
Suitably chastened I hurried back to my seat where my dinner was being placed on the table. And rather magnificent it looked as well, a hugely large Yorkshire pudding with a golf ball sized bit f stuffing in it. It managed to hide the three roast potatoes underneath which were sprinkled with what looked like rosemary on it. The meat was on the bottom of the plate and it was gloriously covered in gravy. Thankfully they didn't fall into this fad of just pouring the gravy into the Yorkshire pudding which does nothing but make the Yorkshire soggy, and the potato doesn't start to soak up the gravy. Accompanying this was a dish of carrot and swede mash, sweetcorn and peas and thinly sliced cabbage. They obviously pay attention to the look of their food here, as with the starter it was presented very nicely.
The Yorkshire was perfectly crispy, fluffy and light, the potatoes mirrored this with that excellent taste of rosemary which complimented rather than overpowered them, which was perfect for me as I dislike too much rosemary. My partner interjected at this point with a request for horseradish which he loves. Forget those awful longlife sachets of it you can get, there was so much it nearly filled a gravy boat, as usual he poured plenty out and I was amused to see him sweat through it as he acknowledged that it was home-made and quite powerful. The gravy was obviously home made as well, very beefy and not thick and slightly artificial like Bisto. At this point however I was having my doubts about the meat. There was 2 slices of beef and 2 slices of pork, and the slices were thin and cut exactly the same, even to the size. Missing as well was any hint of fat or crackling on either of them, how many people here have cooked a roast and managed to get the meats completely free of those, in particular the pork. I'm not convinced this what meat from joints bought in then cooked and carved, I actually think it was beef and pork that it ready cooked and carved and that you just heat up and looked exactly like the stuff my sister buys in for her sandwich bar, the lack of a strong flavour goes someway towards the evidence proving this. This I actually found really disappointing, after all the meat is the most important bit of the meal, I might expect it from Wetherspoons but not from a pub which boasts about the chefs home-made produce. Didnt stop me eating it though!
We didn't make it as far as that Dessert board though plenty on it looked pretty nice, warm Chocolate Fudge Cake, Banoffee Pie, Whiskey and Marmalade Bread and Butter Pudding and several more, we were just stuffed full of pate, Yorkshires and potatoes. Nor unfortunately did we see anyone else order one so I cant even give the slightest hint of what they were like, neither did we sit and have coffee from their super duper coffee machine.
Paying the bill was the usual blank stare, in fact she was decent enough to put the card in the machine and then ignore it whilst serving others. Eventually a young woman who I had seen behind the bar earlier but was now on the Dragons perch rolled her eyes in the Dragons direction and asked my partner to pass her the machine, pressed a button and gave my partner the receipt along with a quick thank you. The Dragon did her decided best to ignore us and the others she was serving. Even my partner sniggered about her which is most unlike her.
The rest of the staff however were lovely and very helpful, the barman mentioned earlier had changed and was sat by the bar also trying to ignore the Dragons behaviour, the blonde woman looked enough like the Landlady to be her daughter, she and he were just reduced to giving embarrassed smiles. Strangely the Dragon looked like a cross between Bet Lynch and Ena Sharples!
The young waitresses were lovely and very professional, checking our meals were ok and getting extras if we needed them.
The place was also spotlessly clean, every bit polished and swept. All the plates, glasses and cutlery were perfectly clean, although I'm always a bit suspicious that when they roll the silverware in napkins and seal it with a bit of water at the corner, I'm hoping it is actually water!
It was a pleasant enough meal but not pleasant enough that we would deliberately return, or even necessarily stop if we go that way again. The food was good, but I probably wouldnt have the roast meat again. What would definitely do it and has probably done it to many others is the attitude of that Landlady, there's a saying about looks conveying a 1000 words, hers were saying don't bother me, you're all a bunch of annoying peasants and I'd be much happier if you all just left so I can carry on my miserableness by myself. A slight exaggeration? I wish, she managed to make me feel uncomfortable and I don't appreciate that from someone who is expecting someone like me to keep her business going.
It's a pity because it's a really nice little pub with some of the most beautiful scenery I've seen, the perfect place to go for a drive and then sit and have a cold drink or a spot of lunch whilst looking at it. There's plenty of others along that road though and I'll try one of them before returning here.