The Devonshire Arms, Derbyshire Life Luncheon

PUBLISHED: 12:02 14 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:29 20 February 2013

The Devonshire Arms, Derbyshire Life Luncheon

The Devonshire Arms, Derbyshire Life Luncheon

Spring sunshine and locally-sourced produce were highlights of the latest Derbyshire Life Luncheon in Middle Handley. Photographs by Andrew Eyley

Clear blue skies, glorious spring sunshine and refreshing glasses of Moutard Champagne welcomed guests at the latest Derbyshire Life Luncheon, held in the stylish surroundings of The Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley.

In a picturesque rural hamlet between Dronfield and Eckington, the 150-year-old pubs setting is sublime and the beautifully restored stone exterior positively glows. Owners Glen and Gill Swift, aided by their capable front of house team, have achieved that difficult balancing act of maintaining a traditional pub atmosphere of log fires, classic country furniture - including some magnificent old magistrates chairs - and friendly service with a level of cooking that earned it Eat Sheffields Restaurant of the Year award.

Hosted by manager Alistair Myers and with the talents of executive chef Lee Vintin and sous chef Tom Lawson, the innovative food at this Derbyshire Life Luncheon was teamed with delicious John Mitchell Wines.

Canaps including rabbit on china spoons, fruit tart in crispy shells and hot mushroom cappuccino were sampled on the terrace before we were seated in the dining area - a bright, airy and relaxing space where an open plan kitchen and vibrant paintings by local artist Lynne Wilkinson add to the pubs fresh and modern appeal.

There was a palpable hush as the first course arrived - homemade bread served alongside Devonshire sharing platters. A great conversation-starter, the chicken liver parfait, crayfish and ham hock combination was a delight to look at and eat. Bright colours, piles of fresh salad and pots of hummus, homemade apple chutney and piccalilli brought the platter to life, helped by a glass of gooseberry-scented Sauvignon Blanc.

Lees menus make the most of local produce and the main course was a perfect example of making a big production from simple ingredients. Cutlets of venison supplied by local butcher Andrew Birks char-grilled and left to rest to maximise flavour were served alongside creamy dauphinoise potato, cauliflower pure and al dente vegetables. The well-executed dish drew compliments from across the room, and the full-bodied La Cte Sauvage added just the right note of warmth.

Dessert, served with a rich chocolate wine, was an inspired combination of chocolate brownie, ice-cream and a chocolate snap that gave sharpness, sweetness and crunch in equal measures. The piece de resistance was a delicate yoghurt sphere with a silky smooth centre a sodium alginate concoction devised by Tom that bought a memorable luncheon to a very contented conclusion.

Our priority isnt getting stars or rosettes and being pretentious its getting it right, said Alistair. We want to take great pub food and make more of it than youd expect. From the satisfied smile on everyones face, they certainly did just that.

The Devonshire Arms, Lightwood Lane, Middle Handley. Tel: 01246 434800

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