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Restaurant Review

Mike Wilde and friends dine at the Cafe at the Cavern

We are four friends who share a taste for the good things in life and food is near the top of our list.
We were not disappointed. We ate well, were served well and the atmosphere was pleasant. The members of the Cavern Catering Team had done well to create a venue for fine dining from what is essentially just a café.

The Evening

We were greeted on arrival and taken straightaway to our table by Café manager Paula. We were given free iced water throughout the evening, which was a sensible addition to the favourite white and red wines we had brought with us. Individual members of staff were happy to discuss all food questions we had during service.

We were soon brought a plate of freshly baked bread and a lightly salted butter as an appetiser. It was simple well baked soft bread with a delicious combination of oil and Rosemary that could only be improved if served warm.

The boys started with onion soup. There was no shortage of nicely softened onions and an agreeably large and tasty cheese crouton added extra flavour. The soup had a distinctively strong taste due to the Buxton Brewery ale used in the stock.

The girls had opted for the pigeon breast that was neatly presented on a white profile plate and topped with potato crisp, pea shoots, dabs of celeriac puree and very nicely complemented with mushrooms, bacon and beetroot. The meat was tasty and the whole dish was a brilliant combination of flavours.

For our main course, three of us opted for the Ox cheek which arrived on a large white platter with substantial portions of dark leafy green kale and red cabbage. This assured me I would have at least two of my five-a-day and was a good healthy choice. The smoky mash was smooth and creamy, just as I like it, and the sweet baby carrots gave a nice colour and taste contrast to the other vegetables.

The Ox cheek was cooked to perfection, being tender and tasty with just the right amount of the cooking juices reduced to a bold sauce. This was truly a flavoursome dish which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

The other main course choice was the Chicken Ballotine. It was a colourful plate of food with 4 generous slices of the ballotine. With mushroom and thyme combining to create a delicious stuffing for the moist and tender chicken breast, the whole was complemented with an ample amount of buttery velouté sauce, potato croquette and seasonal vegetables.

For dessert, one of us chose the Panna Cotta that turned out to be an absolutely winning combination of pear, elderflower, ginger and honey comb. It was a wonderful take on a favourite Italian dessert.

The rest chose the Tarte Tatin. This was another taste triumph. It was a perfect slice of tart. Sugar dusted apple slices with a caramel glaze on a sweet pastry base, an amazing smidgen of rhubarb coulis and a gorgeously light, hot Cardamom custard. Heaven! We all agreed.

To finish we had a decent cup of coffee and a morsel of smooth, sweet and creamy hand cut fudge. It was a nice finale to an excellent meal.

The keys to great food are the right ingredients, the right recipe and the right techniques.
Well done Hattie. You nailed it. Do it again soon.

Members February Talk

Restoring the Crescent - a life time of challenges

The New Kings Cross Station, the Stade de France or building and running national motorways on the continent, is one thing, but the crescent restoration project provides a life time of engineering and building challenges for Cary Hadfield, Senior Project Manager and his team from Vinci Construction.

Vinci construction is well placed to carry out the complex and challenging work that the crescent poses. As well Motorways, Hotel complexes and other major civic engineering projects, they were the main contractors in the scheme to put a roof over the shell of the Chernobyl complex. This required positioning the cover remotely and working in difficult and dangerous conditions.
Speaking to a packed Poole’s Cavern visitors centre, Cary gave BCA members a fascinating and at times a humorous insight into the progress that has been made so far and his personal journey on the crescent project.

As Cary demonstrated working on the crescent is a bit of a leap into the unknown. The enabling works carried out in 2012 were a major civil engineering project, that required the building of a concrete basement complex, positioned over the springs that provide Nestle with Buxton Spring water. It was scheduled to take 26 weeks but in the end as problems were encountered and solved it was 52 weeks before the works were complete and the Main Contract works could be tendered.
The crescent was built over 200 years ago, at a cost of £38,601, taking eight years to complete, and it has seen numerous attempts to shore up the original work over the years. It is often these previous renovations that pose greater problems than the original building works. Rotten timber structures, incomplete fireplaces all add to the difficulties of working in a Grade 1 listed building and having to adhere to strict conservation guidelines. It all contributes to the project budget of £35 million.

Interestingly conservationists are generally more interested in ensuring that the building and decorating techniques of the past are preserved where ever possible to enable future generations to understand how the building was constructed, rather than individual items that are discovered.
The sensitive nature of the building and the complex of rooms and passages often mean that modern techniques and equipment cannot be used. It is back to the old ways, with no choice but for the team to physically dig out cellars and barrow the waste away. This is physically demanding work, often undertaken in difficult conditions, including the steamy heat when working close to the springs. If the original architect, John Carr was to wander in, he would recognise many of the techniques that were being used.

So far 500 tradesmen and construction workers have been involved in the works and Cary expects that it will be closer to 3,000 by the end of the contract. He paid tribute to the team, who as well as working in often difficult conditions, including many local tradesmen, have shown great resourcefulness and skill in overcoming the challenges thrown up so far.
There were many questions from the floor. Often demonstrating an intimate knowledge of the building, these were answered fully and with attention to detail, often with humour.
The nature of the building mean that there have been unforeseen problems that inevitably cause delays, but almost a year since the restoration work began, Cary and his team believe that they have uncovered the major unseen’s.

He has offered to comeback in the summer of 2018 to give a final report on Vinci’s part in this historic project.

Supporting Community Projects

Serpentine Community Farm Project

Dr Mike Monaghan Chair of Buxton Civic Association was delighted to hand over a cheque for £1000 to the volunteers at the Serpentine Community Farm project. BCA has supported the project several times, Mike added “this is an excellent project and shows just how much can be achieved by a dedicated, hardworking community minded group of people.”

The farm, established in 2014, aims to restore derelict council owned greenhouses that are situated just off Serpentine Lane in Buxton. Volunteers are welcome, and the next volunteer days are Wednesday 22nd February, and the following Sunday, 26th February.