A meal at a picturesque pub in a Peak District village. I know you’re thinking you know the menu already: there’ll be sausage and mash, pie and chips, fish and chips, probably a burger or two, the token veggie risotto and the classic salmon dish that seems to be on all gastropub menus.
Well, at The Bridge Inn at Calver, you’d be wrong – and sometimes it’s brilliant to be wrong. The Bridge offers a tapas style small plates menu. It’s not the usual pub food but offers a wide choice to act as the perfect accompaniment to sharing time and food with friends or family.
The Bridge invited me to come check it out. They said The tapas style of dining is an experience that holds a strong sentiment for us. We adore the relaxed approach. Our menu is not all Spanish, just great food, perfect for sharing, for exploring flavours without the risk of the typical “pick one main course” approach and price.
We love sharing food and tapas style dining when it’s just the two of us, so this sounded like it would be right up our street. Plus- big bonus for us- they’re dog friendly, so we could just relax and enjoy the evening without feeling guilty about the dog being left at home on his own.
We booked in for a Thursday evening and really enjoyed the drive out to the Hope Valley from our home in Sheffield. It only took 20 minutes but it was a gorgeous evening and it was a treat to be out in the Peaks midweek. The Bridge has its own generous car park, which was brill as it meant I didn’t have to try and parallel park our tank of a car on a tiny country road.
The pub was reassuringly busy for a Thursday evening, but they didn’t let this affect service. We were greeted by smiling staff and shown to our table, which we loved: The Bridge’s owners have converted some of the former stables into booths.
Our friendly, chatty waitress recommended that we order 2-3 dishes each and share them. We decided to start with some pinchos. These range in price from £1.75-£3, though we didn’t stray over the £2 mark. If you’ve never had pinchos, they’re basically slices of bread with a topping, secured in place with a toothpick. They are the perfect pre-meal canapé or you can easily whip through a stack of them while drinking:
From left to right, we had chicken liver parfait with red onion jam; tapenade with anchovy and guindilla pepper; deep fried manchego cube with spicy tomato sauce (all £2 each); and black pudding fritter with apple sauce (£1.75). So, not all Spanish ingredients, but some Spanish influence in the serving of them. Each of these was delicious and we were very pleased with our choices. It boded well for what was coming.
The menu is helpfully split into sections, with pinchos first, then tapas separated into vegetable, salads, fish and meat, plus desserts. This made it easy to make sure we tried a broad range of different things- but hard to decide as everything sounded so delicious!
We had- and loved- a number of dishes. The one we’ve talked about the most and have been craving ever since was what The Bridge’s menu calls the “Humble Cauliflower”. This came with cumin yoghurt, toasted almonds, pomegranate seeds and chipotle oil:
We’ve raved about this dish to anyone who will listen and I have been threatening to try to recreate it at home, though I fear it won’t be as good. Who would have thought you could serve up a whole head of cauliflower in such an exciting and delicious way?
Our other dishes were just as delightful. We tried:
The aioli was so full-flavoured and garlicky. I felt like my whole head was infused with garlic, in a really good way.
The sardines were delicious and fresh. You need to be ok with dealing with little bones in fish if you order these- but it’s well worth it.
These koftas were well-seasoned and quite sturdy. They were a great example of non-Spanish foods being served in a tapas style and worked really well as part of the overall mixture of food.
These were absolutely delicious and a huge portion. We loved the patatas bravas and would definitely recommend you order them as part of your experience. The tomato sauce they were in was spicy and so moreish.
This was the priciest item we ordered but the ingredients were really good quality and fresh. The tempura prawn in here was wrapped in a very light and crisp batter and went perfectly with the crab.
Everything had been so delicious and, while it was great to share everything, I was ready to get a bit territorial. So, we each ordered our own dessert. I had the baked apricot cheesecake:
The apricot and hazelnuts worked brilliantly together and the cheesecake itself was rich and smooth, exactly as you’d want it.
My wife, as I predicted, went for the churros. They’re a favourite of hers and the offering at The Bridge did not let her down (even if the dripping of chocolate sauce down the front of her top was just as predictable!):
Phew. We were stuffed but satisfied. We’d eaten a lot but had barely scratched the surface of the menu. There are still many amazing-sounding dishes on there that I can hardly wait to go back and try: the oxtail and beef cheek slider, the charred asparagus with lemon zest and the prawns pil pil among them, to name but a few.
We’re thrilled to have found somewhere a bit different in the Peaks, one of our favourite places, where we can take weekend visitors or else head over midweek with the dog for a relaxed, delicious supper and try many different things at once. Thanks again to The Bridge for having us along as their guests; we’ll be back!