Tuesday, 29th January 2019
The wintery weather has definitely started in the UK, but thankfully Richard and I were cosy inside The Devonshire Arms in Derbyshire’s Middle Handley when the snow began to fall! This restaurant has large windows to let in all the natural light, so with child-like excitement we gazed through them to see snow falling over the rural backdrop whilst we ate our food!
The Devonshire Arms in Middle Handley is a real gem situated between Sheffield and Chesterfield. The food is a fusion between hearty pub classics and delicious twists on traditional favourites. Both Richard and I thought the food was so tasty; the ingredients were clearly locally sourced and of high quality and I thought both the presentation and taste were sublime. Plus, the staff were so welcoming, helpful and friendly that they really added to the overall meal experience!
The access throughout the restaurant was top-notch with smooth wooden flooring throughout, plentiful space between tables and a large disabled toilet that fulfilled every requirement and need. The owners had clearly thought about access which is really refreshing and there were very few things I would have changed as a wheelchair user.
One thing I’d mention is that the upstairs hotel at The Devonshire Arms isn’t wheelchair friendly. If you don’t have a mobility requirement do make sure to check that out as the photographs I viewed showed the owners had combined modern style with traditional comfort in each of these rooms. There are sometimes even discounted offers that combine hotel stays with a meal in the restaurant if you want to treat your other half.
Starting outside in the freezing English weather, the car park had plenty of space. Although there were no dedicated Blue Badge car parking spaces, each parking space had plenty of room surrounding to unload your wheelchair, whatever its size and even if the car park is nearly full. I am lucky that my powered wheelchair, the WHILL Model C, has a very compact frame so it can easily fit between parked cars in most public car parks. The Model C is also handy when the weather outside is wintery as it is very quick for Richard to assemble from the three separate chunks that allow it to fit in most conventional car boots.
There were clear signs showing the way to the restaurant main entrance point which was helpful. These led you up an inclining pathway that had plenty of width, so you could easily turn your wheelchair around in this if required.
Although the weather was particularly frosty during our visit, there were plenty of attractions outside the restaurant itself! There was a covered exterior dining area/ beer garden that would be perfect for a summery day. Plus, you could clearly see from this exterior area all of the children’s play area – including a wooden pirate ship! – so you could eat your meal and also watch over your little ones. In fact, The Devonshire Arms have a fun children’s menu where the under 10s can ‘design their own meal’; choosing a drink, main meal and dessert from the options listed for £6.95.
The large glass doorway main entrance was perfect for a wheelchair user as it had a long bar handle so those with dexterity problems could grab the handle easily. It also had a magnetic catch so the door could be propped and held open while you wheel through. Luckily my WHILL is very responsive for a powered wheelchair so I can nip through a swinging door quickly, but manual wheelchair users or those with less responsive chairs would have no worries with this easy magnetically-held entrance doorway.
The doorway was level with no steps to access the building. This level-access continued throughout the whole restaurant as there were no stepped areas that I couldn’t access. I loved the inclusivity in the design here!
The dining area from here was open and modern; there were rustic touches such as farmhouse tables but these were paired with modern stag-themed decorations and comfortable touches such as cushioned ‘snug’ seating areas. The light airiness to the open-plan restaurant area meant that you could clearly see everyone in your dining group and fully enjoy the sensory overload given from the great food presentation!
The tables were spaced widely enough that I could wheel around easily in my WHILL Model C and could have pulled up to almost any of the tables. The staff were really happy to help throughout our experience and kindly removed a chair so I could remain in my wheelchair to dine. The restaurant had a few large groups dining there but Richard and I did visit on a mid-week lunch time, so we didn’t expect to even have that many people there! I would recommend booking in advance if you are a wheelchair user, have dietary requirements or are a large group, particularly if you want to visit on the popular live music nights or during special menu events such Valentine’s Day.
The atmosphere was lovely throughout our dining experience since there was music playing and the open food serving hatch meant that we could smell the food coming from the kitchen, making us very hungry before we had even ordered!
Richard was driving so we couldn’t fully take advantage of the drinks menu at The Devonshire Arms’ Stag Restaurant but I can honestly say everyone would find a tipple that they would be pleased with! There were draught craft beers, cocktails, a huge range of spirits and multiple bottles of wine on offer. I liked that there was a separate area that you could drink in with comfortable padded chairs and an open log burning stove to keep you warm. And with regular live music nights, there’s plenty of opportunities to tempt many people to join them for a tipple or two!
