Delight at the Dukeries

Guardian Freebie offer, free teacake from Dukeries Cafe (w120730-6c)
Guardian Freebie offer, free teacake from Dukeries Cafe (w120730-6c)

It’s a sunny September afternoon with barely a cloud in the sky, and I’m looking for somewhere to enjoy a last meal in Worksop before leaving for pastures new. Where to go?

There are plenty of options, whether it be a trip outside of the town to one of Bassetlaw’s excellent pubs, or perhaps to one of Worksop’s more extravagant eateries.

However, in the end my choice is made for me by a whim and a name - the Dukeries name and history is an intriguing one, and one which the town seems to revel in.

Where better to spend a goodbye lunch then, than the Dukeries Café? Right in the heart of town on Bridge Street, looking out onto an area so often bustling with market activity.

Today however, is Tuesday, and so the stalls remain packed away, out of the midday heat. The Dukeries Café seems busy, a healthy huddle of friends and families catching up in the outdoor seating area - so many in fact, that I’m forced inside due to lack of space.

Not that this is by any means a chore. The open door allows a cool breeze to blow through, and inside there is a pleasant ambience created by the chatter of the regulars and the unrecognisable notes sailing over from the radio.

One of the first things to enjoy about Dukeries is the price - very reasonable indeed. Hearty main meals such as lasagne and steak and ale pie for around a fiver, and lighter options for even less. My appetite sated somewhat by the weather, I opt for a chicken and bacon panini with a side of chips, and even allow myself a vanilla milkshake as accompaniment - it does feel like summer after all.

My meal arrives in a matter of minutes despite the lunchtime crowd, but there is nothing rushed about the meal.

The panini itself is toasted perfectly, while the chicken and bacon is combined with a lightly-peppered mayo which really brings out the meaty flavours.

Joining the main attraction on the plate is a generous side salad - the slightly overpowering onion being my only minor complaint - and a pot of coleslaw which almost classes as a meal in itself.

The chips, meanwhile, are excellent. Crispy on the outside and delightfully fluffy within, with a touch of salt they make an ideal companion to the meaty treat nearby.

Finished and certainly satisfied, it is impossible not to notice the way the staff go about their business.

Chatty in a very natural manner, they obviously enjoy what they’re doing. A baby is made fuss of, the regulars welcomed with smiles and jokes, and everything provided with no hint of being put out.

Midway through my meal, a young girl wanders in and attempts to order a cup, or cone, or scoop, of ice cream. Her English is poor, and cross-counter communication is stuttering.

Instead of panicking or dismissing the customer, she is dealt with as any other, even being shown the plethora of ice cream receptacles to aid the decision. Eventually she leaves, happy with the two strawberry cones she came in for.

It’s a nice snapshot of the way the café seems to run - friendly without being patronising, efficient without becoming abrupt. It’s little wonder many of the customers are mostly families or elderly visitors.

In very little time, I’m sold on the place. So much so that overhearing the desserts menu read out entices me to take on one of their chocolate brownies. It’s under £2, gluten-free for those who need it, and appropriately moist and chocolatey.

By Rob Dillon