I saw an article recently entitled The Ten Best Cafes In The National Parks or some such. On the list was Grindleford Cafe, at Grindleford Station in the Peak District National Park.
It’s very well-known to all Peak District visitors. Not because of its food, which is simple, filling and, thankfully, of the none healthy variety. Its reputation comes from the plethora of signs and the grumpiness of its previous owner one Phillip Eastwood. The cafe is now run by his son, again Phillip, he is of a much more benign nature.
I remember the elder from my school days when he had, I think, a garden shed on the side of the Snake, selling bacon butties, tea and Kitkats. The station ticket office and waiting room became available and he sets up a cafe for all the walkers, not many bikers in them days, and the climbers. It was a no frills set up, hardly any decoration, the seating and old lights still in place, gas lights too but unused. The food was of the transport cafe variety, huge portions you ordered, sat down and then waited for your number to be called. The food was passed, there’s a euphemism, more like slid across a pass to you. If you didn’t hear your number it just sat there, that was your half of the contract, they cooked, you took away.
The order counter had signs of what you could and could not do and eat. Mushrooms were a favourite target for angst. STOP ASKING FOR MUSHROOM WE DONT DO THEM. HOW MANY MORE TIMES. READ THIS. Or similar. In later years the same invective was aimed at Latte. No but we do milky coffee, was often the reply. Or THIS PASS IS FOR FOOD NOT YOUR EMPTY PLATES. ITS SIMPLE.
When I had my business if we finished early on a Friday we would go there for dinner, not lunch, that was pretentious in Sheffield and if there was one thing Phillip disliked it was pretensions. A full blowout with pint mugs of tea loaded with sugar, sliced white with marge, brown sauce from a giant dispensing unit, was the best thing. In winter you could have that in front of a roaring fire. Can’t do that in Costa McDonalds.
Phillip would come and sit with us, us all in overalls and plaster dust and chat about this and that. I got the feeling he liked us more than the Sunday morning brigade who had driven out from Sheffield and walked no further than the distance from the car, maybe they pushed a little one in one of those massive carts they put babies in nowadays. Go on a weekday and it’s still walkers and now cyclists eating the same food, it’s almost a stolen pleasure in today’s health obsessed culture.
I miss Phillip, he was a character and he was real. There are few of those around today. He didn’t pretend to be something else, and he built a business that has become loved. Grindleford Cafe is as much a part of the Peak District National Park character as is its emblem the grindstone wheel, and that’s not a bad legacy to leave.