HAVING enjoyed our recent spell of real summer, I have taken every opportunity to either eat or drink outside.
Our opportunities are generally few and far between, but I just love to be in fresh air. I actually think food tastes better.
Almost inevitably, in an enclosed restaurant or dining room, while the smells of good food can be so tempting, it can be difficult to pick out your own choice of dish from the general blanket fragrance, however good it may be.
Outside, you can concentrate upon the unique appearance, smell and taste of your meal.
That's enough waffle. Let me turn to the matter in hand.
I wanted good but inexpensive food to eat in the open and I thought I might travel a little further afield.
With my pal, Steve, we decided to call upon an old friend, Chris Podmore, who keeps the Tavern, in Denstone.
I have known Chris for many years and, in addition to my admiration of the pubs and restaurants which he has kept, I have long admired his taste in fine furniture and pictures.
Many years ago, when he kept the Red Lion in Rocester, Andrew Shemilt, Max Parker and I regularly used to take on the world – or more accurately a couple of dozen – in the weekly quiz driven by the thought of the star prize, which would be a meal at the pub.
Chris was always welcoming, good humoured and great fun, and we would often share caustic and outrageous wit.
At the Tavern, he has managed to achieve a place which appears to be all things to all men.
A cosy village pub serving well-kept beers, it provides a good selection of tempting food for both lunch and dinner.
It is a venue for informal business lunches and, in season, caters for visitors to Alton Towers.
All this in a 17th-century inn built of stone and now enhanced by a conservatory to one side.
Chris and his chef offer a good range of home-cooked food, overlaid with the elaboration of fine dining, within which vegetarians are well served.
Even I, a committed red meat man, was tempted by the thought of asparagus risotto cooked in white wine and topped with shavings of Parmesan.
The evening menu is far greater than that offered at lunchtime, when a choice of sandwiches is offered.
Steve and I, having a table outside to the front of the Tavern, chose pies.
Steve chose chicken, leek and Stilton with salad, and I picked steak and ale with vegetables, both served with good home-cut chips.
They were delicious and Steve paid the ultimate compliment – as good as his grandmother's.
A while back, our Grumpy Old Men Luncheon Club descended on Chris.
There were eight of us and, if I remember rightly, we put both the menu and wine list to the test and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.