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Heage, Derbyshire
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Sunday Lunch At The Spanker, Nether Heage

Published On Sunday 17 Apr 2022 by Sticky Beak
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As many of you lovely peeps are aware, we recently did a poll on the blogs’ Facebook page asking for your favourite venues to have Sunday Roasts at. Well, you all certainly got involved, voting for your special place and we got some great ideas as to where to try ourselves as and when time allows. Mummy Bird took pity on her workers and said to book a table somewhere for Sunday lunch, and so we opted to try The Spanker at Nether Heage; we’ve been meaning to go here for yonks and it came out as one of the most popular recommendations, so we put our faith in your palates and booked ourselves in.

As far as kerb appeal goes, you’re not going to get much nicer than The Spanker; it looks fab from the road, and the car park is nicely set out so that you get a view of the rear outdoor seating area and planters. Inside, The Spanker has a wonderfully relaxed, welcoming feel to it that’s enhanced by tasteful decor and lots of little nooks and crannies to dine in rather than just one large, boring space.

Cheryl (The Spanker’s Land Lady) came over for a chat and apparently we’ve been semi-stalking their Chef. Previously we have sampled his wares at The Spotted Cow at Holbrook and The Marquis on Codnor Denby Lane so hopefully we were in for a scrummy roast dinner on this occasion: no pressure, Chef!!

Tempted as we all were to have a starter, the flock consensus was that we’d rather have mains and then pudding if we’d got room (ha, if – of course we would have room!!). Mummy and I both went for traditional roast Beef (£11.45) and His Nibs went for the Lamb Shank in Redcurrant sauce (£15.95); all The Spanker roasts come with a homemade Yorkie, fresh Vegetables and home cooked roasties. We ordered sides of Cauliflower Cheese (£2.50) and a trio of Pigs-in-Blankets (£1.60) as well.

There wasn’t long to wait until the team were placing our laden plates in front of us, and our nostrils twitched appreciatively as the aromas wafted up to them. Chef loves to feed, that’s for sure; Mummy and I had three large, thick slices of Beef to savour and The Man’s Lamb Shank was a proper beast! The Beef was perched artfully on a litter of herbed roasties (which were bloody lovely, I have to say!) and topped with a Caribbean-holiday golden Yorkshire Pud that was a good size. A pair of white oval platters housed the vegetables (Carrots, Green Cabbage and fine Green Beans), another contained the burnished crust-covered Cauliflower Cheese and a small glass pot held the piggies – not for long though as Mummy and His Nibs snaffled them tout suite!

With just the merest glance, The Lamb fell off the bone and into The Mans’ mouth, eliciting moans of happiness as their sweet succulence washed over his tongue. Equally happy were Mummy and I; our beef was beautifully juicy with a superb flavour to it that lingered nicely on the palate. One thing I did note was that I hadn’t had to ask for Horseradish; a little pot of it had automatically come with my plate of yumminess –was that just fab customer service Cheryl, or has Chef been doing a little bit of reciprocal stalking?!.

All the veggies were spot-on: not soggy and not raw either, just a nice bit of bite left to them. I like it when Green Beans elicit that squeak when you bite into them (I know, I’m weird!) and, to me, Green Cabbage has to have that springy, clean taste to it with a hint of sweetness at its edge. I’m happy to report that this was the case at The Spanker, so my tummy was full of joy. Every good roast has to have quality gravy with it, ideally one that incorporates the pan juices, and Chef makes a rather fine one; thick and glossy, and served in a separate jug so you can indulge as much or as little as you fancy. Needless to say, I tipped all my gravy on my plate! The Cauliflower Cheese was delicious thanks to the vegetable not being cooked to within an inch of its life and the depth of flavour in the thick cheese sauce that coated it; at £2.50 this is an absolute steal – get some in your bellies!!

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the Yorkshire Puddings yet? As the saying goes, I’ve saved the best for last – these minxes were the absolute bomb!!.  We have eaten our own body-weights in Yorkies over the course of our blog visits but these delights are the closest I’ve ever come to the ones that Mummy Bird used to make at home. In fact, even Mummy Bird took in a deep breath before saying simply, “wow”. They weren’t the biggest we’ve come across (or the smallest, either) though they’d risen way over the tin tops and turned a superb rich brown shade, but it was the crispiness of the outers and its ridiculously light texture that had got our attention. You could tell that fresh fat had been used to make each batch because it imparted its own flavour without any hint of burn or rancidness; something that only happens if you cook fresh and use clean fat each time. This attention to detail makes all the difference in ‘pud land’, trust me.

Cheryl was a happy lady when she spied our clean plates; they speak for themselves as to the level of satisfaction your diners have, and we’d been more than a bit happy. With the plates taken away, our favourite question came next: “would you like to see the dessert menu?”  The vast majority of the puds on offer at The Spanker are homemade and priced at a very reasonable £4.45 each unless otherwise stated.

His Nibs opted for Biscoff Cheesecake (with Ice Cream), I had Treacle Tart (with cream) and Mummy went for the Chocolate Brownie Sundae, the only one of our choices that wasn’t homemade. The texture of the cheesecake was phenomenal; really light and fluffy with a marvellously indulgent, Biscoffy richness that had the palate doing cartwheels of jubilance! I managed to grab a bit and, honestly, it was extremely moreish.

For a moment I was a bit crest-fallen that I hadn’t called dibs on the Biscoff morsel, but as I took the first mouthful of my Treacle Tart my mood did a full 180. This was your proper, bona fide, old school Treacle Tart; the type that has you grinning from ear-to-ear with its unabashed sweetness and stickiness, that slight graininess detectable in your mouth, and a nice pastry base and lattice top. You can’t beat well made, honest puds like this and I tell you what; you’ll have to travel some miles to find one better than this!

Mummy Bird was gamely munching her way through the large pieces of crisp outer/gooey centre cocoa-rich Brownie that punctuated the folds of cream and Ice Cream in the sundae dish. A dark, sticky chocolate sauce had Mummy smacking her lips as it clung to her cheeks and we did end up helping her out a bit; the puddings are as generous as the mains at The Spanker!

We laid down our cutlery and sighed happily; our tummies were full and we’d had a great time at The Spanker in Nether Heage thanks to the efforts of Cheryl and her front-of-house team, and Chef and his kitchen team. Hot Wings very happily awarded to this great village venue.

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