Dining Out: The Boot Inn, Repton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 17 March 2017
At the heart of historic Repton, this welcoming inn has been beautifully brought back to life
At a time when many hostelries are finding it harder to keep their doors open, local pub company Bespoke Inns has bucked the trend with its stable of successful establishments – most notably with its recent transformation of The Boot at Repton.
Just 18 months after purchasing the historic 17th century inn, and just over one year since they re-opened to reveal the results of a splendid £250,000 refurbishment, they were toasting success after the venue scooped the prestigious ‘AA 2016/17 Pub of the Year’ award – shortly followed by the ‘Hotel Restaurant of the Year’ accolade at the 2016 Derbyshire Life Food & Drink Awards.
Breathing new life into the 300-year-old building was no mean feat, but the passionate Bespoke Inns team – owned by Heidi Hammond and her business partner – already had a number of successful transformation projects under their belt, including The Dragon at Willington and Harpur’s in Melbourne. And so they embarked on an ambitious renovation programme to preserve the building’s original charm whilst creating a venue that appealed to locals, travellers, diners and drinkers alike. The results are simply stunning.
As well as a rustic restaurant with period features such as exposed brickwork and ceiling beams, there’s a lovely convivial bar area where real-ale aficionados can sample brews from the pub’s own microbrewery just across the yard. Clod Hopper pale ale, Tuffer’s Old porter and the original Boot Bitter are some of the eight tasty ales. On top of this, The Boot also provides an attractive place to stay in one of nine luxuriously-appointed bedrooms, each individually styled by Heidi.
The warmth of the inn’s surroundings is matched by a friendly welcome from manager Rick Graham, who has an admirable knowledge on every aspect of the menu.
The freshly-prepared, modern British dishes are the creation of 23-year-old head chef Robert Taylor – Heidi’s son – who has trained at Michelin-star restaurants and uses his passion for experimentation to deliver unique tastes and flavours. Two new choices are added to the exciting menu each week; on the evening of our visit options included fallow deer with smoked beetroot purée and stone bass with roasted chicken wings.
We began with an appetiser of warm, freshly-baked sourdough bread followed by a boldly-flavoured amuse-bouche of smoked salmon, served on a shell with an innovative, wafer-thin soy sauce meringue – a delicious sign of things to come.
My companion’s Scottish mackerel starter (£5.95) offered more sea-inspired flavours, this time given a mouth-watering twist with heritage beetroot, wasabi nuts and innovative horseradish ‘snow’. My beef tartare (£8.95) was utterly exceptional and presented like a work of art with a lovely stroganoff garnish.
Perfectly cooked duck was the star of my companion’s main course: a plump, just-pink piece of Creedy Carver breast meat punctuated with oyster-flavoured salsify, a moreish duck pudding, blewit mushrooms and spiced sauce (£17.95).
As well as being beautifully plated, the dishes are always more than they first appear and my main course of Norwegian cod (£15.25) played on different textures with green olive velouté, sage crème, cod brandade and gooseberries to add just the right note of sweetness.
There is an expertly-selected wine offering to accompany each course and after sampling The Boot’s ales with our main courses, we finished with an unctuously sweet South African Graham Beck Rhona Muscadel (£5.50).
True to style, our shared dessert of apple crumble (£7.50) was anything but ordinary. Stylishly served inside a hollowed-out apple, it combined sweet, warm apple and raisin compôte topped with cinnamon sable biscuit and thyme ice cream – pure perfection.
Perhaps the secret behind The Boot’s success lies in the fact that it combines all the charm and warmth of a ‘proper pub’ with the style, service and flair of a fine dining restaurant. With a microbrewery and comfortable rooms completing the picture, the team certainly seems to have found the perfect fit.
12 Boot Hill, Repton DE65 6FT, 01283 346047, www.thebootatrepton.co.uk