As the year drifts slowly in to Autumn the chill in the air indicates that it’s time to put away the short sleeve shirts and shorts and consign the thoughts of dining al fresco to next Summer. The longer nights need a cosy atmosphere, pleasant surroundings, attentive service and, of course, excellent food.
One Saturday evening, in search of this quartet of goodies, we made our way to Morley Hayes. The hotel and golf complex is home to three restaurants, The Dovecote, Roosters, and The Spike Bar, offering a range of dining experiences from fine dining to informal bar snacks.
Our destination was the Dovecote; a restaurant that has earned a reputation as one of the finest in Derbyshire. We were greeted with a warm welcome as we stepped in to the stylish, contemporary surroundings of the Dovecote’s bar and without any fuss our pre-dinner drinks order was taken and canapés served. These were a selection of green and black olives and 2 bite sized tomato shortbreads toped with cream cheese and diced black olives. Ideal savoury accompaniments to the first drinks of the evening.
We relaxed in the bar, chatted, read through the menu and with a little advice from restaurant manager Simon, made our choices. The chefs use seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients to create the mouth-watering menu, so local that the Dexter ribeye is from a farm in the neighbouring village.
Just as we finished our drinks our waitress appeared and showed us to our candlelit table in the restaurant. The Dovecote’s interior has been designed in such a way that it doesn’t hide the original structure but still creates a variety of spaces and, with the creative use of lighting and fabrics, a cosy atmosphere. As we waited we nibbled on a selection of warm breads.
For her starter Susan chose the duck liver parfait with cherries and whole wheat crackers. The fruity black cherry cut through the rich, silky-smooth parfait and, along with the crisp texture of the cracker, it created a perfect first course.
I selected the cep mushroom velouté. The velouté was rich with mushroom flavour. It was served with pickled mushrooms and egg yoke on a lightly grilled piece of sour dough. This added a sweet note and a crisp texture in contrast to the earthy, smooth bowl of tasty mushrooms.
Our mains arrived picture perfect. Susan’s was the dry aged duck breast which she’d asked to be served just a little pink. It was soft and perfectly pink. The sliced duck was served with crispy edged panhaggerty potatoes and French beans that had retained all their flavour and still had a little ‘snap’. A revelation was the elderberry sauce. It enhanced the duck with its floral taste; it was not too sweet and not too fruity.
My main was the rare breed belly pork with sweetcorn, roasted shallots and char grilled baby leeks. This was served with a generous slice of Spanish morcilla sausage.
The shallots and leeks complimented the melt in the mouth pork which had the ‘just right’ balance of meat to fat ratio.
Susan chose a pleasant Sauvignon Blanc to go with her meal and I opted for a glass of Malbec; with its inky dark colour and robust tannins it was an ideal partner to the pork.
We decided to end the evening with a dessert each. For Susan it was the Dovecote’s baba. A calvados soaked yeast cake; topped with fresh black berries and a quenelle of fruity ice cream. The treacle tart was my choice. An incredibly thin, crisp pastry case was filled with a toffee flavoured, treacle mixture that only attained its full sweetness when it warmed and hit the back of my mouth. A pudding from my childhood served with clotted cream.
We thanked Simon and his staff for their faultless, professional service throughout the evening and made our way out to the well lit car park. It was a mild September evening and I wondered if perhaps Summer hadn’t quite said ‘goodbye’ to 2018.
The Dovecote deserves its fine dining status. Within easy reach of Derby and Nottingham and set in the Derbyshire countryside with delightful views over the golf course, the restaurant is ideal for family celebrations or enjoying a quiet candle-lit meal for two. With set lunch and dinner menus along with an a la carte menu, you’ll be spoilt for choice. It also offers indulgent afternoon teas and champagne breakfasts for that special celebration.