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REVIEW A community pub with a culinary whiz at the helm

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: March 13, 2014

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THERE’S a sign outside the Devonshire Arms that invites the locals to exchange their home-grown fresh produce for beer. Chard, cabbage, beet root, those sort of things.

What better way could there be of securing quality veg from members of the surrounding community.

“There’s a chef with imagination”, I mused, as my wife and I lugged our baggage into the small bar area to check in for the night.

The chef patron of the Devonshire Arms at Beeley, Alan Hill, is also at the helm of the Devonshire Arms at Plilsley, a pair of hotels and restaurants in the chatsworth estate and it turns out he’s not just got imagination, he’s got a genuine fighting spirit as he’s only recently returned to work after taking 12 months off to fight a battle with cancer.

Alan, from Chapel-En-le-Frith, has worked at the two establishments since 2006 and his return has already seen a brand new menu created that he says reflects his personality.

The Devonshire Arms at Beeley has 14 rooms and, when you first see the building, you wonder how this might be possible in such a compact pub and restaurant.

As beautiful as the stone-built bar and its modern restaurant extension is, it looks to be little more than a village pub from the outside.

But there’s more to the Devonshire than meets the eye.

Accommodation is split across small cottages and our room, over the road was in a triple-winged cottage. On the ground floor a tight entrance hall was surrounded by three doors, including the door to ‘Primrose’ our room for the night.

It was beautifully decorated and very well equipped, despite its small size. Two large windows in the main room let in plenty of light and there was a large television, good tea and coffee-making facilities and a comfortable bed.

Strangely, the table had just one chair (which was probably a space-saving measure) but robes were included as were items such as a hair dryer.

A lack of WiFi was a disappointment, but we did get a nice letter apologising for its absence on the bed and the jar of sweets waiting for us on a window sill was a lovely touch.

The bar was literally across the quiet road and, by the time we’d got to know our room and got changed for dinner it had become very busy. So much so, in fact that there was nowhere to sit.

Despite being nearly an hour early for our reservation we were taken through to the restaurant which, frankly, is beautiful. It’s a far more modern affair than the traditional bar area, but tastefully done with large comfy chairs and a wall of glass which looks out over the village and the stream as it dives below a culvert.

Alan’s new menu is nicely varied with some dishes offering his take on pub favourites and others that smack of a more adventurous side.

For a list with relatively few options, all the bases are covered and prices are thoroughly resaonable.

Given the transition from the pretty pub-style bar area into the swanky and modern restaurant area, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the food, but suffice to say the portions are beautifully presented yet generous and, after side-stepping the tempting dessert menu, we wandered back in to the bar, half-finished bottle of Montepulciano in hand, ready to slump into a chair by the fire and relax. We were absolutely stuffed.

By now the bar was busy with few seats left but there were still seats to choose from and the atmosphere was delightful. It was a perfect end to lovely evening.

Back in the room one of the two supplied DVDs caught our eye but, I for one was asleep before the opening sequences of the film had finished and my wife didn’t last much longer.

The bed was lovely, the room was warm and our stomachs were full. We were never going to out-last a movie.

Breakfast the following morning was served right up to 10am, which was nice as we were in no mood to rush around.

Locally sourced produce again featured in the full-english and my wife was particularly fond of the yoghurt and the coffee.

Once we’d polished off our breakfasts we made short work of packing up the room and check-out was relaxed and straight-forward as staff were still milling around everywhere, even though the bar area was being cleaned at the time.

Within a short distance from the Devonshire in Beeley is Chatsworth House, which speaks for itself as an attraction but also Peak Village shopping centre in Rowsley and, not much further away, is Haddon Hall and the pretty market town of Bakewell.

Chatsworth, I’m told, is a short walk away from the Devonshire but even a short walk was too much to ask. We were thoroughly relaxed after our stay at the Devonshire.

And we couldn’t have asked for more than that.

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