Dinner At The Three Horseshoes, Long Lane Village, Ashbourne
Right now I’m wishing I wasn’t Sticky Beak. I would give anything to be Marty McFly and have a time traveling DeLorean that could take me back to the glorious setting of The Three Horseshoes restaurant. But first, let me mention the superb little bar area that greets you as you walk through the door. It may only be small/snug/cosy/bijou/whatever you want to call it but by crikey it’s lovely with its real open log fire and dark ceiling beams and knick-knacks on the bar shelves.
I really liked the fact that my G&T was served in a crystal tumbler, it was just a bit different. There were plenty of locals in having a drink and a chin-wag and when we mentioned we were dining there was a fleeting pang of jealousy on their faces then an enthusiastic “enjoy”. Looking back, I can see why they were jealous of our impending meal; I would feel exactly the same now.
Before I crack on with the main review I am going to give you a ”superlative overload” warning. Honestly, my electronic thesaurus has gone into meltdown there just aren’t enough words of praise that I can use to describe the entire evening; from the surroundings, the staff, service and the meal itself. It really was one of those evenings that was perfect from beginning to end.
The original building has exposed wood beams, black and red tiles on the floor, exposed brickwork with the iron nails still in from when it was used for livestock, and there are several little areas with a small number of tables in so that it keeps its homely feel. We were seated in the new extension that has been done very much in keeping with the rest of the building so that you don’t feel jarred as you walk from one space to the other. There was a solid wood floor in here with the ceiling timbers and cladding being reclaimed from a school. The natural wood tables were complimented by chairs upholstered with mid brown leather, as was the banquette seating on the back wall.
What really takes your eye are the utterly magnificent ceiling lights; they are massive and completely unique. They started off their lives as gas lights along the Blackpool Promenade but now are powered by electricity and lend a breathtaking effect to the room. Behind the bar, high up near the rafters, is a majestic Stags Head presiding over the affairs in the restaurant.
It would be really easy to ruin the chic, classy, calming space with the addition of fussy curtains or drapes but the owner, Howard, took his time to get the feel of the room and has installed muted, neutral drapes to frame the windows that open onto a gorgeous terrace with its enticing fire pit and seating. As a consequence, your eye skips over them as a background item and concentrates on the previously mentioned features.
The mirrored wall at the opposite end of the room to the bar gives the illusion of a larger space whilst allowing staff to discreetly monitor the progress of your meal. Now, I have mentioned the bar a couple of times in passing and it really does deserve a mention of its own; not only is its frontage 500 years old (and stunning) but the lighting and arrangement blends into the feel of the restaurant rather than being at odds with the space.
The Boy Wonder and I sat down and our server, Ellie, handed us the a la carte menu and the fixed price menu and told us what the day’s specials were. I can truthfully say that I’ve never seen such a fantastic fixed price menu, it could easily pass for an a la carte selection at many an establishment.
As it happened we chose from the a la carte menu; Seared Chicken livers with Wholegrain mustard and buttered puff pastry for me to start, and (surprise surprise) Ham Hock terrine with Celeriac Remoulade and pickled vegetable for The Man. The livers were cooked perfectly, the mustard was just in evidence enough so that you got that lovely warmth and tang from it, and the two components mingled marvellously on the palate. Buttery smoothness from the pastry just enhanced the dish beautifully and my little beak was chattering away with sheer bliss.
His Nibs has had a few terrines lately, and every establishment does them slightly differently and presents them uniquely. Gareth, the chef at the Three Horseshoes, keeps his ham chunky in the terrine with a subtle seasoning that allows the meat to shine through. The result is a really nice depth to the flavour and great texture in the mouth provided by the chunks of Ham in the terrine. Pickled vegetables were something new for The Boy to have with terrine and he really enjoyed the subtle tang they provided, as well as the crunch from them on his tongue.
When Ellie came to ask if everything was ok with our starters we grinned like idiots at her and nodded our heads wildly, we couldn’t emphasise our satisfaction enough.
This is where the DeLorean would again come in very handy, not only to relive that portion of the meal but to lessen the wait for our main courses. Not that we had to wait long, don’t misunderstand me dear reader, but we were so looking forward to the next course we were literally bouncing in our seats with excitement.
