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Barlow, Derbyshire
01142 891111
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A Visit To The Tickled Trout In Barlow For Dinner

Published On Sunday 19 Nov 2023 by Sticky Beak
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Life’s a funny old lady, ain’t she? One minute we were returning to a venue we’d not visited for 6 years and muttering our disappointment at it, the next we were revisiting another place that we’d not graced for 6 years and exclaiming how marvellous it was! Obviously, I shan’t divulge where the less-than-stellar restaurant was, but I will tell you that The Tickled Trout in Barlow is still as magnificent as ever. For more details, read on…

The Tickled Trout in Barlow is about 5 miles from Chesterfield, so it’s easy to get to from a number of routes and it enjoys a lovely position in the heart of the village. I love the wrap-around style of the outside seating area and it maximises the limited space that The Tickled Trout has in the open air. To the side, there’s plenty of parking and you can also park on the roads in Barlow – obviously being considerate of the residents.

Stepping over the threshold, we received a lovely warm greeting from one of the team and were shown through to our table, tucked away in the corner. I bagged the banquette seating, nestling into the large, comfy cushions, and left His Nibs to have the regular, mid-back chair: you snooze, you lose, buddy! The Tickled Trout has a lovely ambience to it and welcomes both younger family members and furry ones; dogs are permitted in the lounge area, and their ‘pawrents’ can still enjoy the full menu there. Warm-toned wood flooring is complimented by cream walls and natural colours on the soft furnishings: think mossy greens, marine blues and cosy earth hues.

Rather than just have one open space to dine in, owner (and Chef) Chris has opted to work with the quirky interior of the building and have several little areas to dine in, which gives it a cosier feel as well as being more appealing, visually. All the tables are laid with gleaming cutlery and thick, plush disposable napkins, and tealights flicker away merrily in individual holders.

Our lovely server asked if we’d like water for the table (we would) and, when she returned with the chilled bottle a few minutes later, also took our drinks order. The range of wines on offer at The Tickled Trout certainly warrants a mention, as there aren’t many places that will match its extensive offering. I chose a cheeky glass of Viognier and The Man fancied a pint of Madri, both of which slipped down nicely for the first couple of sips! I liked the fact that we were asked if there were any allergies or dietary requirements that the team needed to be aware of. Personally, I’m of the opinion that we should take personal responsibility for any health issues and communicate them to any venue we visit, but I know not everyone does, so it’s nice that The Tickled Trout take the initiative.

To kick our meal off, we chose to have one of the small plate dishes each - and share them – though we both said that we could easily have selected far more and had those as mains, so good was the choice. In the end we selected the Spiced Cornish Cod Scotch Egg with Curry Mayonnaise (£9.95) and the Crisp Parmesan and Red Fox Arancini Squares with Truffle Mayonnaise (£8.95). Our table was located in the area adjacent to the kitchen and, as Chef and his team set-to, we were soon sniffing the air appreciatively at the aromas wafting our way.

I’ve said before that we feast with our eyes and Chef Chris clearly understands the importance of the crockery used to serve his dishes on; both dishes were arranged carefully on contrasting platters to showcase their colours. Having taken the photos, it was time to finally tuck in and His Nibs did the honours of cutting the Scotch Egg in half and splitting the quartet of Arancini Squares down the centre. I was enamoured with the idea of flaked, compacted Cod surrounding the soft-boiled egg, as opposed to the usual meat variety, and I’m pleased to say that the reality was every bit as exquisite as the notion. Gentle spices zhuzhed the sweet flesh of the Cod beautifully and their tang was picked up and enhanced by the zingy Curried Mayonnaise, which cut through the fried outer of the Scotch Egg and the egg yolks’ richness perfectly.

Parmesan is a punchy cheese that needs an equally robust partner, and up stepped the Red Fox, a Red Leicester cheese known for its confident flavour profile. The Arancini Squares were a masterclass in deep-frying; wickedly crisp and not a trace of oil or grease in sight (not even on the plate!), resulting in clear, crisp flavours running over my palate. The soft pairing of rice and Red Fox in the centre contrasted superbly with the crunchy outer, delighting our senses, and Truffle’s unmistakeable taste permeated the silky Mayonnaise. Both starters/small plates were excellent and our server took a pair of clean plates back to the kitchen - no surprise to her, as she’d checked that we were enjoying them as we’d been enthusiastically munching away.

For our mains we chose the Highfield House Blade of Beef with Buttered Mash, Bone Marrow Crumb, Oyster Mushrooms, Red Wine Jus, and Irish Cabbage (£23.95), and Looe Dayboat Fish: on this occasion, Cornish Sea Bream, Langoustine Bisque, Saffron Potatoes and Fowey Mussels (market price, £26.95). I’d anticipated that my dish would have some scrummy juices and, being a classy bird *ahem*, I figured that I would be in need of some bread to mop up all the liquid, so I ordered a side of the Tickled Trout Spicy Tomato Bread (£8.95).

Chris doesn’t muck about with the Blade of Beef, serving it in very pleasing chunks that are pressed together in the serving mould; much better to let the quality of the meat do the talking, so to speak, than faff with it. Saying that, Chris cuts no corners, or shaves time off, with the processes required to create the perfect dish from this [shoulder]cut; and it shows in the quality of the dish. ‘Meaty Magnificence’ is a rather apt description of this morsel; both the texture and flavour of Highfield Houses’ Beef were to-die-for. 

