Malcolm, and I try and meet up twice a month or so on a Saturday lunch time for a spot of lunch, a few beers and a chat. The later usually involves moaning about something or other, and failing to put the world to rights. We are never out for more than a few hours, budget and more importantly failing constitutions playing their part in limiting us.
So the choice of venue is important. Of course this can lead to always going back to the same place. We have tended to gravitate to the Tap House. The pub grub is good and the selection of cask ales from Buxton Brewery sufficiently varied to keep Malcolm happy. A recent decision to focus on the craft beer market and in particular the export market has reduced the range on offer, which is a shame.
Using this as an excuse to try out other venues, found us at the Bar Brasserie, just round the corner from the Tap House. They say a change is as good as a rest and certainly the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. There was a good mix of diners, some obviously local and regulars, and a scattering of visitors. I pondered trying out my French pronunciation but decided against it. The staff were firmly Derbyshire, though I believe the owner is French. He lurked in his lair in the kitchen however so it was not possible to check this out.
No matter. We chose appropriately from the menu, I going with Coq au vin, and Malcolm deciding on Boeuf Bourguignon. We ordered a French stick, essential to mop up the sauce.
I have eaten Coq au vin on a number of occasions, and made it myself several times, including once when we had guests on a notorious New Year’s Eve, but we will leave that for another day. Nothing has yet got close to the takeaway dish that I had in Rennes, many years ago. Eaten from the metal tray with frittes (what else) it was a sublime and heavenly meal. The sauce deliciously flavoured with herbs onions and wine, not too thick and not too thin. Perhaps it was the circumstances, hot, hungry and bothered about finding somewhere to stay, but it remains one of the best meals I have eaten out. So I was full of expectation at how this dish might turn out.
As we were in a French café, albeit in the heart of the cultural quarter in Buxton, we drank wine, so a jug of the house Merlot seemed to fit the bill.
The food arrived punctually, straight from the kitchen via a serving hatch. There was a small confusion over the bread, but this was soon sorted. Malcolm enjoyed his beef. This is high praise as he conjures up a mean Boeuf Bourguignon himself, though it tends go by the title beef stew.
My Coq au vin was good. The sauce perhaps a little thin for my liking and if we are going to be really picky there was not enough smoky flavour from the lardons. But the chicken was well cooked and served on the bone and I finished it all, mopping up the sauce with the bread. But still not a match for the takeaway chicken in wine sauce in Rennes.
There was room for pudding, though perhaps the large plate of patisserie smothered in chocolate and cream was over ambitious. Nevertheless I managed it. Malcolm had the lemon pie, which he declared to be good, very good.
The bill was not excessive, though the option to add a gratuity, could lead to awkwardness and perhaps is a little bit much to ask the staff to explain.
We both agreed that the change had been worth it, and we would be back in the not too distant future.