The Rock Tavern @ Marple Bridge

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OUT on its own in terms of location but very familiar in so many ways, it’s a case of back to the future for the Rock Tavern.
This traditional looking stone pub in the hills of Marple Bridge advertising its real ales and varied menu looks enticing enough on a windswept winter’s night.
The swaying pampas grass outside gives just a little hint of what’s through the door – yes it’s 1984.
Not the classic book, you understand, no, this pub restaurant is actually still in 1984. From the décor to the menu and, even the staff, look faintly reminiscent of a time 20 odd years ago.
We managed to secure the only remaining the table for a Saturday night, facing the wall bearing the legend “duck or grouse!” and perused the wood effect vinyl menu while sampling a pint of substantial Landord’s and a glass of respectable house Merlot and listening to a “now-that’s-what-I-call-a-cover-hit-from-the-80s” compilation.
Going with the flow we started off with one “traditional” prawn cocktail (£4.95) which had seemingly come rather too recently from the freezer and was still bearing ice plus a helping of what was described on the menu as “camembert wedges”(£4.25).
I imagined large hunks hacked from a whole cheese, deep fried until golden and oozing with molten cheesy loveliness ready to be slathered with the redcurrant sauce.
Disappointingly what arrived were perfectly circular discs of fairly bland cheese which looked suspiciously like those found in the freezer department of major supermarkets.
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Onto the main event. His steak, onion rings and mushrooms (£14.95) looked like something which could grace the pages of glossy magazine from the era. What a perfect specimen – and cooked to the requested medium state with aplomb.
Likewise the venison casserole(£8.95) was well-cooked, stuffed full with melt-in the-mouth meat, cooked with baby onion and hiding slivers of pepper.
Both meals came with helpings of carrot, cauliflower cheese and broccoli in the sort of side plate arrangement that is still sometimes spied at the back of the those establishments which Gordon Ramsey takes to task on his television programme.
We scoured the menu for black forest gateaux but had to settle for profiteroles(£3.75). A decision promptly regretted with the choux pastry buns having the texture of shoe leather piled onto a plate lashed with squirty cream.
The Rock was still bringing in the diners as we left and has obviously built up a loyal customer base which no doubt gets a consistent food at good prices even if it could never be accused of pandering to gastro pub aspirations.
The freezer style starters and desert might have let the side down but the main courses saved the day – well cooked, fresh, with attention to detail.
If only the home cooking had only continued into the other courses.
The Rock Tavern is at Glossop Road, Marple Bridge. SK6 5RX Tel: 01457 899354.
There more pictures from this review and others at my Flickrstream.

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