The Rising Sun, Derbyshire

The setting? Olde worlde. The service? Fussy. The food? Just plain pretentious. Richard Johnson on why The Rising Sun in Derbyshire made his heart sink
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I am what is known in hillwalking circles as a "cardboard" hiker. That is to say, someone who turns around at the first sign of wetness, so that his/her layers don't delaminate. But if the weather is set for fine, I like nothing more than to go a wanderin' – as long as the arrangements for food and drink have been thought through. And so it happened that we were gathered round the breakfast table to discuss a walk in the Peak District.

I am what is known in hillwalking circles as a "cardboard" hiker. That is to say, someone who turns around at the first sign of wetness, so that his/her layers don't delaminate. But if the weather is set for fine, I like nothing more than to go a wanderin' – as long as the arrangements for food and drink have been thought through. And so it happened that we were gathered round the breakfast table to discuss a walk in the Peak District.

Fellow walkers Shaun and Rebecca wanted lunch in a deep gorge adorned by pinnacles of cream-coloured rock. Which meant only one thing – sandwiches. And drinking out of the same flask. I suggested that the Cheshire Cheese Inn at Hope would be nicer. I pointed out, persuasively, that Hope is where the soft limestone of the south meets the harsh grey gritstone of the north. And that there's some decent dry-stone walling to be found in the village. But I clinched the deal when I offered to pay.

At the Cheshire Cheese Inn, payment for dinner used to be made in cheese. Which worried me, because I had only bought my Visa card. This handsome, cosy place had an open fire, a dog, and small rooms full of welcoming tables – with little plastic signs saying "Reserved". There was no dinner to be had, however much cheese you were carrying. So we decided to follow the landlady's recommendation, and walk to The Rising Sun Inn in Bamford.

You could be forgiven for thinking that The Rising Sun was Elizabethan. If you were driving past at 70mph, and staring in the opposite direction. At night. The Rising Sun is actually 18th century, but set-dressed to make it look like Walter Raleigh's local. Peer through ye window, and you might dismiss it as just another pub with a loud carpet to hide the beer stains, and chocolate-brown paintwork to hide the tar. But you would be wrong to do thusly.

You see, The Rising Sun has pretensions to be a restaurant. And not just the sort of restaurant that serves a glass of orange juice as a starter – a serious restaurant. So there are formal waiters wearing black, bearing B&H on silver salvers. The beautiful flowers are formally arranged. I would guess the inspiration was "wedding". But the end result is more "funeral". Which doesn't create quite the required ambience.

Nor does waiting an hour for a table. Not because the staff were especially busy. But because they were 10 minutes folding our napkins, 10 minutes finding our cruet set, and 10 minutes tracking down our wine. Which gave me the time to note that the barmaid had lemon, lime and orange slices available for garnish. But, to her credit, she was decent enough to get the pepper grinder from the kitchen to season my Bloody Mary.

I don't mean to appear condescending, but there was something very Hyacinth Bucket about The Rising Sun. The sauces on the menu were all either "encircling" or "enrobing". At the very least they were "complimenting". Sauces around these parts do not, evidently, just hang about and twiddle their thumbs. When I asked for details of the "Todman" sauce that encircled "Mr Walker's Thai Fish Cake", nobody knew. Apart from "Mr Walker got it abroad".

The food arrived on platters – not plates. Platters that were, in most cases, the same shape as the food we were eating. Which was nice. They were borne by waitresses who had been to an outdated school of restauranting. They even had an angle of approach. Like there were chalk footprints on the carpet to follow. The platters were then laid at a pre-determined angle. As she laid down my starter, she whispered "I had better turn it round, or I'll get into trouble."

Portions were huge. My natural smoked haddock rarebit on sweet tomato with basil dressing could have fed the entire room. Coincidentally, that morning I had been reading about the furore surrounding America's Fattest City. The good people of Houston, Texas were up in arms – admittedly arms with very flappy skin – about the quality of food in their city. They declared their obesity was due to all the good food. Like there's no good food to be had in Paris? Or in London?

Anyway, gluttons no longer gorge themselves; they are simply suffering from an "eating disorder". Everything that used to be a sin is now a disease. And I am more diseased than most. But my smoked haddock was badly overcooked. And I couldn't offload it on anyone else because they had their own starters to deal with. Shaun's worst nightmare (fresh king scallops on black pudding à l'orange) came true. It tasted like it sounded – a mess of flavours that belonged on different continents.

The main courses were no better. Shaun asked for his hollandaise to be served on the side. It wasn't. So he only picked at his halibut. And as it cost £16.25, that was an expensive mistake. My fennel arrived deep-fried – looking like Alphabites. And the Mediterranean chicken and chorizo sausage casserole in saffron gravy was thin and tasteless. Saffron gravy? Why waste a delicate flavour like that on something that you're going to mop up with your bread?

At The Rising Sun, every table gets its own loaf of bread. And breadboard. Why not put out a primus stove and can opener and be done with it? When we asked for a loaf of bread to take home, they charged us 75p. Given that it was nearly midnight, and we had spent well over £100, it might have been nice to let us have the bread for free. The Rising Sun should get back to basics – simple food served hospitably. Leave the garnish for another day.

The Rising Sun, Castleton Road, Thornhill Moor, Bamford, Hope Valley, Derbyshire (01433 651323).

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