Thyme Restaurant, Derby, Derbyshire Restaurant Review

The International Hotel is a long established presence on Derby's busy Burton Road and its frontage might give the impression that little has changed.

FACT FILEThyme Restaurant at International Hotel, 288 Burton Road,Derby

The reception area has been upgraded, as all of its 60 bedrooms will be soon, and one of the banqueting suites has been refurbished along with its Thyme Restaurant and Bar where our luncheon was being hosted.

Thyme was first recorded by the ancient Greeks who burnt it as incense in their temples, believing it was a source of courage. The hotel proprietors Sumit and Manisha Sabharwal certainly took a bold step in giving a total new look to the restaurant, creating a comfortable, contemporary and classy ambience with smart, elegant brown dining seats and quiet forest green colours on the walls. Like thyme itself, the restaurant d�cor is tasteful without being overpowering.

I immediately forgot the dullness of a Derby sky as I walked in to be greeted by a Californian Sunrise, a slightly tart but refreshing mix of two parts orange juice, one-half part tomato juice, one-third grapefruit, one-third pineapple. The alcoholic ap�ritif, a sparkling Arriva Berri Estates Ros� - was equally light, summery and palatable. Hotel manager Andy Walker advised us to return to this ros� in 2009 when we could taste it in its 'full glory'. As we took our seats, summer turned to autumn as I sipped the mellow fruitfulness of a Fleur De Lys Full Red, well balanced with our starter of Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup which was itself described by one diner as 'the perfect autumn/winter soup' and another as 'pleasingly peppery'. Most diners agreed with my view that this tasty soup had a perfect consistency with a good balance between the tomato and pepper.

Our main course was the classic dish of Rack of Lamb Anglaise, one of the specialities of Head Chef Jean Guy Desaubin who hails from the Seychelles and, supported by Restaurant Manager Joao Filipe, favours a suitably international range of dishes which include swordfish marinated in thyme, lime and ginger and King Prawn Tempura. As for our luncheon dish, it's a while since I have tasted lamb so moist and tender - 'with a beautiful aftertaste', remarked one diner. The lamb was complemented well by a herb crust and set off by roasted root vegetables. In an age where diners argue the toss between al dente and soft, many guests thought the veg. struck a happy medium. I was especially taken by the buttery carrots and the fondant potatoes which, underneath their fabulous crusty coat, revealed soft, white, creamy potato, all accompanied by a splendid redcurrant jus. The whole dish was in perfect harmony with a classic Australian Shiraz Cabernet called The Riddle which was suitably robust for a fairly complex main course. Incidentally the unusual name The Riddle is a reference to the skill required to solve the problem of successfully blending different wines together. There was certainly a blend of flavours with raspberry and blackcurrant to the fore.

The dessert wine Leroy Duval Brut NV was chosen 'to cleanse the palate after the richness of the main course and reawaken the taste buds' for the dessert of white chocolate and orange torte drizzled with white chocolate sauce. Investigating this wine further, I saw it described as featuring 'graphite, toast, lemon and nut aromas and flavours'. Graphite? Is it wise for a wine to summon up the smell of a pencil? As I'm not Oz Clarke, my limited sensory equipment struggled to even discern the toast and nut but I still appreciated the wine for the way it cut through the sweetness of the chocolate. For me, Jean surpassed himself with this dessert for the simple fact that I so relished it: I thought I didn't care much for white chocolate, so what made the difference here? Possibly the orange but more likely the beautifully light, smooth, creamy consistency of the chocolate which also had a delicate, delicious bottom of thin sponge. I could have done with more than a drizzle of the sauce, and our guest Barry Colenso, a master chocolatier, commented that a little more moisture could have been used to dissolve the sugar in the sauce, but it was still an exquisite dessert. Another guest thought the dish 'perfectly refreshing' and many agreed with the way I felt the flavour lingered.

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Indeed, the whole meal lingered long in the memory. I recommend a visit, so make Thyme

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