Restaurant review - The Lighthouse, Boylestone, Ashbourne
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 January 2018
Our reviewer discovers inspiring flavour combinations at Derbyshire Life's Restaurant of the Year in Boylestone.
The country lanes between Derby and Uttoxeter are a fitting backdrop for a restaurant that champions the excellent ingredients the area has to offer. Tucked behind the Rose and Crown inn at Boylestone, The Lighthouse has been forging a formidable reputation since 2010 – and its success continues to soar thanks to innovative tasting menus that showcase the finest seasonal produce.
The restaurant’s ‘hidden’ location adds to its air of exclusivity and behind a simple exterior lies an intimate space lit by soft candlelight, where wooden furniture, exposed brickwork and a log burner create a relaxed vibe. Yet it is in the modern open kitchen, where young and talented chefs are hard at work, that the magic really happens.
Proprietor and self-taught chef Jonathan Hardy had no prior experience of the industry when the restaurant opened its doors. But with the support of a passionate team, including sous chef George Bloor, the restaurant soon forged its own signature style and was rewarded with inclusion in the Good Food, Michelin and Harden’s guides. Derbyshire Life Chef of the Year awards for Jon and George have followed and, shortly before our visit, The Lighthouse was crowned Derbyshire Life Restaurant of the Year 2017.
The team’s skills are brilliantly showcased in the winter tasting menu which offers an 11-course gastronomic journey at £55 per head, focusing on ‘rooted vegetation, local game, festivity, umami, warmth and family’.
On a freezing cold night we were warmly welcomed with three deftly-prepared ‘snacks’ entitled ‘the chicken’, ‘the egg’ and the ‘Kiev’. The first, served in a wooden box filled with decorative grains, offered two crisp pieces of brioche, topped with swirls of chicken liver parfait, clementine gel and discs of red sable grape and truffle. This was followed by egg shells containing an intense chicken and truffle mousse, sprinkled with crispy chicken skin, cured egg yolk and chives; before we enjoyed a spherical confit chicken leg Kiev filled with melting cheddar and enlivened by anchovy mayonnaise.
There was a perfectly-timed pause before the staff appeared with the next delight, which was homemade sourdough bread served with two butters – chilli and seaweed, and a distinctively-flavoured raw farmhouse butter exclusively made in Suffolk.
The dishes rolled out in exquisite order, growing richer and more complex, with an equal focus on taste and presentation. The Cornish mackerel was a miniature masterpiece, accompanied by radish, cucumber, crispy wild rice, soy and a warming kimchi sauce, which was unveiled at the table so that we could appreciate its smoky aroma. The meal gathered depth with the next three courses: perfectly-cooked scallops, topped with pork scratchings and served in an ambrosial mussel broth; guinea fowl with brown bread sauce, crispy bacon, Brussels sprouts and cranberry gel; and a tender roe deer loin given a Tandoori twist in the form of a kebab skewer, served with squid ink crackers and vibrant splashes of mint and yoghurt.
There was a seamless move from savoury to sweet via a ‘mince pie’ of homemade filo pastry filled with tangy Hartington blue cheese, spiced currants and port sauce. The first dessert, which was accompanied by a coffee and chocolate beer, comprised a dark chocolate cylinder with toffee and ginger mousse, salted caramel and miso ice-cream, chocolate ganache and grapefruit sauce. The final flourish was a passion fruit, coconut and tonka bean meringue ‘snowman’. It made a dramatic entrance with dry ice and its clever lemon zest nose and delicious mix of flavours showcased the team’s expert eye for detail.
An experience for all the senses, The Lighthouse delights in pushing the boundaries – from its ingredients and food presentation to the immaculate service – and has become a guiding light attracting food-lovers from across the region.
New Road, Boylestone, Ashbourne DE6 5AA, 01335 330658, www.the-lighthouse-restaurant.co.uk