Published on May 29th, 2013 | by Nottingham Drinker0
John Westlake seeks out some of the places in our area where good food and good ale go hand in hand
It was back in 1968 that John and Ann Thompson decided to convert their 15th century farmhouse into the first pub in Great Britain to be named after the owner and licensee. Almost a decade later, one of the first new wave of microbreweries to be built in the East Midlands came on stream in outbuildings to the rear, with the inaugural brew of JTS XXX (4.1% ABV), which has remained unchanged to this day, hitting the bar just in time to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Now in the very capable hands of John and Ann’s son, Nick, the John Thompson Inn & Brewery, as it is known today, is delightfully situated right by the side of the Trent at Ingleby, a pretty village set in rolling countryside about six miles to the south of Derby and not far from historic Swarkeston Bridge, the longest stone bridge in the Country and the point at which the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, finally ran out of steam and turned back for Scotland. The original, white painted building has been extended to the rear where, in addition to a spacious, grassy beer garden and ample provision for parking, six Scandinavian, self-catering chalets have been added in more recent times for those who wish to prolong their stay.
Stepping inside, the main, L-shaped bar is every bit the English country pub, full of oak beams, wooden settles and comfortably padded bench seating, whilst original prints and watercolours by three generations of the Gresley family adorn the very walls within which many were actually painted. To one side, a cosy snug with its rich red décor and wood-burning stove creates a really welcoming retreat when the weather is inclement, but if the sun comes out and temperatures rise, the more modern extension, which includes a pool table, can be opened out onto a paved terrace for alfresco refreshments. Handpumps offer the ever-present JTS XXX, an easy-drinking amber brew with a good smack of spicy English hops, alongside another of the house beers such as the lighter-hued Gold (4.5% ABV), together with a guest ale, more often than not from another local micro. But despite the beer, the undisputed draw most lunchtimes (there is no evening food service) is the roast beef of Olde England, served just as it should be. Indeed, there is little else on the menu and never has been, unless you fancy helping yourself to the salad bar (there is a choice of ham; beef; tuna or English cheeses), or are simply looking to snack on a sandwich or jacket spud. And if you fancy a starter it is best to have a liking for vegetable soup, which according to the menu, should come with a white bread roll (£3.25).
Having no choices to worry about certainly makes life easier and I soon have before me a piping hot bowl of creamy soup, served not with a roll but a thickly cut slice of fluffy white bread together with two pats of lightly salted butter. I personally would have preferred a piece of crusty or wholegrain bread but the soup itself is deliciously warming and full of rich, earthy vegetable flavours. Just the job, in fact, when it is on the verge of snowing outside
The beef takes the form of an enormous slab of roasted prime topside installed on a hotplate and carved to order at the bar, where a queue of eager customers usually forms as soon as the food service commences at noon. Cooked to perfection and plated with generosity, a choice of nicely pink or well done is offered and a bit of each is a perfectly acceptable request too. Unless declined, well risen individual Yorkshire puddings, new potatoes and the best roast potatoes I have discovered anywhere within a 50 mile radius of Nottingham are added, together with a selection of seasonal vegetables and a good ladle-full of tasty gravy. Cutlery and napkins await collection on the bar alongside bowls of English mustard and strong horseradish sauce to dive into if required. I retreat to the snug with my plateful feeling rather guilty at what damage this indulgence might do to my attempts to lose a bit of weight. But why worry when the meat is absolutely delectable and so tender the knife might have been rendered redundant were it not for the stunningly good roasties, so crunchy on the outside yet light and soft within. Fair enough, the thinly sliced carrots, garden peas and nicely cooked creamed leeks piled on top may not exhibit that Master Chef presentational touch, but what the meal may lack in sophistication it more than makes up for in the quality of the ingredients and, at just £7.95, remarkably good value for money.
Simple desserts such as fresh fruit salad or Mrs T’s bread and butter pudding are all priced around the £3.00 mark and seem to have a loyal following, but for me it is a chance to just relax and enjoy another pint of Head Brewer, Robert Elson’s, excellent JTS beers, which go so well with the food but are seldom to be found beyond their home patch. Suddenly, one of those Nordic chalets looks very tempting!
