Dining Out: The Lighthouse at Boylestone, Ashbourne
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 March 2016
An impressive menu and a young and enthusiastic team make this one of the county's hottest restaurants
Hiding in the maze of country lanes between Ashbourne and Sudbury, tucked behind the Rose and Crown inn, The Lighthouse at Boylestone has been something of a beacon for local foodies since its opening in 2010.
Proprietor and head chef Jonathan Hardy was 25 years old and had no prior experience of working in the industry when the restaurant opened its doors. But with the support of a close-knit team of family and friends, including sous chef George Bloor, the venue was soon making itself known on the Derbyshire dining scene, earning coveted places in both the Good Food and Michelin guides.
Fast forward a few years and The Lighthouse’s reputation continues to grow: it was Highly Commended in the Restaurant of the Year category at last year’s inaugural Derbyshire Life Food & Drink Awards, with Jonathan receiving the Chef of the Year title.
The restaurant’s limited opening hours (Thursday to Saturday evenings and Sunday lunchtimes) add to its air of exclusivity and inside beautiful brickwork, exposed ceiling beams and wooden flooring create a clean, contemporary vibe which is complemented by leather chairs, rustic tables and a log-burner.
The food is best described as ‘seasonal modern British’ with some exciting twists. As well as an inventive à la carte menu, there is a ten course tasting menu which offers a gastronomic journey through some of the finest dishes at £50 per head.
Keen to sample as many delights as possible we chose the latter and started with an amuse-bouche of mussel bisque served in dainty teacups, with brown bread croûtons and bacon lardons, followed by miniature loaves of warm, freshly-baked bacon bread, drizzled in maple syrup with pots of terrific smoked bacon and salt and pepper butters.
Next came Jon’s version of a caesar salad – a truly delicious mix of perfectly-seared scallop and flavoursome anchovy, balanced by lettuce, artfully placed beads of dehydrated lemon sauce and a wafer-thin but incredibly tasty parmesan crisp.
Presentation is simply stunning but even so, dishes are always more than they first appear. The next course of rich and sticky ox cheek served with fluffy potato foam, slices of fresh truffle and mushroom ‘dust’, played on different textures and was one of the best dishes I have ever tasted.
Delicate skrei cod was the star of the next course, with raw and roasted cauliflower, dehydrated kale, samphire and a delicious chicken wing – expertly cooked so it had paper-thin, crackling-crisp skin and wonderfully moist meat.
The fruity fragrance of the ‘Duck a l’orange’ course arrived before the dish itself: a pink and plump piece of Gressingham breast meat punctuated with sweet miso heritage carrots, orange gel, sausage terrine, carrot pesto and feta cheese.
More innovative combinations followed. The Hartington cheese with the first (of four!) puddings was unforgettably good, and touches like tiny crisp pastry slices and warm wild berry sauce added just the right note of sweetness.
Then came decadent waffles topped with devilishly sweet salted caramel foie gras, peanut butter and sour cherry sauce, each individual flavour beautifully complementing the others.
Sweet and sour tastes were also skilfully combined in a dish of deconstructed rhubarb and custard with chilled egg custard cubes, smooth rhubarb sorbet, tart rhubarb pieces and honeyed oats, in a bowl that looked like the top of a giant ostrich egg.
Two and a half hours after we began, the meal ended on a high with a well-executed dessert blending bitter cacao filling, citrussy sorbet and tart lime mousse in a white chocolate sphere topped with a peanut tuille disc – pure perfection.
Front of house manager Poppy oversaw the evening’s smooth service and I was particularly impressed by the serving team who ran everything like clockwork, adding in friendly conversation and a knowledgeable explanation of each innovative course.
Dining here is an enlightening culinary experience. Imaginative yet unpretentious, it is relaxed fine dining at its very best. The Lighthouse is definitely one to watch out for!
The Lighthouse, New Rd, Boylestone DE6 5AA,
01335 330658, www.thelighthouserestaurant.co.uk