The New Bath Hotel and Spa, with its fine Georgian façade, has always struck an impressive pose, standing for over 250 years as a sentinel at the southern entrance to Matlock Bath. It has recently undergone a major refurbishment and from the moment Susan and I walked into the light and open main entrance the care and thoughtful styling was evident. This is a little bit of Knightsbridge on the edge of The Peak.
New Executive Head Chef John Shuttleworth has instigated a tasting menu with a carefully selected wine pairing and we were eager to experience the evening. John is a local lad and after graduating from High Peak College in Buxton, started his professional career in the USA. He returned to England and worked in several Michelin starred establishments before taking up a position for 8 years in South Africa at a premium winery with a highly acclaimed restaurant. He and his wife returned to the UK and took up appointments at the New Bath Hotel and Spa.
The hotel’s Artistry restaurant occupies the south east corner of the grade 11 listed building and is the setting for their 6 course tasting menu.
Decorated in a light contemporary style and retaining many of its original features this spacious, elegant room has the ability to both relax and make you feel like someone special. The view from the restaurant’s large bay window is of the magnificent High Tor. The poet Byron was fascinated with this landscape’s rugged, harsh beauty and F C Mutton, the author of the 1939 Penguin County Guide to Derbyshire, suggests that High Tor in Matlock Bath might well be the “loveliest crag in the whole of England”.
After being treated to a couple of delicate hors d’oeuvres, beautifully described by our waitress for the evening; Andrea, our wine guide, related some brief tasting notes about the glass of Chateau d’Aydie fresh, dry white wine we were drinking and a few facts about the producer. This was how the evening was to progress. Each course was accompanied by a different wine and with each wine we were given suggestions of what tastes to expect and how it had been chosen to accompany the various dishes. Andrea also related a potted history of some of the wine producers.
Before the first course, which was duck, we nibbled on a warm bread roll with creamy, thyme butter. The first plate consisted of a pressing of duck liver parfait and home cured goose ham. These are strong, rich, earthy flavours and the Chateau d’Aydie dry white was the perfect accompaniment.
Before the second plate we were presented with ‘a bit of fun’ an amuse bouche of thick, creamy vichyssoise topped with a thin slice of fried potato and lurking, hidden at the bottom of the dish a soft boiled quails egg.
The next dish was pan roast langoustine, a ballotine of rabbit, nettle purée and a shard of salsify all brought together with a reduced white wine sauce. These are all delicate flavours and the 2016 Bogle Vineyards Viognier was an ideal pairing; floral, tropical with a hint of vanilla.
The third dish was tortellini filled with a pesto sauce that erupted in your mouth. It was dressed with a roasted pine nut crumb and topped with parmesan crisps. With the pasta we sipped a Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon from Hunter Valley, New South Wales: fresh tasting with ripe citrus flavours.
Once more the cutlery changed and into another stylish, hand blown crystal glass was poured a bright ruby full bodied red wine: Humberto Canale – Seleccion de la Familla Cabernet Franc. The dark red fruit flavours of this wine had been selected to accompany the tender venison loin; with a hint of barbeque charring, a selection of vibrant greens, coffee and celeriac purée and a chocolate scented jus.
The cheese course came in the form of a Mull of Kintyre cheese soufflé, rhubarb 3 ways; one a chutney and, scattered over it, a walnut crumble. A new world, slightly oaked, dark red Pinot Noir complemented the distinctive cheese and rhubarb flavours.
Before the citrus, as the final course is called, we enjoyed pre-dessert amuse bouche. This time the wine was a complete change of pace: a Passito di Noto; a sweet, white Sicilian wine made from one of the oldest vines in the world: Moscato Bianco. The wine was the perfect foil for the sharp flavours of the white chocolate and lemon cheesecake and the sorbet, crumb and gel made from blood orange, calamansi and limes.
Two and a half hours after taking our seats in the Artistry we completed the tasting with 2 delicate petit fours: a pistachio and dark chocolate and concentrated red berry jelly.
John has designed a menu to reflect his love for the area, its fine produce and his classical training with influences from his experiences and travels. The six-course tasting menu is relaxed, yet well thought out; it provides variety, fun and an education. These are balanced dishes of flavour and texture with wine pairing that leave me speechless with admiration. This is a great tasting menu, you won’t be stuffed, just pleasantly full and take away the memory of an evening of fine food, wine and theatre.