It’s cold, wet and my socks are soaked through. I’m hungry and lost in the far reaches of east Derbyshire. Every road, bend, red light looks the same and I’m sure we’re going around in circles.
Looking for a place serving hot food on a Monday night is proving more difficult than either of us had imagined.
Then, out of the shadows appears a ray of hope. A country pub serving traditional food, locally sourced.
As we stepped from the cold and into the sheltered surroundings of The Elm Tree, in Elmton, the winter blues were blown away immediately.
A warm welcome from staff made an instant impression and it was beginning to look like we had stumbled across holy ground.
With a good selection of drinks, from hand pulled ales to a choice of Weston’s cider, you’re sure to find a drop that appeases your taste buds.
Settling for a pint of Black Sheep, it barely touched the sides on the way down.
As we made our way to the table, escorted by the same member of staff who served our drinks, the Christmas decorations soon ignited our festive spirits.
Opting for the soup of the day (£4.50 each) - carrot and coriander - and a wedge of fresh homemade bread, it hit the spot and set the mains up well.
I went for the Derbyshire steak burger with pub ketchup, onion rings, dressed salad and hand cut chips with toppings of cheese and bacon. Considering it was £9 and 75p per topping, I was expecting the burger to live up to the excellent standards the pub had set itself.
Not only did it live up to expectations, it surpassed them be a country mile.
The food came out on a wooden board with the chips neatly stacked and three large, crispy onion rings. The burger was a tower of meat, ideal for a winter’s evening when all you want is something to warm the cockles of your heart.
My dining partner’s vegetarian burger was presented in a similar fashion and visibly went down well.
Another round of drinks was in order and without hesitation the waiting staff were at our beck and call. Both polite and efficient, it was fantastic customer service from beginning to end.
The total came to just under £40 for two starters, two mains and two rounds of drinks, which was reasonable considering the quality of local ingredients, the sizable portions and excellent treatment from the staff.
Combined with the friendly, relaxed environment of the village pub, which provides a real home-from-home feel.
It came as no surprise for us to learn it was crowned the winner of Derbyshire’s Pub of the Year 2011, which says it all really.
by Matt Brooks