On a warm, balmy evening my dining partner Paul and I set out from Belper and meandered our way down the A6 and through Matlock Bath.
Just past the cable cars and up the steep entrance slope on the left is High Tor Hotel. A beautiful 19th century building stands in stunning surroundings, nestled amongst the cliffs.
The dining room is clean and fresh, with fresh flowers highlighting the unusual windows, it was obvious from the outset that these were not bought from a supermarket; it turns out they are supplied by a local lady from her garden – it’s a lovely touch and I would love to see the garden where they originated.
We sat to have a look through the menu, whilst sampling the wine – and agreed that it is perfect, enough choice without bamboozling you with options and leaving you worried as to the provenance (and cooking methods) of the dishes on offer. Marcel, who runs the hotel, is a character, full of life and European bonhomie, originating in Belgium but as English is only his fourth language it gives you an idea of how well travelled he is. He came over to introduce himself after we chose our food, ably assisted by our friendly and helpful waitress, Alison.
For our starters we chose a selection of terrines and patés, all home-made and beautifully presented on slates with chutney and fresh bread. Each paté had a different texture and completely different taste but all married well together.
To follow, I had chosen the belly pork, slow roasted and served on a bed of mustard mash which was exceptionally creamy, garnished with baked apples and the pork juice. Paul chose the lamb shanks garnished with fresh orange, which were on the ‘specials’ menu. The meat is super fresh and bursting with flavour, tender and tasty. The accompanying vegetables were served alongside and were seasonal and fresh.
Both portions were not for the faint hearted and extremely generous. It’s proper honest food, touched with ‘gastronomie’, the prices are ridiculously reasonable for the quality of both the ingredients and the cooking so you won’t be disappointed.
This place is a hidden gem, there are 14 bedrooms (often full) which are luxurious and beautifully decorated and from talking to our host Marcel and his wife Jo, it is clear that nothing would ever be too much trouble, I think they would do almost anything to ensure that whether you are there for an evening or a longer stay, your satisfaction and happiness would be of paramount importance.
We were talking to Marcel and Jo after our meal and while they finally had time to eat their own; we were admiring Jo’s dish of vegetable curry all served on a giant tortilla with deep fried rocket, which looked and smelled fantastic. The devoted chef brought over a plate of fresh banana bread he had made for breakfast – what a treat that would be! I am told that as he often wakes early he creates delicious treats for the guests that you wouldn’t typically find on a hotel menu.
Fairly full, we asked chef to prepare us a small selection of desserts to sample and a creation almost too beautiful to eat arrived; lemon posset, raspberry and lemon cheesecake and chocolate orange brownie/ torte pieces with fresh raspberries arrived so we tucked in and it all tasted as good as it looked.
The wine flowed (for those of us not driving) and there was an abundance of chatter and laughter – it was the type of evening I used to enjoy when living in Europe – it’s just that something ‘extra’ that you don’t very often get in the UK. On learning I couldn’t have a drink, Marcel disappeared to the bar and brought me a huge glass of my favourite wine, wrapped in clingfilm as a take out! A man after my own heart.
I recommend staying here, eating here or just popping in for a drink. The latest Trip Advisor comment reads like this and the few I read are of similar ilk:
“The food was great (probably the best in the area of Matlock and Matlock Bath). the chef, bar staff and manager were extremely accommodating. The extra little touches like providing a pitcher of ice cold squash to a group of hot walkers as we trudged back from the Tor, made all the difference. Marcel, the manager, was tremendous company. I would definitely recommend the High Tor to all”
It says it all…….we felt and were treated like house guests as opposed to customers, delightful.