The Rutland Arms, Bakewell, Derbyshire Restaurant Review
The January Derbyshire Life luncheon was hosted by The Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell, the handsome 19th century building that sits unmissably right on the roundabout in the centre of the town.
The hotel was built on the site of the old White Horse coaching inn which is famous, according to local history, for being the birthplace of the Bakewell pudding where it was accidentally made by an inexperienced kitchen assistant in the 1860s. There were no such casual mistakes with our lunch, however, as the young team of chefs turned out a flawless and precisely executed meal.Our lunch was served in the main restaurant, a beautiful and tastefully decorated room with rich toile de joie wallpaper, ornate glass chandeliers, stunning flower displays, antique furniture and paintings and a wealth of unusual and unique clocks. In fact the hotel is home to over 53 clocks, all intriguing pieces and which make quite a sound when they all chime the hour in relative unison! The kitchen team here is headed up by Greg Wallace (the oldest of the bunch at just 30 years old!) who joined the hotel less than a year ago having worked in a number of award winning restaurants including London's Criterion Theatre with Marco Pierre White. The sous-chef is Matt Robinson (a Yorkshire lad like Greg and the majority of the kitchen brigade) who trained for three years at Barnsley College and gained his work experience at Gordon Ramsey's Savoy Grill restaurant. He then went on to work at the Michelin starred Winteringham Fields restaurant in Lincolnshire before joining Greg at the Cadeby Inn near Doncaster and here at the Rutland Arms where they produce an impressive style of menu with locally sourced produce and impeccably presented dishes.The wines for the lunch were supplied by House of Townend, a Hull based wine business which provided an interesting selection of organic wines from Avondale, a South African producer. Ian Stubbings of Townend Wines presented the wines and gave an entertaining 'audience participation' demonstration in the methods and skill of tasting wines and amused us with tales about some of Avondale's wines that are picked in the nude!The meal started as it went on with an artistically presented dish of delicately and skilfully cooked ingredients. The amuse bouche was a perfect, single fat pasta tortellini encasing a just-cooked quail's egg and set on a smear of vivid green watercress pur�e. This bite-sized dish was accompanied by the first wine of the lunch, a single vineyard Avondale Sauvignon Blanc and its crisp citrussy taste and grassy undertones complemented the fresh flavours of the tortellini perfectly.The starter drew gasps and murmurs of appreciation from the whole table, a great device to delight your diners before they've even tasted the food. The creamy and lightly seared scallops came with the thinnest and most delicate tuile biscuit I've ever seen, flecked with poppy seeds and fashioned like a feather-light bangle. This dish was off set with pretty red pearls of Bloody Mary 'caviar', a molecular gastronomy trick whereby a liquid is made into tiny spheres which burst with flavour in your mouth.Roasted breast of wood pigeon and confit leg was served for the main course with a dainty fondant potato, braised red cabbage and a thyme jus. Wood pigeon is an inexpensive game bird and not overly gamey in flavour and here it was cooked skilfully and with tender breast meat and a tasty confit with crispy skin. The red cabbage balanced the richness of the meat and a drizzle of a dark jus with a hint of thyme was all the dish needed to pull the flavours together. A lovely dish and one I'd definitely come back for. The wine that accompanied this was an Avondale Pinotage - a wine with ripe dark cherry fruit and hints of green vegetal and cedar wood. This light but richly flavoured wine was a pleasurable match for the wood pigeon and apparently is also a red wine that goes well with fish.I'm not a big fan of pre-desserts but this one was light and not too sweet, only marred for me by the slightly strong Parma violet foam ['I loved it' - Editor] which for my taste slightly overpowered the delicate Tonka bean panna cotta. However, it certainly caused a lot of conversation around the table with everyone reminiscing about memories associated with the either loved or loathed retro sweet! The panna cotta was gently flavoured with Tonka beans - a large dark brown wrinkled seed from South America that has been a mainstay of fine dining dessert menus for a while now and is used to impart a vanilla-cum-almond like flavour to custards and mousses etc. It was used here with a light touch and without the foam would have been a perfect mini-pudding for me.The dessert-real came looking as pretty as a picture with a shot glass of tangy mango jelly with a rosette of blueberry foam and a slim creamy parfait-style strip of mascarpone and mango. The dessert wine served was an Avondale Muscat Rouge, a pretty dark pink fortified wine with light strawberry flavours and a fresh clean taste which happily didn't fight with the sweetness of the dessert which many dessert wines can.Diamonds of icing sugar-dusted Turkish delight and chocolates were served with coffee and rounded off what had been a beautifully cooked meal and one which had been presented with great care and a real artistic flair.Many thanks go to the Rutland Arms for hosting a wonderful event in the delightful surroundings of their charming dining room with its soothing background noise of ticking clocks. Congratulations go to Greg and his team who did such a fabulous job in the kitchen and to the charming and super efficient hotel general Manager, Denise Waters and her front of house team who looked after us so well on the day.