Dining Out at The Saracen's Head and The Yeaveley Arms

PUBLISHED: 12:26 23 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:39 20 February 2013

Dining Out at The Saracen's Head and The Yeaveley Arms

Dining Out at The Saracen's Head and The Yeaveley Arms

Our reviewers try lunch and an evening meal at two stunning country pubs serving traditional home-cooked food

The Yeaveley Arms, Yeaveley

Eating out on a workday lunchtime is something of a rarity, but then again, so is finding a hidden gem such as The Yeaveley Arms. Heading off the beaten track to Yeaveley, near Ashbourne, we arrived at this quaint village pub to be greeted by a light and airy bar area, exposed timbers, comfortable seating and a cosy atmosphere.

We were cheerfully greeted by a waitress who took our drinks order, handed us the menu and drew our attention to the specials board which included the likes of tiger prawns in spicy tomato sauce and roasted duckling served in orange and ginger syrup impressive options that wouldnt seem out of place in the finest of restaurants.

It would be easy to lose yourself in the regular lunch menu - with the likes Derbyshire flat-iron steak and slowly-braised beef bourguignon - but on this occasion I opted for box-baked Camembert cheese served with onion marmalade and crusty bread. It was a winning combination of smooth, sweet and zestful flavours and the portion size was ample enough to satisfy even the hungriest of diners. My colleague chose fresh mussels in a garlic, white wine and double cream sauce. A basket of bread - including tomato, walnut and ciabatta varieties proved perfect for mopping up the sauce while the mussels themselves were plump, fresh and juicy.

Our main courses arrived with a flourish, both served with sides of fresh seasonal vegetables and salad. My colleagues quiche of warm goats cheese was topped with asparagus and served with chunky chips the tasty rustic kind and I had no complaints about my plentiful serving of fish pie. You can see and taste the The Yeaveley Arms commitment to using the freshest ingredients, and the contents of salmon, cod, haddock and prawns were all perfectly cooked and enveloped in cheesey mashed potato.

At just under 35 for two courses, The Yeaveley Arms is well priced considering what it offers hearty food of the finest quality served in pleasingly generous portions. Far from a rushed light lunch, our meal was expertly cooked and The Yeaveley Arms is certainly the kind of place that is worth the detour off the beaten track for.

Im currently planning a return visit to sample the rest of the lunchtime menu; the appetisers of olives, garlic bread or honey-baked chorizo and the desserts of lemon posset, brandy snap basket or double cream rice pudding, and then I might think about an evening meal...

The Saracens Head, Shirley

Shirley is a quaint English village just a few miles from Ashbourne and in the heart of its community is The Saracens Head a gastro pub with charm and character serving a varied menu to suit all tastes. Arriving at around 6.15pm, my partner and I were soon seated and we perused the menu board which boasted around eight starters and twelve main courses. It was a difficult decision but I eventually decided on the Italian meat platter with tomato, mozzarella and garlic bread, while my partner chose garlic mushrooms served with a warm roll.

As we waited for our first course, the tables began to fill and by the time it arrived the restaurant was full. My platter was a truly magnificent sight to behold and looked more like a main course than a starter. It consisted of three slices of salami and prosciutto served with salad leaves, mozzarella and tomatoes. The mix was light and delicious and my partners mushrooms were served in a beautiful creamy garlic sauce that was so good that he needed a spoon!

For the main course, I chose baked cod loin, tiger prawns and chorizo cassoulet served with new potatoes and fresh vegetables. The fish was moist with a crispy skin, sitting on a bed of tiger prawns with chorizo and vegetables. My partners choice of T-bone steak served with Bordelaise sauce, homemade chips and salad was equally delightful. The tender meat filled the plate and was cooked to a textbook medium rare; his knife melted through it and he left the fillet until last. The chips were crispy and golden whilst fluffy inside.

For dessert, I chose strawberry pavlova with ice cream and my partner chose warm chocolate fudge brownie with chocolate sauce and ice cream. The pavlova was delicious - crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside - with fresh strawberries placed in the lush cream. The soft brownie was no less delicious and provided a delightful combination of hot and cold.

The portions were large, the service was second to none and even though by the time we had started our main course the tables were full, every guest enjoyed the same excellent level of service. At the end my partner said it was the best meal he had eaten in years. Looking at me he added, Apart from the ones you cook of course! To round off a perfect meal, our Border Collie got a doggie bag the bone from the steak.

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