Sandwiched in the triangle formed by the A52 and A46 just beyond Radcliffe-on-Trent, the small community of Upper Saxondale occupies much of the site where once stood Saxondale Hospital, a place of incarceration for patients with psychiatric problems until its ultimate closure in 1988. Many of the original buildings were soon demolished to make way for up-market housing but what was once the imposing, redbrick reception area with its stone mullioned windows is now home to Sanctuary, a stylish restaurant owned by mother of two, Kerry Mathie, who once managed restaurants in London for Anthony Worrall Thompson. The single room interior stretches the length of the building with the principal dining area to the right, the pale wood-topped tables and ultra-modern, padded brown leather and steel chairs nicely complementing the stripped and polished wood floor, whilst off-white and muted greys in the décor sit well with a feature wall comprising a montage of old black and white photographs. Cask conditioned beer is, sadly, still something of a rarity in establishments such as this, so it is especially pleasing to find a single handpump atop the bar dispensing well-kept Castle Rock Harvest Pale (3.8% ABV), a fine, pale gold brew full of refreshing, citrusy hop flavours and an ideal partner for white meat or fish dishes.
Head chef, Daniel Edwards, learned his craft here in Nottingham, first at NCN before going on to work at Sat Bains, the city’s only Michelin starred restaurant, as well as other award-winning venues such as Lace Market favourite, Bluu and the Martin’s Arms in Colston Bassett. His menu includes a number of ‘Early Bird’ options competitively priced at £13.50 for two courses or £16.50 for three, which might include chicken liver parfait with toast and red onion marmalade; Sanctuary fish and chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce, followed by a belt-stretching sticky toffee pudding, toffee sauce and vanilla icecream. However, although my chosen starter of glazed goats’ cheese with beetroot carpaccio (£5.50) also falls within this option, the main course I have my eye on of pork tenderloin wrapped in pancetta, sage rosti, caramelised apples and cider sauce (£14.95) does not.
In no time at all a charming young waitress is placing a white, pentagonal plate in front of me bearing a lightly browned, flavoursome roundel of warm goats’ cheese set on a bed of thinly sliced and crunchy beetroot, with a drizzle of quality oil, several deep red blobs of a tasty beetroot reduction and scattered with a peppery watercress garnish. The soft texture of the cheese contrasts really well with the beetroot and my only regret is that there isn’t more of the intensely beetrooty goo to mop up. It’s a great start and hopefully bodes well for what is to come.
And what does arrive certainly does not disappoint. A mouth-wateringly tender, almost cylindrical cut of meat, bursting with rich porcine flavours and swathed in a thin coat of cured Italian bacon, has been halved diagonally and the two pieces stood on end somewhat reminiscent of the funnels on an old steamer. Alongside is a thick wedge of one of the best potato rostis I have ever had, obviously sliced from one large enough for, perhaps, eight to ten servings. Crispy, chestnut brown on the outside and wonderfully soft and herby within, it is an absolute delight and the ideal accompaniment to the firm and tangy slices of apples, which have not been peeled and despite being caramelised, somehow manage to retain a degree of sharpness that is echoed in the zesty cider sauce drizzled about the plate. This is exemplary cooking and although it is tempting to see if Daniel’s desserts such as Cointreau and orange mousse served in a brandy snap basket or lemon and thyme tartlet with blueberry and Chantilly cream (both £6.00) maintain the same high standards, I have no room and settle instead for a good, strong double espresso. But in the immortal words of Mr Schwarzenegger: “I’ll be back!”
The John Thompson Inn & Brewery
Ingleby, Melbourne, Derbyshire DE73 7HW
Tel: 01332 862469
Food served Tuesday to Sunday 12 – 2.
Westminster Drive, Upper Saxondale, Nottinghamshire NG12 2NL
Tel: 0115 9334500
Food served Tuesday to Thursday 5 – 11, Friday and Saturday 12 – 11. Sunday 12 – 4.
Early Bird menu Tuesday to Thursday 5 – 7 and lunchtime Friday and Saturday.