Of all the seasons I think Spring is my favourite. It’s the fresh, green colours and lengthening, warmer days. With that extra daylight in the evening the drive to Biggin-by-Hartington was a tour of Derbyshire landscapes. From the wooded Derwent Valley, through the steep sided Via Gellia and on to the limestone dales every view was worth recording.
Susan and I were on our way to Biggin Hall Country House Hotel: A delightful Derbyshire manor house set in one of the many unspoilt parts of the National Park.
The Hall is typical of its type, a solid stone building with various additions that disguise its architectural origins. The entrance to the restaurant is through the hotel reception where we were met by Rachael. She guided us to one of the lounges, heated by a large wood burning stove, where we could study the menu and enjoy our complimentary glass of spiced, warm mulled wine and chat with some of our fellow diners. The menu has been carefully devised. It isn’t a long ‘laundry list’, but short, varied with something for all tastes from rib eye steak to wild mushroom risotto. Also the wine list has something for everyone. There’s an English wine tucked away on the white’s list and at a reasonable price is worth trying if you prefer your beverage less dry and aromatic.
When our order had been taken Rachael escorted us to our table in the restaurant. The décor is modern and light and has character in abundance with a stone flagged floor and oak beamed ceiling. There are beautiful views through the arched, stone mullioned windows over the lawns and Peak District hills in the daytime but this was the evening and a cosy atmosphere had been created by the light from the chunky candles burning on every table. The room buzzed with conversation. Some of the diners were staying at the hall and were chatting about that day’s walk or the house or village they had visited.
Susan had chosen the cream of mushroom soup as her starter. This came dressed with a swirl of watercress sauce and garlic and rosemary croutons. A tasty delight. I chose the asparagus. These were tender, young shoots served on roasted tomato with parmesan shaving and an olive oil and balsamic dressing. The fresh taste of the asparagus shone through and the parmesan and balsamic combination gave it a little hint of Italy.
Jan was our waitress for the evening and brought us our main courses. Mine was the confit duck leg. The skin was crisp and the meat moist and tender. It was served with roasted shallots and a sweet chilli glaze. The sweetness of the shallots and the glaze was a perfect balance for the dark duck meat. Susan had the roasted lamb rump, which was served pink on a spring onion mash along with buttered samphire. Samphire is a sea vegetable that grows on salty mudflats. It has a crisp texture and tastes of the sea. It complimented the tender lamb rump so well that no extra seasoning was needed. We shared a dish of mixed vegetables with our mains and found it more then enough.
For puddings we both chose the ‘milky’ options. Susan opted for the crème brulee. It was presented in a small, glass preserve jar along with individual granola coated, baked plums. I had the toffee panna cotta. Panna cotta is Italian for baked cream and this one was just that: silky and full of flavour. It was served with 5 different fresh fruits, each one giving the pudding a different taste.
The cuisine is best described as modern English and the presentation of each dish was a work of art. Head Chef James Frost and Mark Wilton make full use of the Peak District’s abundant larder. The emphasis of the menu is on simplicity and taste. It’s this straightforward approach to cooking that allows the quality of the ingredients to shine through.
The beauty of the Derbyshire Peak District National Park with its spectacular limestone and gritstone terrain has a special appeal in all seasons. Biggin Hall also offers a high standard of hotel accommodation at seasonal bargain prices. Biggin Hall Country House Hotel is located in Biggin-by-Hartington, Buxton, Derbyshire.