Barry Pearson praises good value and wants to know what's wrong with Aldi?
THIS week I want to tell you about a good-value family evening of food in a relaxed atmosphere but before I do that, forgive me, I need to get something off my chest: I need to declare an Aldi interest.
Last week I read: "People will ask whether Aldi suits the town's image?". So is the Co-op Harrods?
Ashbourne's image is of an admired market town of great character which both appeals to and caters for all socio-economic groups and that is its strength. Believe me, when consent is given for Aldi there will be as many Range Rovers and BMWs in the car park as the likes of my seven-year-old Astra.
Realistically, when more than six years ago Derbyshire Dales allowed a variation of the original Waterside Park restricted retail consents, it opened the floodgates. It blew it with Argos. I cannot believe it will blow it with Aldi. If it does, our councillors will not be easily forgiven by Ashburnians – even those who are not from round here!
And, of course, if they decide to use the "effects upon the town centre" excuse they are six years too late and Aldi will, I hope, appeal – and win.
I declare an interest. Aldi's London Gin at £9.60 is incredible and its red wines are fantastic. For what it's worth, Ashbourne's chattering classes or, more accurately, grumpy old men are in favour – or at least they were yesterday. They will have forgotten by tomorrow.
So now to last weekend. My son and his family were travelling back to London from Centre Parcs, near Penrith. So where to go? Three adults, a three-year-old and my eight-month-old granddaughter. Where could we and the children relax and be themselves – and we were hungry?
When children are eating out they want, ideally, other children, familiar food and staff who do not ignore them.
On Friday night we had it all. Stepping Stones, just beyond Waterside Park was really busy and, as I have found before, the staff were great, good-humoured and, despite the number of people arriving when we did – about 6.15pm – service of both food and drinks was fast and efficient.
Any delay is likely to be caused by being spoilt for choice! Stepping Stones offers just about every combination of fish and meat presented to satisfy all but the most difficult with dishes for vegetarians and those avoiding wheat or gluten.
You can have your meat or poultry, grilled, roasted, broiled or cold and for fish eaters there is plenty.
My son and I, both still successfully avoiding weight-watching, had medium rare sirloins with a shared onion ring tower and deep fried mushrooms. Stephanie, my daughter-in-law, really enjoyed her beef and Pedigree ale pie with its rich gravy. This was washed down with a couple of pints of Pedigree.
Henry regularly joined some other children after he had eaten. They were not just tolerated by the staff but you felt that they, too, were regarded as customers. We finished off with jam roly poly with custard and ice creams.
Our fellow diners were locals, passing Alton Towers visitors and people staying at the Travelodge and, as far as I could tell, they and we enjoyed great, filling meals giving value for money and cheerily served.