DINING OUT: Comfort food to satisfy the heartiest appetite helps banish the winter blues

The Black Horse at Whaley
The Black Horse at Whaley

January always makes me feel quite low. The weather is grim, and there is a whole year to wait for the next Christmas buzz. Forget the post-festive diets and go for a little of what you fancy is what I say. Comfort food your way through the month and cut back in February – the shortest month I might add.

I decided that I would take my family for a big food hug to a good old-fashioned comfy pub in the village of Whaley, a short drive from Bolsover. The Black Horse is a stone-built pub with loads of character. Cosy niches and traditional decor made us feel warmly welcomed, and the friendly staff helped us fit right in. We perused the extensive menu in ‘the snug’ before moving into the lamp-lit restaurant. The blue and white colour scheme made the willow pattern plates look just the part. The Black Horse also has a lounge and a tap room with a pool table, and of course the bar.

There is an extensive bar menu, offering deals for OAPs, and a children’s menu.

We opted for the restaurant menu which has the famous ‘Whaley Whopper’ at the top of its list. This 24oz T-bone steak would prove a challenge for even the heartiest of meat lovers. On hearing of the generous portions of the other meals on offer, we all decided to skip the starters, although there were plenty to choose from, including a large Yorkshire pudding with gravy. My dad opted for the Whaley Mixed Grill which filled an oval platter with a 6oz cut of rump steak, pork steak, gammon rasher, lamb chop, liver, two sausages, black pudding, egg, grilled tomato, mushrooms and fried onions. The home-made chips had to be served in a separate bowl as there was simply no room left on the plate. Everything was cooked to perfection but he struggled to eat everything, at only £16.99 he didn’t feel he was being wasteful. It is worth noting that all the steak meals and mixed grill must be pre ordered.

My mum decided on the home cooked lasagne, with layers of minced beef, spinach pasta and béchamel sauce (£8.75). It arrived piping hot and was served with a crisp salad and garlic bread. Every last mouthful was eaten. My sister loved her 12oz gammon steak (£9.95). She chose the egg, salad and chips to accompany it, and the egg was cooked to her specification, nothing was too much trouble. She was assured that the cut was not too salty, and it arrived cooked to perfection.

I decided on one of the many vegetarian options available on the specials board. A choice of Vegetable Kiev, Broccoli and Cream Cheese Bake, Nut Roast or Roasted Vegetable and Wensleydale Bake left me with a hard decision. I had a full description from the waitress on what each contained and decided on the Roasted Vegetable and Wensleydale bake at £7.50, is was served with home-made chips or jacket, and vegetables. The melt-in-your-mouth sauce coated the seasonal veg perfectly, and a breadcrumb topping soaked up the flavour of the sauce but kept their crispness as it was baked.

Our plates were cleared promptly and a dessert list was read to us. From sundaes to gateaux all £3.20, we were all too full to decide. We opted to share a treacle sponge and custard, which was so rich it was a battle of the spoons to get the next mouthful in.

Our bill arrived on completion of our meal, without being asked for, and this promptness was executed throughout the evening. However we never felt like we were being rushed or pushed out. I felt like we were being invited into a family home with the warm relaxed nature of the pub. The soft background music allowed us to chat among ourselves and enjoy a family meal together.

I noticed that the pub does a free quiz with a free buffet on a Sunday evening, also they do a Sunday roast deal of 2 for £10.99 with a choice of lamb, pork, turkey or beef, and a sign up saying kids eat free on Sundays. Another new offer was selected meals 2 for £9.99. I certainly couldn’t argue with the value for money for the quality food. And if you are still thinking that eating out in January is an over-indulgence, why not combine your trip out with a walk around nearby Poulter Country Park, a delightful circular route can be enjoyed with views of Lincoln Cathedral on a clear day.

(Be aware though that this eatery only accepts cheque or cash and has no card payment facilities, nor is there a cash point for a few miles.)

Rating: Four stars

The Black Horse, Whaley Road,

Whaley, near Bolsover, NG20 9HU.

Tel. 01909 72011.