When James and Amanda Keay bought the Izaak Walton (named after the famous author of “The Complete Angler”) in March 2014 it was a definite case of head and heart coming together. The head part was the fact that this was a great business opportunity to restore the Izaak Walton back to its former glory, the heart element was that the Izaak Walton had been a firm part of the Keay family’s social calendar since the 1950’s. A great combination with clear business decisions softened by a sentiment and desire to restore the hotel to its past beauty.
We could only speak from our recent experience, when the late afternoon sun streamed out of a clear sky, as we drove through arguably the most stunning scenery the Peak has to offer. Surrounded by sheep and hills the garden is a place to enjoy peace and serenity, in fact that pretty much sums up the atmosphere that pervades the Izaak Walton.
We received a warm welcome and sat enjoying our pre-dinner drinks, until our waiter Steve, showed us to our table by the window overlooking the beautiful hillsides, and continued to look after us attentively for the whole evening. The menu, created by head chef Simon Harrison, includes traditional fine dining favourites with a modern flair, using the best, freshest local produce available. Simon, a Buxton man, joined the Izaak Walton in 2014, having learned his craft at other hotels in Derbyshire and it’s this experience that he is bringing to the kitchen. He uses local produce and says “I know my suppliers well, having built up a good rapport with them over the years and am confident in the high quality they give”.
With chefs compliments, the amuse bouche comprised of local chorizo served several ways, in a broth, grilled, fried, in a small light croquette topped with a chorizo foam. A delicious taster to awaken your taste buds.
Home made breads followed, baked fresh each day, brown bread using local beer, and white honey bread with curried, pepper and herbs, and tomato butters each a delightful experience to savour. My starter was as elegant as our surroundings, home cured smoked salmon, complimented by a smooth avocado puree and crab mayonnaise, sprinkled with red and black caviar and miniature lambs ear lettuce and dill adding a clean freshness.
The local Hartington cheese company provide the Dovedale Blue Beignet cheese, the main ingredient for my husbands starter, cooked in a light crisp coating, the warm cheese oozed out gloriously. Poached pears tinged with pink from the poaching liquor and a cinnamon and red wine syrup, cut through the rich flavours with a peppery watercress leaf garnish.
Roasted chicken breast and chicken ballotine leg, with a smooth and creamy celeriac puree and tarragon cream sauce, formed my main course. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, served on baby leeks and with a selection of seasonal vegetables, this dish was full of interest and texture with a great combination of traditionally paired ingredients.
Following the same high standard of presentation, a blackberry parfait was a cool, clean finale to my meal. Squares of hazelnut brittle contrasted with the sharper flavour of the autumn berries and blackberry gel. Unable to resist the offer to try my husbands lemon meringue, with none of the heavy pastry, this had a soft centered Italian meringue which was very, moreish and the ideal partner to a sharp lemon sorbet.
The large, high ceiling dining room lent an elegant atmosphere to the evening and just through the double doors the ballroom could be seen. Whilst the ‘Haddon’ restaurant caters for fine dining the Izaak Walton also boasts the ‘Dovedale Bar’ where traditional bar meals such as The Izaak Walton beefburger, fresh fish and chips and light bites are served.
We had the opportunity to speak to head chef Simon Harrison, who explained that “some people still feel that you just can’t call in at a hotel for a meal – but of course you can” he said “ we operate full kitchen facilities for all meals and The Dovedale bar caters for all tastes. I had a look around the hotel and bar myself and was intrigued by its size. There are dining, milling and drinking areas with local ales on tap including the increasingly popular Doombar beer.
We had enjoyed a lovely evening of beautiful cuisine, discreet but friendly service, in surroundings which had more than a hint of a past era of genteel dining. What could be better?
Our thanks to the staff at the Izaak Walton for their care and attention.