Before long our eagerly anticipated mains arrived - Blade of dry aged Black Angus beef with Onions, Bacon, button Mushrooms and Potato puree for Man Bird and Sea Trout with seared Scallops, Saffron cream, Spinach and New Potatoes for yours truly. I did swap out the potatoes for a green salad, as I often do. It must just be one of my little quirks, but I don’t particularly like potato with fish (unless it’s in a fishcake, then it’s perfectly acceptable).
Boy Wonder said that it was one of the tastiest bits of Beef he’d had in a long time; the beef itself had a superb natural flavour to it and the slow cooking(for 10 hours) meant that it literally just melted in his mouth. In contrast to me, His Nibs would eat potato all day long in all its various guises and he said that this puree was utterly divine in its creaminess. I think I guilted him into having some semblance of healthiness by ordering salad as he ordered a side of mixed vegetables which were a pleasing mix of both sliced, and baby whole, carrots, Broccoli florets, Peas and whole Green Beans.
My Sea Trout had the most wonderful pink colour to it, not forced by additives, just resplendent in the colours Mother Nature had bestowed upon it. By golly it tasted utterly scrumptious; I just can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was. The flesh was firm, juicy and had a gorgeous taste to it - I suppose the nearest thing would be to say it was halfway between sweet Haddock and Salmon although that really doesn’t begin to do it any kind of justice. The Scallops were the best I’ve tasted with their sweet perfumed taste that just had my taste buds doing a celebratory happy dance that wouldn’t look amiss in Rio Carnival.
My salad had Avocado, baby Basil, Green Olives, pea shoots and Cucumber in and tasted vibrantly fresh in the mouth. Where is that blooming DeLorean? I really did need it! Ellie came to check our happiness with the mains and was greeted with double thumbs ups.
For pudding I chose Gareth’s Bread and Butter pudding with its creamy thick homemade custard and The Man opted for Eton mess. The bread and butter pudding had a fantastic crust on it that was contrasted amazingly by the rich, smooth custard, and I loved the touch of putting the sultanas on the bottom in a layer instead of throughout the dessert. Those that don’t mind a bit of fruit can just have as much as they want rather than having to fish them out, as is the usual case.
His Nibs’ Eton Mess was served in a large goblet and contained plenty of fresh Strawberries, raspberries, Blueberries and Blackberries cocooned in a plethora of fresh whipped cream and an avalanche of Meringue pieces. The beauty of serving the dish this way (according to the Eton Mess connoisseur aka Boy Wonder) is that it allows you to mix the fruit, cream and meringue into a completely tantalising harmony of flavours before devouring it. The result was that it got completely gobbled up with a contented sigh at the end.
As you know dear reader, I could live without anything....... but not without Cheese. So imagine my (by now) complete and utter frustration at not having the magic car when I gazed, enthralled, at the cheeseboard that passed teasingly by my table. Not that my gluttonous tummy could physically have fitted in another morsel at that point in the proceedings, but in my head I had worshipped each of the twenty- plus cheeses in the rustic wooden crate housing them.
Even better, the cheeseboard is brought to your table for you to peruse and appreciate. You have a choice of crackers or artisan bread with the cheese, which I liked, and a mouth watering selection of chutneys too. Had my tummy not being too full to fly I could seriously have swooped in and flown off back to the nest with them. Two lattes made their way all too soon to our table, I really didn’t want the evening to end.
Another thing I like is that, although The Three Horseshoes provides a fine dining experience it doesn’t exclude children and has a fantastic Kids menu with the mains all priced at £4.90. I am a firm believer in families dining together wherever possible and this setting makes that so easy.
All the staff were very smart, efficient and polite but our server, Ellie, was an absolute superstar I must say. She was incredibly polite and her enthusiasm for her job and the food was unbounded.
When she mentioned the Sunday Lunch that The Three Horseshoes do we asked if we could see the menu for that, and I love the idea that you can have one, two or three courses so that all appetites are catered for. Another great point is that the lunch is served from noon through until 8pm so if you have a busy family where members have activities in the day you can re-group and chat over a delicious lunch/dinner.
I seriously cannot recommend The Three Horseshoes enough and can only say that if you think it’s a bit far away than you tend to go for eating out it is really worth the effort to go that bit further and visit here. *Sigh* I really would like a DeLorean!! “Hot Wings” definitely deserved here.