Stone-built and handsome, the Fox and Goose sits – sprawls comfortably, to be accurate – near the brow of Pudding Pie Hill in that pretty Derbyshire pasture-land on the outskirts of Chesterfield bordering the Peak District National Park.
It beckons anyone driving the old back road to Bakewell – once the main London to Manchester turnpike – with a welcoming aspect, a spacious beer garden, a fine range of beers and a kitchen which is both accomplished and versatile.
Some heading for a meander in the Peak may pass by, fancying a deeper delve into the national park before eating. That probably suits the locals who flock from well-heeled Old Brampton and Chesterfield’s other western suburbs.
Pudding pie? No, we didn’t know either – but fortunately this historic British dessert was on the menu so there was chance to find out.
On a summer Saturday, attempting a late booking, we found the smart dining room full. The only room at the inn was in the “link”, a sort-of broad passage between dining room and bar.
But it was bright, our table was set beautifully in white linen and sparkling glass and service was attentive.
Good as the main menu looked, a seductive blackboard of daily specials supplied almost all our choices.
A terrine of pork with pickles, and pan-fried scallops with pea puree and Serrano crisps made pleasing starters. The terrine: full of well-flavoured, moist but largely unfaffed-with chunks of roast pork. The scallops: juicy and well set against the minty puree.
A main of duck-breast with red cabbage and potato fondant was perfectly pan-fried, chunked and very happily married with an orange jus that pulled the whole dish together with, well, great zest. Its tangy sweetness was a delight.
Our only dish from the main menu was a seared fillet of bream served on crushed Jersey potatoes and wilted spinach with a superb piquant salsa incorporating shoots and olives. The crab ravioli alongside was a touch of class.
The dish demonstrated great accomplishment, undermined slightly by a complete lack of seasoning of the bream which left it wanting the ultimate wow-factor.
Pudding-time, and all is revealed. Pudding pie is a luscious tang-fest of layered and baked summer fruits topped by a lightly-delicious short pastry. Think of a supercharged fruit crumble with an added thin-pastry crust. Worth climbing any hill for.
And the home-made ice creams (as good a test of competency as any kitchen can face) came out simply delicious, luxuriously smooth and pinging with their flavours of mint, white chocolate and pistachio.
A chef who can touch some of these peaks and also turn out perfect pub food in the shape of juicy-looking burgers, fish and chips, and sausage and mash is clearly versatile talent.
With a clean and fragrant bottle of Australian Semillon Chardonnay (one of a very wide range of reasonably-priced house wines) our bill was in the £80 neighbourhood.
But don’t tell too many; the locals won’t like it.
RATING: Four stars
The Fox and Goose Inn
Pudding Pie Hill
Telephone: 01246 566335