NESTLED in the busy village of Cromford is the quirky, ramshackle and rather wonderful Scarthin Books.
And hidden away in one of the many crevices, behind a secret bookcase, is the cafe, serving vegetarian and organic food.
In the 1970s owner David Mitchell relinquished his three-storey home to his passion for books and his shop blossomed from a one-room bookstore to a twelve-room one with David having to move into a house next door.
The cafe is in what used to be the family’s living-kitchen and the atmosphere is still homely, cluttered and laid-back.
My companion and I visited on Saturday lunchtime, normally a busy time as walkers flock for a welcome break.
We chose a table in the “vineyard” extension, enjoying our lunch surrounded by stacks of books with bunches of grapes growing above our heads.
The menu offers a selection of healthy meals including homemade soups, pizzas, pies, ploughman’s lunches, cakes and scones.
Service is very friendly and vegan and gluten free meals are clearly marked.
I chose homity pie which came with either a small salad for £5 or a large for an extra £1.25.
I went for small and found the potions to be more than generous and good value.
My fellow diner opted for a veg chilli pie, with a small salad, also £5.
The pies arrived piping hot and the accompanying salads came with a mix of salad leaves, tomato, cucumber, pasta, and a tasty cracked wheat salad with caraway and sprouting seeds.
My pie was hearty and filling – a light, crispy pastry case containing potatoes, onions and garlic.
My fellow diner said the chilli filling was full of flavour and spicy without being overpowering.
Both our meals were vegan.
We cleared our plates and enjoyed a short break to chat and thumb through books, before perusing the tempting section of homemade cakes.
Options include dairy free chocolate cake, Tunisian orange, scones and flapjack.
I opted for cashew nut and apricot cake and my friend choose raspberry and coconut, both £2.50.
My choice had a tasty glazed topping but disappointingly the great chunk looked a little dry and crumbling on the plate.
Once I cut in to it however I found it crammed with whole apricots and a dense, moist filling.
My friend enjoyed her cake which was a traditional light sponge sandwich with raspberry jam and coconut. A huge piece, but so light she demolished it with no trouble.
We washed our cakes down with a good strong cup of tea.
If you like your eateries to have a polished and refined edge then Scarthin’s cafe is perhaps not for you but if, like me, you want a dining experience with character, quirkiness and rustic charm then you will love Scarthin.
The shop is an adventure in books with nooks and crannies at every turn, trivia posted above the stairs, snippets from stories and obscure quotes all set over several floors in the picturesque setting by the millpond.
Rating: Four stars
Cromford, near Matlock
tel. (01629) 823 272