The Mickleover Court Hotel, Derbyshire Life Luncheon

Guinea fowl and autumn fruits make for a delicious Derbyshire Life luncheon at The Mickleover Court Hotel

When I feel like eating out in style, I invariably think of taking my wife to an independent restaurant, but my Derbyshire Life & Countryside Luncheon at the Menzies Mickleover Court Hotel has made me think again.

Although the hotel carries the name of a Derby city suburb, it sits on the leafy fringes of the old Mickleover village. As the home county of the Menzies chain (the head office is across the road from the hotel), it’s to be expected that this hotel will be at least as unique and distinctive as the others in the group. This was confirmed immediately I walked through the automatic revolving doors and beheld the swish atrium, with its circular central court of three balconied storeys, all gleaming following a recent refurbishment.

Just as classy was the glass of Louis Dornier champagne which greeted our arrival at the first floor bar – light, lemony and refreshing. Amongst the canap�s was a flavoursome cream cheese with sun-dried tomatoes, mascarpone with crayfish and, unusually, fruit kebabs.

We were then ushered into the Premiere One Suite with its woodpanelled walls and simple, elegant round tables and welcomed by general manager David Ideson who spoke of his hotel’s commitment to ‘delivering excellent customer service and food quality.’

The hotel’s head chef is Adam Stafford, who has been at the Court for eight years, though our meal was overseen by his sous chef Wayne Blake.

After being offered a choice of breads – mine was a tasty walnut bread – we tucked into a starter of puff pastry case filled with smoked duck breast, honey glazed vegetables and baby leaves. The duck was extremely tender and, although I am always a touch nervous with al dente vegetables – having experienced too much firmness when I would have preferred chefs to err on the side of softness – these struck a happy medium. Wendy on our table enjoyed the vegetarian alternative: a salad of the same honey glazed vegetables with Stilton. The vegetables were ‘perfectly cooked’ and she relished the pairing of its sweetness with the sourness of the Stilton. A crisp and lemony glass of Bourgogne Chardonnay Couvent des Jacobins, Louis Jadot was an excellent choice to start the meal.

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Our main course was breast of guinea fowl – a very underrated meat. guinea fowl is not as gamey or dry as other birds and I found it very subtle and delicate. It’s in season until February, so try it. The meat was greatly enhanced by Dauphinoise potatoes, which were creamy and had just the right consistency. There was also a butternut squash pur�e and a damson jus but an even bigger hit was the savoy cabbage parcel generously packed with delectable smoked bacon.

Overall, this dish had what I love most about a main course: different flavours coming through with every mouthful. It was complemented well by a fruity red C�tes du Rh�ne Les Rabassi�res which was appreciated even more by those diners whose more refined palate could detect aromatic notes of prunes, violets and liquorice.

The vegetarian alternative of Roasted Vegetable Wellington with a leek and chive cream sauce was pronounced by Wendy to be ‘gorgeous’. The mushroom was ‘heavy – but in a good way’ and she wished for more sauce ‘but only because it was so delicious.’

Dessert was a poached pear – though beautifully moist it still had ‘bite’ – and there were even more compliments round the table for the homemade Ashbourne gingerbread, compote of blackberries and clotted cream. If you like your dessert wines quite light I can recommend the accompanying glass of Etchart Torront�s Tardi�, Salta, from Argentina. It was still syrupy but not at all sticky.

There was still more to come with the coffee or tea: homemade ‘sweet treats’ in a brandy snap basket. One of the chocs reminded me of that classic Monty Python sketch where a confectioner is investigated for selling a delicacy called Spring Surprise – ‘when you pop it into your mouth, steel bolts spring out and plunge straight through both cheeks.’ My cheeks remained intact but I still got a surprise, having never tasted popping candy before. The sensation of something sweet gently exploding around my tongue was rather exhilarating.

The service throughout was efficient and friendly and it’s clear David has assembled a professional and personable team. Before I departed, I was given a quick tour of the facilities and saw some fabulous bedroom suites.

Hotels often get overlooked when you’re thinking of dining out; perhaps because you assume the presence of hotel guests will make booking a table difficult or because you tend to think that the raison d’�tre of an exclusive restaurant is food but a hotel’s isn’t. This hotel is not all about accommodation; this lunch showed that there is a hallmark quality to its cuisine. So the next time you want to eat out in style, consider The Mickleover Court.

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