Dining out: The Cavendish Hotel, Baslow
PUBLISHED: 00:16 28 January 2012 | UPDATED: 11:26 16 March 2017
Quality and a passion for fine food are highlights of dining at this county hotel
Driving to Baslow from the south of the county is a pleasure before one even arrives: passing through the charming village of Rowsley before taking the winding scenic road to Chatsworth and beyond.
The stunning views of rolling countryside on arrival at the Cavendish Hotel certainly don’t disappoint either. With Chatsworth House in the background, the hotel enjoys an enviable location, a history stretching back for centuries and an exterior fit to grace the front of any postcard, plus splendid hotel rooms and an award-winning menu.
The Cavendish specialises in fine dining in a peaceful, intimate atmosphere, and following a warm greeting by friendly staff we were served pistachios and juicy olives in the comfortable lounge area. Other restaurants take note: there is nothing more welcome when you have just walked in from the frost-biting cold than the opportunity to wind down in a tranquil reception room.
General Manager Philip Joseph reveals his impressive knowledge of fine wines in the extensive wine listing – which includes over 70 different varieties from classics to ‘New Worlds’ – and dining options include the Garden Room, where a relaxed atmosphere complements the restaurant’s more formal fare or, for those wanting to observe a working kitchen, the Kitchen Table. Our dinner was to be served in the luxurious surroundings of the Gallery Restaurant, a room that certainly lives up to its name with ornate lighting, stunning flower displays, fine art, antique furniture and a roaring fire.
Talented head chef Mike Thompson has worked hard to produce an exciting menu with locally sourced ingredients and impeccably presented dishes. Three courses from the set menu total £45, with lumped white crab and pickled cannelloni of cucumber or a mosaic of guinea fowl, rabbit, pigeon, pheasant and venison all sounding tempting for starters, and dishes such as roasted Derbyshire venison, juniper and port paste, beetroot and goats cheese puff pastry tart or oven-baked halibut fillet sounding appetising for the main course.
Seamless service delivered homemade bread before the arrival of our first course. My choice of slow-roasted wood pigeon arrived in thin buttery cutlets surrounded by slivers of sharp green shoots, with crushed pistachios and lashings of sweet pear purée to complement the savoury undertones. The accompanying toasted brioche was a great vehicle for a ballotine of foie gras and my fruity wine proved a pleasurable match with the gamey combination.
My partner enjoyed an open lasagne of wild mushrooms, parmesan cheese and Jerusalem artichoke – a tasty root vegetable that provided a strong, earthy and sweet base for the dish. The cheese was just as it should be – strong and full of flavour without being too overpowering – and the winning combination of creamy sauce, sliced mushrooms and savoury truffle flavours made each forkful a delight.
Now primed to expect excellence, we eagerly awaited our main courses. The seared scallops on my partner’s meal were feather-light in texture with a fillet of Cornish monkfish serving as the juicy pièce de resistance. A zestful scallop mousse and Parma ham added texture to the composition, whilst the mussels, citrussy jus and accompanying braised Kohlrabi exemplified freshness.
My tender roast lamb, perfectly pink and robust in texture, was complemented by servings of creamy swede, lamb sweetbreads, a juicy pear sphere and parsnips – expertly curried to enhance the flavour. Fresh mint leaves and braised lentils were a fragrant and delicious alternative to a traditional mint sauce.
Portion sizes had been perfectly judged and we anticipated dessert with delight. As well as an impressive cheese selection the restaurant offers a varied dessert menu, and Mike had assembled a special assiette of the sweet choices in all their colourful glory. The compilation included chocolate mousse, hazelnut powder and brioche crisps served in miniature teacups, a Black Forest-style brownie crowned with glazed cherries, rice pudding wrapped in a sheet of pineapple, treacle sponge, egg custard with a brulée-style crust, warm pistachio cake, tonka bean ice-cream, gelatine cubes sprinkled in icing-sugar and pools of palate-refreshing Champagne, mango, and berry sorbets.
It was no surprise to learn that the Cavendish has been awarded 2 AA rosettes for its fine cuisine every year since 2005, and the delicious assiette, prettily served on a dark slate, brought to a perfect end a beautifully cooked meal which had been presented with great care and artistic flair.
The Cavendish Hotel, Church Lane, Baslow. Tel: 01246 582 311