Dining out at Horsley Lodge
PUBLISHED: 16:11 20 March 2015 | UPDATED: 16:11 20 March 2015
Stylish cuisine and a passion for fine food impress our reviewer near Derby
It’s remarkable that only a few hundred yards from the buzz of the A38 – on the northern outskirts of Derby – stands a venue that abounds in rural charm.
Set scenically by the country road that links the villages of Horsley and Morley in 180 acres of parkland, Horsley Lodge combines an attractive countryside setting with the convenience of being just six miles from Derby city centre.
The lodge was built by the Earl of Stainsby in 1863 as a wedding present for his son, who subsequently never took up residence, and the long, illuminated driveway approach only added to the sense of expectation on the evening of our visit.
In the past 25 years, the proprietors, brothers Richard and Malcolm Salt, have transformed Horsley Lodge from a farmhouse into one of the region’s leading family-owned hotels, offering 14 beautiful bedroom suites plus wedding and conference facilities. The jewel in its crown is an 18-hole championship golf course, ranked as one of the finest in the Midlands.
It is also a fine setting for dining and the Highlander Restaurant, which serves stylish modern British cuisine, has earned a glowing reputation under head chef Craig Tyrell.
We were met by duty manager, Adrian, and waiter Loz, who led us to our table in the bright restaurant area. The room is spacious and modern with a bar to one side, light wooden floors, leather seating and a wall of windows that allows diners to take in the glorious views of the golf course.
Loz swiftly presented us with the menu and a basket of warm bread, freshly-baked on the premises – a sign of the restaurant’s commitment to quality.
The à la carte menu is reasonably priced and offers a choice of six starters and eleven main courses. Tomato soup, garlic mushrooms or glazed duck leg with chilli jam all sounded tempting ways to begin, whilst main courses varied from slow-roasted leg of lamb and roast loin of pork to beer-battered haddock and sirloin steak.
Side orders of sautéed potatoes, twice-cooked chips, onion rings, green salad, mixed vegetables and a choice of sauces can be added for an additional £2.75.
There’s also a carefully chosen wine list which offers something to suit all tastes and includes varieties from independent, Fair Trade-approved vineyards, with most options available by the bottle or glass.
My partner began with the smoked haddock risotto (£4.75). Simple but satisfying and with a strong seafood flavour, the fragrant dish was bound together with crème fraiche and subtly seasoned with dill.
I opted for the chicken liver pâté (£4.50) served with homemade piccalilli and crispy mini toast slices. While pâté can so easily be overly bitter and piccalilli overly sharp, it was tasty and meaty with perfect seasoning, and the piccalilli was just the right balance of tangy and crunchy.
Encouraged by the knowledge that all the restaurant’s beef and lamb comes from local stock, reared on hormone-free grass, my partner couldn’t resist the braised beef cheeks for a main course (£14.95). The two cylinders of meat, which were so tender they almost seemed to melt, were surrounded by celeriac purée, mashed potato and earthy black kale.
My pan-fried salmon (£12.95) was artistically presented, full of flavour, and had a tasty crispy skin. It came with braised fennel and leeks, fondant potato and – to my delight – more of the dill crème fraîche.
As with the rest of the dishes, all desserts are handmade onsite and when Loz presented the sweet menu, I couldn’t resist the bread and butter pudding with vanilla custard (£4.95). Though I felt sure I wouldn’t finish the hearty portion, it was so comforting and ‘moreish’ it disappeared within minutes.
My partner’s chocolate torte (£5.50), topped with sticky praline brittle and a scoop of ice cream, was equally indulgent.
A relaxed atmosphere and friendly, efficient service combined to create a memorable dining experience and as we left we noticed a display of pretty vintage china, advertising Horsley Lodge’s afternoon teas. If the evening dining experience is anything to go by, I can’t wait to re-visit.
Horsley Lodge, Smalley Mill Road, Horsley DE21 5BL. Tel: 01332 780838 www.horsleylodge.co.uk