A sad, sad day for Cumbrian fare

Alas, Himself wanted to go for a ‘nice trip out’ somewhere, to catch a meal out ‘to save you cooking’ tonight. Magpie queried whether it would be better to eat out or to eat her own cooking. You can’t always tell in bonny Cumbria.

The trip was lovely. Pink and gold clouds dappled the sky which had turned the colour of a blackbird’s egg in the late evening. The gypsies have all but gone from Fairhill in Appleby-in-Westmorland and all that is left is well-chewed grass and litter as far as the eye can see. One or two were humping the last few fences into their scrap vans as we passed, magpies at work as usual.

We passed through a little and extremely olde worlde village, by the name of Dufton, spotted a truly quaint, tiny inn at the side of the road, and pulled in after some deliberation. Yes, the sign said it served ‘homecooked food’.

On entry, it felt a little like walking on to the set of the TV comedy series ‘The League of Gentlemen’,’a local place for local people’. Everyone turned and looked at us, a lull hanging in the air for longer than a breath.

The bar girls were pleasant enough. The menu was short and on a piece of paper. We suspected it was a ‘special’ for fair week.

We both picked the ‘creamy garlic mushrooms in a blue cheese sauce’;Himself had the gammon and egg and Magpie chose ‘homemade fish and chips’

What a disaster.

A bowl each of gritty mushrooms, clearly with extra compost, sitting in what can only be described as a thin cream soup with a strong taste (thankfully) of blue cheese. Sauce it was not. Creamy mushrooms they were not. But the ultimate insult sat at the side of the bowl. Two slices of plastic bread, slathered in….no, not just margarine. It wasn’t yellow enough for that. LOW FAT SPREAD. Thickly laden in the stuff.

Swilling the grit from her teeth, Magpie grimly awaited the main course. We had looked around at what other people were chowing on and it looked truly fine from a distance. From a distance was all. Nearly ten minutes passed between courses and then our very large plates arrived.

A large piece of gammon covered a good third of the plate and two runny fried eggs adorned them. A good start for Himself who was so hungry he could have happily eaten a small horse on toast with mustard at that point in the evening. Shame it was ‘cool’. In Cumbrian (a language of understatement), that meant it was stone cold.

Magpie, however, drew the shortest straw possible. Eating out is going to be banned if this trend continues. True, her soggy fish was a nice solid piece, probably cod but no-one was asking and no-one was telling. No flavour enabled it to be identified. The batter was thin and greasy, again, no flavour at all to save it. Mushy peas were presented in a ramekin on the plate, lip service only to modern style. The chips were average, poured out of a bag into the fryer, no doubt and the final turn of the screw was the tartare sauce, in a ramekin too big for the quantity. It had clearly been sitting in the kitchen for sometime and had that silky, translucent look that mayonnaise gets when it has been in the air. A skin had begun to form.

The food was so bad that we prayed no one would ask us how it was. Even the ketchup was devoid of flavour. There was no salt and pepper on the table and when the girl went to get us some she took her time about it.

At £5 for a starter, which is strong by anyone’s standards, and a tenner for the main courses, we wanted it to be decent at the very least. It wasn’t.

And why did the local customer two tables down get onion rings with her gammon and Himself did not?

Alas again: no pictures. And we couldn’t even slate it on Tripadvisor because it isn’t listed.

Next time, we’re going to the Station Inn at Ribblehead, which has the nicest beef in the area (even if it is technically North Yorkshire).