Derbyshire Life Women in Business luncheon - The Barns, Morley Hayes Hotel, Morley

Grand Marnier panna cotta

Grand Marnier panna cotta - Credit: Archant

The speaker for the event was Derbyshire-born and educated public relations and communications consultant Louise Third MBE.

Jas Bagri, Kirpal Bidmead and Claire Rudkin

Jas Bagri, Kirpal Bidmead and Claire Rudkin - Credit: Archant

The days of incessant rain have certainly caused plenty of sorrow but on one of the few bright February days, the golf courses and countryside around Morley Hayes looked spectacularly green and welcoming. It will soon be 30 years since the transformation of this ‘luxury haven in the heart of Derbyshire’ began as it changed from dairy farm to golf course and prestigious hotel (now on a list of the top 20 in the country) with multiple award-winning restaurants and function rooms. It was a delight to return for Derbyshire Life’s Women in Business Luncheon and find the food, service and venue as impeccable as ever. Owner Andrew Allsopp has no intention of letting standards slip and seasonal events such as bluebell walks, a flower demonstration by Jonathan Moseley, a Pimms and Pudding Night and a 1920s-themed summer ball are some of the newest additions to their offering, organised by events coordinator Jack Wagg.

This luncheon took place in the recently renovated Barns, at the back of Roosters Bar, which has its own bar and a light cheery conservatory to gather in to one side. It was part of the original farm buildings and has recently had its beams freshly spruced up and limed and its brick walls cleaned. All was bright, with posies of lovely spring flowers on each table.

As guests arrived they were greeted with a glass of Champagne and plates of delicious canapés – smoked salmon on dill blini with sour cream and radish, and skewers of tender beef with a satay dipping sauce. There was a lovely friendly atmosphere as guests enjoyed the leisurely introductions and a chance to chat to women with careers ranging across teaching, the legal profession, retail, the beauty industry, charity, property, design, accountancy and events planning.

Called to our tables, everyone prepared to listen to a talk before the meal. The speaker for the event, Derbyshire-born and educated public relations and communications consultant Louise Third MBE, had chosen to discuss the fact that ‘People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it’, drawing on her experience of running a successful PR agency and her passion for charity work. In noting the importance of rediscovering the fun in why we work and grasping the opportunity to achieve something every day in some way, she shared her own personal tool to keep on track: reviewing your purpose, considering who you are and re-defining what you do in a broader context.

The newly refurbished Mill Room - one of the first rooms to be converted from the original farm buildings nearly 30 years ago

The newly refurbished Mill Room - one of the first rooms to be converted from the original farm buildings nearly 30 years ago - Credit: Archant

Having started the conversation rolling, the lunch – prepared by Morley Hayes’ head chef Nigel Stuart – began with white onion soup, truffle and chives, accompanied by a freshly baked roll. Velvety smooth and creamy, the soup was topped by a tiny bowl of a layer of torched onion filled with truffle oil that lent a powerful kick of flavour. It was accompanied either by a glass of Santa Carolina Merlot 2017 reserva or a crisp Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc 2018 reserva.

Topics of conversation ranged from Australian weather (one diner had just returned from a business visit to Melbourne where the rain was torrential), the benefits of weekly staff gatherings where talk of work is forbidden, the lost days of the tea trolley and the rise of eating lunch at your desk, the complex technology involved in mobile motorway signage, a Safe and Sound charity abseil down Miller’s Dale bridge, the introduction of beavers to Willington Wetlands, juggling work and family life, and Masterchef.

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It was all aided by exceptionally tasty food. Discreetly but attentively served, the main course was a fillet of salmon topped with a deliciously crunchy herb crumb (which could have included lemon – there was some dispute) alongside a quenelle of crushed parsley potatoes, tender broccoli, green beans and the most luscious, buttery hollandaise sauce. Our dessert was a wonderful blend of unusual flavours – a base of rich, creamy vanilla panna cotta topped with a Grand Marnier jelly disc, slivers of marinated pink grapefruit and red-veined sorrel leaves. It was a contrast of sweet and tart with unusual complementary and contrasting flavours.

Coffee or tea and mint chocolates followed, and then people started to recall that work was waiting. It registered that we’d been at Morley Hayes for two and a half hours and time had flown. A really enjoyable occasion with splendid company in a lovely place.

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