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May 10, 2008 03:09 PM

[Buxton] Columbine

“I'm a rambler, I'm a rambler from Manchester way
I get all my pleasure the hard moorland way
I may be a wage slave on Monday
But I am a free man on Sunday”

All of which may have been fine for Ewan MacColl but, for some of us, pleasure in the High Peaks is searching out a decent dinner.

The next stage of the Hartlers quest to “eat the Good Food Guide” near to home took us down the A6 to Buxton. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine spa town which retains some of its Victorian charm – and it has a non-too-shabby farmers market. But it is not over-burdened with good restaurants. The GFG defines a “cooking 2” as “Decent cooking, displaying good basic technical skills and interesting combinations and flavours. Occasional inconsistencies”. Well, if that means a place that serves food cooked as well as Mrs H and I can cook, with combinations that wouldn’t have been out of place at a 1980s dinner party, then Columbine is a “cooking 2”.

My starter was game terrine served with caramelised pearl onions. Clearly made in a kitchen not a factory but this was very underwhelming. Not at all gamey; no discernable booze (essential IMO in a good terrine); insufficient seasoning. Truth be told, this was not anywhere as good as Delia’s coarse country pate which I make every Christmas.

Mrs H did a little better. Indian spiced lamb on a coriander salad with yoghurt & mint dip. Pleasant enough – tasty lamb; nicely spiced.

She followed with a peppered sirloin steak – so very 80s. Nothing to shout from the rooftops over. Nothing to moan about either. .

My main was chicken and ham pie. Free range local chicken, nice ham, bacon. Pastry was a bit thin and overcooked. Gravy was very nicely flavoured with tarragon which worked well but need reduction (or thickening). I quite enjoyed it.

Spuds and selection of 5 or 6 veg came separately. Readers of a certain age will remember this sort of veg mix from 20 years ago. But, no, it didn’t come on a half-moon plate – but it wouldn’t have been at all out of place.

I finished with toffee and apple pancakes. It was as written. 2 pancakes; filling of apple segments and a thin toffee sauce. Came with vanilla ice cream and was a perfectly fine ending.

Mrs H finished with lemon ice cream. Homemade? Possibly. Any good? Absolutely. Best thing amongst the six plates we’d eaten.

We had a drink before, some water, Mrs H had a glass of something red, coffees. Bill came to £61. Credit card machine was “closed” so a six quid tip was left in cash. Service had been fine.

I reckon Columbine is a bit like Buxton itself - bit old-fashioned; bit stuck in its ways.

Worth a visit if you’re in town? Yep.

Worth driving 40 minutes each way as part of an eating quest? Yep.

Worth driving 40 minutes each way to go again? Nope.


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  1. John, I enjoyed reading this post as it pretty much summed up what I experienced 3 years ago. We were staying in Ashbourne, and many restaurant were closed on whatever day we went (Sunday or Monday?). Columbine looked promising, and turned out to be quite pleasant and worth the short drive, but I would not make it a special destination. I didn't think of it then, but you are right that it is a bit dated. Still, of the limited choices in the area in the price range, it is a solid choice.

    1. Thanks for the report, John. Mr. Z. was up in Buxton a few years ago for some sort of music gathering. That is the town with the old theatre or music hall? I can't remember where he ate, but I'll file this away just in case he and friends get there again.

      3 Replies
      1. re: zuriga1


        Yes, that's the town. I think folk are always surprsied such a small place has an Opera House. Columbine's only a five minute walk away and I think they do pre- and post-opera meals in the season.

        1. re: Harters

          Buxton is as you say lacking in any decent places to eat.

          We often drive over from where we are in Glossop for a day out, and usually end up at Pizza Express as thats the only 1/2 decent place we have found there. Though the Thai place a few doors up from PE is not bad.

          1. re: Harters


            I'm glad my memory didn't let me down!