His Nibs has had many blades of beef, but said this one was utterly superb; likewise, the precisely piped mound of salt-baked jacket potato mash, which was disappearing into The Mans’ mouth rapidly! Oyster Mushrooms were sliced and then placed on top of the round of beef, along with the fine crumb of intensely flavoursome Bone Marrow. A whole, Marmite-glazed Carrot (cooked in Beef fat, no less!) added another layer of taste to the dish, as well as a pop of colour. Pancetta-pimped Cabbage and creamy Celeriac purée was housed in a separate little copper pan, completing what truly was a multi-layered taste sensation of a main course dish. His Nibs’ palate was quite stunned by the chorus of flavours that had frolicked over it – it’s been a while since such an expertly crafted meal has passed his lips.

Call me girlie, but the first thing I noticed about my colourful dish was the lipped bowl it came in! The periphery of the shiny-glazed vessel was ridged to resemble the suns’ rays and it really did look very pretty, more so thanks to the gorgeously presented fillet of Cornish Sea Bream that seemed to ‘swim’ in the sea of its Langoustine Bisque. Chef had crisped the skin of the Sea Bream perfectly and I still got a hint of creamy butter as I took a bite into it; from a sensorial standpoint, this crispness served to highlight the velvety softness and creaminess of the fish itself, which had me grinning in delight. Finely chopped Courgette and Carrot bobbed along happily with tiny perfect spheres of Saffron Potato, all of which had my mouth begging for more!

It would be so easy to have an overly rich, creamy bisque that would smother the other, subtler, flavours in it, but Chris included fresh Tomato, whose acidity cut through the excess very cleanly and, combined with fresh herbs, brought balance on the palate. Plump Fowey Mussels were generously included and I savoured each and every one of them. At first glance, although I thought I’d got a nice portion, I didn’t think it would prove too much of a challenge to finish – how wrong was I?!  -the bowl seemed to be never-ending; not a bad thing, given how delicious it was.

For those who fancy a simpler, but equally tasty bite, that is a bit more budget-friendly, The Tickled Trout also have a pizza menu (there’s a rather nifty 2-4-£25 offer available) and it was from the pizza oven that my side of Spicy Tomato Bread had come. Pillowy, fluffy dough was topped with a tangy Tomato sauce and it was soon getting dunked into my Langoustine bisque! If this minx was anything to go by, the TT pizzas will be absolutely spot on – let me know if you try one, folks.

It’ll come as no shock at all to those of you who read the blog regularly when I say that there was no way we were passing pud up! The Man Bird had spied his beloved Sticky Toffee Pudding with Warm Toffee Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream, and I ordered the Warm Chocolate Fondant Tartlet with Cherry and Yoghurt Ice Cream (both £8.95). Somehow, His Nibs managed to wangle Salted Caramel Ice Cream rather than good old Vanilla to go with his pudding, so if that’s more your bag too, simply ask.

The Man Bird got a seriously generous slab of Sticky Toffee Pudding to tuck into, and it was exactly as it says on the tin: divinely rich and sticky, with an impossibly deep Toffee flavour – this was heaven! A mid-coarse texture gave this madam some serious cred in the satiety stakes but it didn’t leave His Nibs feeling podged or bloated. The Toffee Sauce was a total revelation: luxuriously silky and not overly sweetened; both this and the Salted Caramel Ice Cream complimented the pudding wonderfully – what a great conclusion to The Mans’ meal.

So, what have I got to say about my sweet treat? Three words: Wonderfully, Unapologetically, Obscene!!! This.is.just.the.bomb. The tartlet pastry case was excellent in its own right, buttery and indulgent, but the fondant was beyond sublime. A thin crust was easily pierced, revealing a seductively silky, cocoa-rich filling that my palate surrendered to wantonly. THIS is a dessert lovers dream but, be aware that it will be far more addictive than any other substance known to man – you have been warned! Partnering the intense fondant tartlet was the classic taste of Cherry, and it was used to precise effect here by Chef. Totally irrelevant, but funny, I had a coughing fit when I bit into the whole Cherry as I wasn’t expecting it to be boozy...and certainly not as boozy as it was! I honestly can’t rave enough about this pudding, I’m literally shedding tears at the fact I can’t summon up that ruddy DeLorean!!

The marvellousness didn’t end there, though; with our cups of black coffee came the most adorable squares of chequered Chocolate and Vanilla Shortbread. As we popped them into our mouths, we both smiled as the butter content melted on our tongues’ warmth and spread the joy far-and-wide over our taste buds.

Needless to say, Hot Wings are enthusiastically and unreservedly given to Chris and his team at The Tickled Trout in Barlow. Everything was faultless: the venue, the service and, of course, the food – but then, Chris is Michelin-star experienced, so that’s a given. Only one thing baffles me... why on earth haven’t the AA got off their derrieres and reviewed this restaurant??!!!! They’ve awarded 4 gold stars to the two cottages that The Tickled Trout have in Barlow to offer guests accommodation, so they jolly well need to buck their ideas up and review the food, which more than rivals other 2 AA-Rosette venues in the area  #justsaying.

To book a table, ring 0114 289 1111 or visit the website www.tickledtroutbarlow.com to find out the latest opening times and menu offerings in the restaurant, and also for details on the two cottages should you wish to stay over.

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