whats onopinion

The Davenport Arms, Calveley - Back on top form

EVERYONE likes a happy ending which was why I decided to try The Davenport Arms, the pub that wouldn't die.

EVERYONE likes a happy ending which was why I decided to try The Davenport Arms, the pub that wouldn't die.

Three years ago it was facing demolition with developers aiming to bulldoze it to build houses.

With Calveley a desirable little village sitting on the Shropshire Union Canal, they sensed there was money to be made.

But the villagers were having none of it. Their shop had already closed, their post office had been axed. They were not going to stand for the loss of their pub as well. The fight was on to keep the beer flowing.

A protest campaign was whipped up, a petition circulated, the Chronicle alerted.

They protested so loudly that a recommendation by Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council's planning officers to allow the demolition to go ahead was overturned after councillors visited the pub themselves. It was victory.

But there are two sides to every coin. The landlord then put the property up for sale saying the protestors were not putting their money where their mouth was by coming in to spend some of it. Now someone else could try and make it pay.

Then it took a surreal turn. New bosses transformed it into a restaurant bar brashly called The Gold Mine.

Then on the scene came a new owner who decided to take it all full circle by bringing back the original name and running it as a bar and a restaurant.

This, then, was the point in the plot where Val and I entered the stage and what an entry it was. I had reserved a table for the Thursday evening but it quickly became apparent that although there was a sprinkling of drinkers in the bar, we were the only customers in the restaurant. We were quickly assured this was not usually the case and that the chef was in harness, ready to roll.

Some people might be fazed by being outnumbered by the staff but never mind, we thought, let's give it a go, we're bound to get good service. So we chose a table in the stylish, contemporary restaurant right in front of the blackboard which contained that night's menu.

It was nice to see that at the bottom it said: 'All our produce is sourced locally.' But it did make us wonder whether the canal had taken a sinister turn when we saw that one of the specialities was swordfish!

From a good selection of starters, Val chose oak-smoked salmon on crisp salad leaves with chive oil while I opted for the soup of the day - leek and potato.

Not surprisingly, they arrived pretty briskly and much to our relief they were superb. Whatever the reason for the absence of fellow diners, it was not the quality of the food.

For that matter, neither was it the quality of the wine. We went for a bottle of recommended Australian Merlot at £9 and it was excellent.

At this point we had also lost the fear that because we were the only customers in the restaurant we were going to be hurried or, worse still, fussed to death by the waiter. Everything was relaxed and very pleasant.

For the main course we both side-stepped the swordfish. Again, there was a good selection. Val ordered seared chicken breast stuffed with spinach and mozzarella on a bed of pappardelle pasta.

One reason for this is that she is a pasta-holic as well as a fishaholic - hence the salmon starter - but didn't know what pappardelle pasta was. That was her hooked - she had to have some of that.

It turned out to be similar to tagliatelle while the whole combination of this dish was superb. It was a definite winner and left us both with utmost respect for the chef whose only bit of canvas to paint on that night was us.

If he was a pasta master, would he be a meat baron? I had gone for sirloin steak with vine cherry tomato, field mushroom and vegetables. That was also spot on.

I had asked for it be medium and in most places this seems to be code for well done and arid, but this was perfect and succulent.

Now we felt exactly as we should have done; nicely ready for a dessert. The waiter recommended a banoffee pie made that day while reeling off a selection which included one remaining creme brulé.

All men know from the trauma of shopping that no woman can resist the words 'only one remaining' and so it was with Val.

She was delighted with it while both the waiter and I were relieved that another bit of feminine logic didn't kick in with a demand for another one. The banoffee pie more than lived up to the re-commendation and lifted the chef even higher in my estimation.

And there, after a couple of coffees, was the paradox of the Davenport Arms. The food could not be faulted. It was superb. But why were there not more customers?

I wish the place well and am inclined to think that it is only a matter of time before more people catch on and go there.

In summer it is an ideal venue for boaters while in winter it does mean a drive out. But it is worth it, and it was well worth the villagers fighting for it. As for the ending, I hope it does live happily ever after.

And, remember, it easy to find if you're heading from Tarporley, just turn left at the field of llamas!

Factfile

* The Davenport Arms Bar and Restaurant, Nantwich Road, Calveley, near Tarporley.

* Phone 01829 262684. pCost £41.70 for two including a bottle of Australian Merlot, starters, main course, dessert and coffee.

* Best aspects: Quality of the food and friendly service. Vegetarians are well catered for.

* Worst aspects: Not enough fellow diners to create the best ambience.

* Would suit: Canal boat travellers, lovers of good food and peace and quiet.

View full mobile page