“ Address: Buxton Road / Tissington / Ashbourne DE6 1NH / Derbyshire „
My partner and I went for a drive on Sunday afternoon, 2nd December. It was extremely cold and we were looking for a carvery that did proper home-cooked food. We came across the Bluebell Inn and it is fantastic. We were the only ones in there (I think everyone was keeping warm indoors or were Christmas shopping). We both had the roast beef and it was the best that we had tasted. Hot, fresh and very tasty. The meat just fell off the fork and the gravy was good and thick. The staff are friendly and helpful. The menu was extensive and even though the staff mentioned that it had been quiet all day, the food felt very fresh and personally cooked for us!
It was a very cold day, so maybe they could have improved the ambience by lighting the fire and having a couple of comfy sofas just for the winter time. I would think that it gets extremely busy in the summer because it is on the main road and popular with walkers. We will definitely be visiting again. A jewel of a find.
When Mrs SWSt and I were on holiday in Derbyshire earlier this year, we were fortunate enough to stumble across the Bluebell Inn on our first full day. This turned out to be a Very Good Thing as it was a fantastic pub which served great food, real ales and was less than 10 miles from where we were staying. We returned to it several times during our stay and never once had anything approaching a bad experience.
The Bluebell Inn is not difficult. It is situated just outside the little village of Tissington on the major road that connects Ashbourne to Buxton. Although it is directly at the side of a major road, there is ample parking, with a large car park around the back of the pub so parking is not a problem and the inside of the pub itself is pretty quiet, despite the fact that a major road passes right outside its front door.
Inside the Pub
On entering, there is nothing that instantly suggests The Bluebell is somewhere good to eat and it just looks like a fairly typical country pub. A long bar runs down the room which is otherwise set out with tables of varying size. It is relatively small (the website suggests it has seating for about 50 people in total) and many of the tables were set out for smaller parties (from 2-6), although we did see some larger parties in there. If you're a really big party, a function room is also available for hire.
The Bluebell is clearly more of a dining pub than a drinking one and almost everyone we saw there was calling in for food, rather than just grabbing a swift pint on their way home from work. This gives it a different, warmer feel than a pub where people just go to drink and it made for a very pleasant and relaxed environment.
The Bluebell serves food all day until 9pm (8pm on Sundays), but during traditional lunchtimes (12-2) it gets very busy, particularly at weekends. Our first visit was at the tail end of Sunday lunchtime (around 1:50pm) and the place was packed. We just managed to grab the only available table and I suspect that had we gone earlier, we wouldn't have been able to get in. Booking at weekends is definitely advised, as it appears to be a very popular venue for both locals and visitors. At other times, space is not so much of an issue. We tended to go at quieter times (typically around 4pm) and often had the place to ourselves, so had a nice quiet dining experience,
The Bluebell Inn has an incredible array of dishes on offer - and apparently, the menu has recently been halved in size! The Main Menu offers a good selection of starters (typically around 7-8) with at least 20 main meals, covering everything from roast dinners and fish to steaks and mixed grills. In addition, there are a range of specials offered for a limited time. If that wasn't enough, you can also choose from a Lighter Appetites menu (smaller portions of some of the main menu dishes, as well as some unique to that menu) or the children's menu. And if even THAT wasn't enough choice for you, Tuesday night is Steak Night and Friday Night is Curry Night! Your problem at the Bluebell Inn is not going to be finding something you like, but choosing what to have from the wide range of dishes on offer. The only criticism is the menu doesn't offer a massive amount by way of vegetarian options and it's definitely a pub aimed at people who like their meat.
To give you some idea of the range available, Mrs SWSt and I went 4 times during our holiday. Each we visited, we both had a different dish for our main meal and still didn't cover even a quarter of the full menu between us!
As you might gather from the fact that we returned several times, the food is absolutely gorgeous. The menu makes liberal use of fresh, local produce and this comes across in the taste and quality of the meals you are served. The meat especially was incredibly tender and full of taste. The gammon, for example, was a proper thick piece of gammon and not the wafer-thin rubbish you often get served; the steak and ale pie came with massive chunks of beef covered in lovely thick gravy and everything was cooked to perfection.
Most dishes are served with either chips or new potatoes and vegetables or salad. The chips were fantastic (especially when dipped in the gravy from the steak and ale pie!), vegetables were well cooked and still crunchy (not boiled to within an inch of their lives) and were full of flavour.
Normally at this point, I'd go through what Mrs SWSt and I had, but since we visited on several occasions, this is a little harder to do. However, although we tried different dishes each time, there was not a single thing we ate that we would not have happily ordered again. I would, however, particularly recommend the Bacon and Black Pudding Salad starter. Even if you're not keen on black pudding, this is a seriously great dish.
Service at the Bluebell was efficient without being effusive. Dishes were served quickly and were piping hot, whilst dirty dishes were removed quickly once you had finished eating. We rarely had to wait long for our meals, although given that we were often went before the usual mealtime rush periods and were often the only people in, this is not surprising. However, even on our Sunday lunchtime visit when the place was packed, we didn't wait too long for the meals to arrive.
The only minor drawback was that the bar and serving staff were not particularly chatty. They were friendly enough, but it was clear that this was just a job to them and they weren't particularly interesting in talking to you. I have no problem with that, although given that I suspect a lot of their trade during the summer comes from visitors, a few of their staff could perhaps do with learning that exchanging the odd pleasantry with customers is an important part of the job of making them feel welcome!
Price-wise, the Bluebell was not particularly more expensive than some of the chain eateries that were nearby (such as the local Table Table). Odd dishes might be a pound or so more than you might normally expect, but nothing significant. Even where it is a touch more expensive, however, it offers far better value for money because the quality of the dishes was massively superior to chain restaurants. Our typical bill there was around £25-30 (depending on what we had) for two starters, two main courses and two drinks (no dessert). This is exactly the sort of price we would pay for the same amount of food and drink at our local Table Table.
My only regret about The Bluebell Inn is that it lies around 200 miles away from where I live, so the prospect of eating there again soon is fairly slim. On second thoughts, that's probably a good thing: if it was right on my doorstep, I'd be tempted to go every week and then I'd end up as fat as a pig!
The Bluebell Inn
(c) Copyright SWSt 2011