The last taste of home

Station Hotel, Worksop
Station Hotel, Worksop

Any restaurant, pub or inn by a railway station has certain criteria to meet, a set of unwritten rules to follow and standards to uphold.

The regional train station is something of a nostalgic trip into a bygone past, an era in which great adventures often begin on the platform, an escape into another world so often imagined.

By association, the humble eatery represents the beginning of those same travels - the venue for the rushed breakfast or luxury lunch before a long journey.

Worksop’s own Station Hotel, by all outward appearances, does exactly as it should. With an understated exterior yet welcoming to weary sojourners, the olde-worlde charm is clear to the visiting patron.

Nowhere is ever going to be packed at midday on a Tuesday, and the silence on entry is both reassuring and somewhat unsettling.

There are no signs of any staff, and a lone figure sits in the corner of the lounge bar - my only audible companion is Dave Spikey and his new take on Bullseye for Challenge TV.

The lone traveller requires time to contemplate, and consider, and the Station Hotel’s limited but appealing menu allows for precisely that. For starters, a prawn cocktail wins out over the daily soup offering, and with my own personal staff member I am swiftly served.

For just £3.95, the portion is as large as it is enjoyable. Three slices of wholemeal bread accompany a well-seasoned salad, mountain of prawns and an unexpected but welcome cut of salmon - the first of many surprises for a would-be adventurer.

The plate is dominated by the Marie Rose sauce, a substantial pot of which is an excellent, flavoursome partner to the seafood platter - a fine start to the experience.

As Bullseye gives way to Ann Widdecombe and a new show, the main course arrives and the Station Hotel’s context made clear.

The intrepid adventurer, casting one eye to the rails and the second to far-flung lands, can often be drawn to exotic speculation.

In culinary terms, it is all too easy to get lost in the spiced lamb of the Caucasian foothills, East Asian hotpots served by waitresses in traditional dress, or unpronounceable broths in a Balkan cafe.

The braised steak pie - stand-out of a limited selection - is none of those things, and for good reason.

Worksop is none of those places, and part of the Station Hotel’s unspoken remit is to prevent the journeyman ignoring the length and perils of the journey ahead. Home-cooked, unmistakably local food serves as a gentle but needed reminder of what is being left behind.

The meal itself does just that - the beef falls apart beneath the stodgy pastry, but is tender to the bite. Alongside it, the sideshow of carrots and somewhat anaemic-looking chips - something commented on by my new companions, a double act of local business people and their American guest - and sits contentedly unremarkable.

While the two locals allowed their friend to explain the concept of hipsterism, my pre-travel preparations were rounded out by an unmemorable slice of vanilla cheesecake, an unnecessary luxury and one I would not rush to repeat.

Leaving the three deep in conversation and my initial silent companion with his recently-ordered haddock, my narrative complete and my wallet £15 lighter, I pondered the Station Hotel’s purpose.

Haute cuisine? No. A culinary revolution? Certainly not. However, as a homely reminder before a journey to the unknown, it ticks the boxes just fine.