We no longer go camping. Too many times we had to pack the tent away in the rain. It was the packing and unpacking that became tedious. So whilst most of our friends upgraded to camper vans, we'd save ourselves the 20K that we don't have, and book into the nearby pub for a weekend away with friends. The problem though was that more often than not, these places are chosen based on their proximity to the local campsite. So the pub might have some decent beers on if it were in Yorkshire or Cumbria, but the food would be average. Despite the so called 'food revolution', the food offerings at many pubs in the UK remains quite poor I think. A recent trip to The famous Tan Hill Inn for instance, whilst a fun weekend, the food was awful and the staff were pretty poor.
So I always have low expectations and have become quite good at ordering the least worst thing on the menu. I would order the pie more often than not as it seemed a safe bet. Even then, I might be presented with one of those abominations, the puff pastry lid. This is not a proper pie!
The Black Bull in Sedbergh is a different kettle of fish. It's only a short drive from the M6 making it an easy journey up from Manchester. We wandered through the quaint little village past the little stalls selling local gin and artisan cheese. The sun shone on the bunting and everything was right in this lovely corner of the world. We even have time for a quick brew at The Three Hares Café, a place I later find out is owned by the same people, James and Nina. The bread and cakes look impressive but we're saving ourselves for lunch.
The Drovers Platter Served With Bread Home Cooked Ham, Artisan Cheese & Sausage Roll (£12.50) is another fine choice. Again all the elements are very good. The cheese and ham is so much superior to the usual supermarket standard and the bread that they make themselves, superb. "I love this place" I say to Mrs B. We are so impressed.
We returned later for dinner. The beer range looks impressive, I couldn't get enough of the unpasteurised naturally hazy Budvar beer.
To start we both order the Mansergh Hall Pork Belly, Hand Dived Scallop, Date & Kohlrabi (£9.95). My pork belly is a little over. I'm looking for that almost jellied soft texture with a crispy skin. This, I think maybe had been left on the pass and dried out a little. The scallops are beautifully cooked.
Also, Luing Beef Sirloin, Beetroot Ketchup, Cavolo Nero & Chips (£22.95). It is a good flavour steak with a pleasing texture. I swerved the cold Beetroot Ketchup (this doesn't work for me with steak) and personally I would have preferred the meat served on a plate rather than a wooden board. But I rarely order steak in pubs but would certainly make an exception here.
Desserts are good too. Our party were taken by the home made liquorice ice cream, "more intensely liquorice than liquorice itself".
Unlike a recent abysmal unprofessional experience elsewhere (both during and after the meal), here what is already a great restaurant and a wonderful hotel, is made stellar by the people working here. All the staff are professional and clearly well trained. It also helps enormously if you have natural charm as everybody does here.
I think that at The Black Bull Inn, they understand that all the smaller elements are important but the people working here make our weekend from what would have been very good to one of the best weekend trips we've ever had away in the UK.