Dovecliff Hall Hotel, Stretton, Burton-on-Trent Restaurant Review

Amber Locke visits charming Georgian hotel and restaurant Dovecliff Hall at Stretton

The last time I visited Dovecliff Hall was (and I can hardly bear to admit this!) about 14 years ago when the owner was Nick Hine, and Pascal Arnoux (now proprietor of the Old Vicarage at Branston) was head waiter ... how time flies!

As I expected things had changed. Although the property has undergone a few changes of ownership since my last visit, the new owners are Tony Sachdev and Giogi Singh and had only been in situ for five weeks at the time of my visit in late November.

Tony and Giogi have big plans for the place, which include overhauling the downstairs d�cor and furniture. They also plan to invest heavily in transforming the bedrooms, adding luxurious furnishings and sleek modern bathrooms and bringing the whole place bang up to date.

Tony and Giogi, who also own the Bridge Hotel at Thrapston in Northamptonshire, have boundless enthusiasm and ideas for their new venture. As well as retaining existing members of the team at their new purchase, they have brought a few of their own beaming team of staff with them, ensuring the hotel retains its welcoming, family-run atmosphere.

The current menu is crowd-pleasing, country house hotel fare, a style which they plan to keep while adding to this a few of their own personal touches (maybe even a curry). The menu is presented on large, over-sized card which is printed in the same style as Hambleton Hall with a decorative still-life border of game, fruits, vegetables and sea food. The crowd-pleasing dishes include melon with a citrus and Grand Marnier syrup (�5.50), mussels with garlic, white wine and herbs (�8.50), foie gras on Sauternes jelly (�8.50) and soup of the day (�5.50) to start, with main courses such as rack of lamb with a herb crust and rosemary sauce (�18), pan-fried loin of pork with sage and apple topping (�16.50), Scottish salmon with a fennel and dill sauce (�16.50) and Gressingham duck with a quince and port sauce (�18.50).

We sat in the new (to me) conservatory/orangery extension on the back of the property, which I imagine in the daytime has wonderful views of the garden and the magnificent cedar tree, and were brought an appetizer of vegetable consomm� topped with a drizzle of white truffle oil and offered a selection of breads (white, brown and focaccia).

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To start we chose duck liver and brandy parfait with Cumberland sauce (�7.50) and baked goat's cheese wrapped in filo pastry with a walnut salad (�8.50). The parfait was delicious, smooth and rich and it was served with triangles of toast. My creamy, baked goat's cheese came with a fresh, crisp mixed leaf salad dotted with walnut halves and was a light, tasty and pleasing starter dish.

Our main courses were very well cooked and prettily presented. My dining companion's fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef (�24.50) had an artful arrangement of white asparagus spears, green beans and turned carrots and chestnuts set around the edge of the plate and the meat topped with a little pile of wild mushrooms. My pot-roasted supreme of corn-fed chicken (�15.50) was set on a perfect bed of mash and drizzled with a gorgeous Marsala gravy. The vegetables were al dente and the beef cooked to a textbook medium rare.

All the puddings are priced at �6.50 and include a range of classic nursery puddings with the odd twist as well as a few more modern favourites. Bread and butter pudding comes with Cointreau-soaked raisins and double cream, sticky date and apricot pudding with toffee sauce and crme fraiche, Bramley apple, pear and mascarpone tart complemented with an orange and cranberry syrup, and dark chocolate tart with rum and raisin ice cream. We chose an iced chocolate and orange crunch parfait served with an orange salad and a light cappuccino cheesecake with dark chocolate sauce. Both desserts were precisely as described with good clean and fresh flavours and were again very carefully presented.

Dovecliff Hall is located conveniently off the A38 near Stretton and is set in seven acres of beautifully manicured riverside gardens. It is a popular conference, meeting and wedding venue and is licensed for civil ceremonies in the drawing room. With the foundation of a very 'safe' menu, the addition of a few enlivening touches by Tony and Giogi promise to return the Dovecliff Hall to its heyday. I look forward to visiting again to see just how their fabulous ideas have transformed the place and breathed new life into this charming Georgian hotel and restaurant.

Dovecliff Hall Hotel, Dovecliff Road, Stretton, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, DE13 0DJ

Tel: 01283 531818

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