As we crossed the threshold I blushed a little as I suddenly recalled that my last visit to The Peacock at Rowsley, some years ago admittedly, was with a previous boyfriend who had impeccable taste and was the owner of a small hotel on Jersey. This visit was on a very wet April evening with my lovely husband, and, as we were shown into the bar where a fire roared in the grate, I felt the same sense of history in this beautiful old hotel. Situated on the A6 through Rowsley, The Peacock Hotel is a grade II listed former manor house built in 1652, and as part of the Haddon Estate it is presently owned by Lord and Lady Edward Manners. Dan Smith, a Michelin trained chef, has for the last 10 years with his team earned The Peacock a place in the top 10% of restaurants in the country with 3 AA Rosettes.
Assistant manager Katie welcomed us and showed us into the bar which is like stepping back in time with its heavily leaded stone mullion windows and uneven flagged floors. Serving both a bar and à la carte menu, we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink while we made our menu choices and began to unwind after a challenging day. Here too we were served an ‘amuse bouché’ of roast butternut squash and blue cheese dressed with truffle oil, this was rich and intense in flavour with a side of beef tartare and pickled cucumber which really awoke the taste buds.
Shown into the dining room by Oliver, the food and beverage manager, we were seated under the watchful eyes of Lord Robert Manners (the portrait of course), who was killed April 12 1782. As the room filled there was friendly chatter among some of the resident guests making a very convivial atmosphere. My starter of hand picked crab was mixed with delicate pink beetroot cured salmon with a little heat added by the horseradish, a classic accompaniment. My husbands’ spinach ravioli was soft and silky, filled with the soft yolk of an egg, with sweet little peas it sat on a butter and chive sauce.
From a well-balanced selection of main dishes I chose the Goosnargh chicken, run through with wild garlic and with a crisp skin, it was beautifully moist. Circled by buttery leeks and morels it was served with a side of an individual chicken pie piped with soft potato. The soft texture of the morels against the chicken was delicious. The flavour of my husbands beef fillet and the rich beef cheek made him smile, it just fell apart. It was served with charred artichoke, spring cabbage and miso.
A light and fresh citrus Greek yogurt and sorbet was served pre dessert as a palette cleanser. As well as a dessert menu there was also my choice, a ‘Tart of the day’ which was a lemon tart with a light, thin, buttery pastry shell and beautifully sharp lemon filling it had a thin brittle caramel top. The rhubarb and fromage frais dessert served for my husband was both a work of art visually and had a great balance of texture and flavours, I just couldn’t resist sneaking a taste.
We took our coffee and delicate, handmade petits fours in the lounge, a quiet and relaxing area. We had enjoyed a really outstanding meal, beautifully prepared by a true artist, with flavours balanced with skill and care, using only the finest ingredients. The staff were both attentive but discreet, most of them having worked here for the last ten years creating a seamless team and well deserved fine reputation. Our evening was truly memorable in every respect, and it is abundantly obvious why The Peacock at Rowsley sits comfortably amongst our finest hotels.
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