The food menu was so extensive that Richard and I were simply spoilt for choice! You had the option of choosing small sharing plates between the group (rather like Tapas), choosing full plates of pub classics or taking advantage of the early bird menu where there is an offer of two courses for £15 or three for £18.
Many of you who have been following my blog for a while will know that I’m a huge sucker for good cheese dishes! Therefore, there was no surprise that Richard and I ordered Halloumi Fries as our starter. The halloumi sticks were fried until they were crispy and golden and served alongside chilli jam, herb sauce and salad. These were a delicious option and could be ordered as a starter or as a sharing plate. The Devonshire Arms recommends that you order two or three of these per person and these tapas-style sharers would be great for a large group or as nibbles while you’re listening to the live music played on Friday and Sunday nights!
Richard and I were both so excited to try our main courses and we certainly weren’t disappointed! You could tell that The Devonshire Arms had a very skilled chef who had selected high quality ingredients, balanced flavours and even arranged the food on the plates in an artistic, aesthetically pleasing way!
For my main course, I chose the Hoi Sin Duck Homemade Flatbread. This was such a tasty dish; it was like a high-class version of the tasty pizza dishes you usually expect to be served at a restaurant. The duck was shredded and topped with cheese, hoi sin sauce and cucumber ribbons and served on a fluffy homemade flatbread that had been covered with a rich tomato base. These flatbreads are also available for takeaway with a discount of 20% which is amazing to say the high quality, fresh food that is available!
Richard also agreed with me that his main course was also beautifully balanced and delicious. He ordered the 8oz Sirloin Steak which was served with grilled tomatoes on the vine, a large mushroom and salad. Richard chose to add the peppercorn sauce and he certainly wasn’t disappointed as this was a rich, creamy sauce that perfectly complimented the rest of the dish. You can also choose the potatoes that go alongside the steak (chunky chips / new potatoes / skinny fries); Richard’s skinny fries were crisp, crunchy and wonderfully filling!
Usually this is the point where I disappoint my readers and say that we didn’t have room for dessert but Richard and I decided that the quality food at The Devonshire Arms was not to be missed and decided to share one instead!
There were plenty of classic sweet desserts on offer including sticky toffee pudding, cheesecake, creme brûlée and a cheese board. However, I am a sucker for cookie dough so we finally agreed on the oven-baked chocolate chip cookie, served with salted caramel ice cream. This was warm and gooey – just what you need on a snowy, wintery English day!
The disabled toilet was easily accessible from every table as the whole restaurant was on a level-access ground floor. The floor was smooth wooden flooring so a manual wheelchair user could even independently self-propel to the bathrooms. You didn’t need a RADAR key to enter the toilet and the doorway had plenty of width to allow my wheelchair to fit through.
My WHILL Model C has specially designed omni-wheels on the front to allow it to turn around in even the tightest of spaces but this bathroom had plenty of space for most wheelchairs to easily manoeuvre around and turn out of the doorway. I could literally have spun my wheelchair in circles in the generous amount of space that The Devonshire Arms had provided (although maybe I'd have needed a glass of wine or two before I contemplated that!).
There were plenty of grab rails to assist transferring and the sanitary bin was within close reach of the toilet. I was also pleased to see that the red emergency pull cord fully reached the floor so could be easily accessed by a disabled customer who may have fallen to the floor.
The toilet was very clean and the designers had clearly thought about all of disabled customers’ requirements! This toilet would be very accessible for most guests’ needs so I was very pleased!
Overall, I would definitely recommend The Devonshire Arms to every visitor. The access was amazing; the large car park was close to the entrance, the whole restaurant was level-access and the wooden flooring was very smooth to wheel over. I loved the magnetic fastening to the main entrance doorway as it held this open and would allow every wheelchair user to be able to propel into the restaurant. There was plenty of space between tables so you could access every area of the spacious restaurant and the disabled toilet had everything a guest would require!
The food was the star of the show; it was beautifully presented, tasted delicious and was clearly made from high-quality, fresh local ingredients. All of the food Richard and I ordered came in plentiful portions and was truly tasty! We will definitely be visiting again for a meal or two! The experience was also made even better by the helpful, friendly staff who made us feel very at-ease and were quick to help us whenever we asked for things such as condiments.
The Devonshire Arms gave Richard and I a wonderful experience and we will certainly be returning! I think it would be the perfect venue to visit as a couple on a date or in a large familial group. It would equally work as a celebratory venue to experience birthday or anniversary special occasions or just as a venue to gather friends at for a casual drink or meal.
A version of this blog appears on Disabled Travel with Georgina
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