Dinner At The Recently Renovated Cow in Dalbury Lees
Sometimes life is really good. The Man Bird and I pulled up in the car park at The Cow in Dalbury Lees and looked at the houses in this pretty little village, drank in the village green and the sound of chatter, and gave a couple of contented sighs. The sun was still shining in the early evening after gracing us with its presence all day, and I defy anyone not to feel a gazillion times better when the sun has been warming their bones.
Having recently been extended and renovated as a boutique Inn with informal dining restaurant/bar area, the premises really are gorgeous. A great effort has been made to keep the original character of the building which dates from the 19th century; I personally love the red bricks and tiles that the floor was made up of in the area we were dining in. There is more wood than you can shake a proverbial stick at in evidence at The Cow, but again this is something that appeals to me.
Our tables were uber-chic, beaten metal topped affairs with co-ord rosy bronzed cutlery; the seating was wooden bench and banquette style, but the padding on them was lovely and deep to ensure diner comfort. For me, the show-stoppers were the two milk churn bar stools; they just captured the quirky, eccentric character of English villages.
Like its sister establishments The Three Horseshoes on Long Lane, and The Cock Inn at Mugginton, The Cow has a quite breath-taking bar. The bar is quite contemporary in comparison to the rest of the building and there is a great range of guest ales, beers and lagers to choose from; the wine list isn’t too shabby either - I had a cheeky Claret with my meal, very nice it was :) Gin lovers will find their own piece of paradise here too with the more than ample selection of Gins and Tonics to choose from.
Whilst I’m mentioning The Cock Inn at Mugginton, I just want to congratulate them on their very recent win at the National Pub and Bar Awards 2018. They scooped the crown in the East Midlands, County of Derbyshire category!
The theme of the cuisine on offer at The Cow is “British Tapas”, but there are more traditional main meals/larger plates/big troughs to choose from too if that’s more your thing. Having fallen prey to the “tapas won’t fill us up” trap before, His Nibs and I skipped the temptation of the on the hoof/nibbles section of the menu and looked at the other morsels on offer.
There’s a fab selection of cow pats (flat breads) and I was seriously thinking of having the Pear and Walnut with Buxton Blue cheese variety for my main before I looked at the feed buckets/small plates.
There are seriously yummy items on the feed bucket section of the menu, and the Goats Cheese and Spinach bread and butter pudding caught my eye straightaway; you know what I’m like with cheese – I could live without anything, but not cheese! I also liked the sound of the Sweet Potato and Israeli cous-cous salad with toasted Walnuts, Pomegranate, and Orange dressing.
A couple of udder bits (sides) got my mouth watering too; the Roast Fennel Hearts with popped Cherry Tomatoes, and the French Bean salad with French dressing, Capers (yum!!), and Chervil both sounded just the job on a balmy evening.
The Man Bird chose Crispy Dauphinoise bites with Tomato and Chilli dip, Packington Pork Satay Skewers with roasted Chilli nuts and Spring Onion, and Packington Saddleback Ham Hock Scotch Egg with homemade Tomato jam and seasonal leaf salad to graze on.
When it comes to tapas eating there’s no set sequence to it; the food just comes out as and when the Chef has cooked it, so from the get-go the atmosphere is relaxed and unhurried. The Packington Pork Satay Skewers and the Sweet Potato and Israeli cous-cous salad came out first and we tucked in with our customary enthusiasm.
The Pork skewers were packed with taste and were a lovely, generous size. There’s something satisfying about prising off the meat from a skewer with your teeth and really chomping away on it; The Boy Wonder is very adept at it! The chunky Satay sauce had a really good punch to it too, which partnered the Pork very nicely.
Chunks of Sweet Potato and Red Pepper were mingled in with the giant cous-cous, crunchy Walnut pieces and tart Pomegranate seeds. As I scooped up a forkful of the salad I got a myriad textures and tastes all bouncing around in my mouth; it was a real sunshine dish, one made even more so by the great citrusy Orange dressing.
Luckily for His Nibs, the sunshine had put me in the mood for sharing, so when my Goats Cheese and Spinach dish came out I agreed to let him have a bite. Clearly I was always having the first taste, and wowsers it was beautiful! The fabulous tang of the cheese came shining through, and the spinach was nice and creamy; The Man Bird was enjoying the Goats Cheese too, he’s getting quite adventurous just lately. The contrast between the toasted, crunchy top of the bread and butter pudding, and the creamy, soft inner was really clever and it made the dish totally sublime.
There was only a short gap separating the arrival of the roast Fennel Hearts and the French Bean salad, and the Crispy Dauphinoise bites and the Packington Saddleback Ham Hock Scotch Egg. Consequently our table looked like a teenager’s bedroom, with bits and bobs vying for space; we were acting like teens too, reaching over each other and pinching bits of food!
The Scotch Egg is a total crowd pleaser; it had a ridiculously rich tasting yolk that was nectar to the taste buds, and it was just runny enough. A thick layer of lightly seasoned Ham Hock meat surrounded the egg, and this had then been coated in crumb and cooked until crispy on the outside. This dish is served warm, not hot, which seems to intensify the flavours of all the different elements. The homemade Tomato jam was lovely and tangy with a pleasingly robust texture that made it ideal to dip into without it dripping everywhere.
Another dish with a great contrast between layers was the Crispy Dauphinoise bites. The deliciously creamy middle was encased by a wickedly crispy batter outer that yielded a cheekily loud crunch when bitten into :) These bites are paired with a wonderfully zingy Tomato and Chilli dip which really stood out against the plain potato taste.
The roast Fennel Hearts were simply stunning; it’s often the simplest dishes that stand out in a sea of others. To my surprise they weren’t as aniseedy as I was expecting, the taste was just a whisper – but no less delightful for it. The roasted cherry Tomatoes were also superb in their juicy sweetness, and the two vegetables worked very nicely together.
Crunchy Green Beans had been partnered with plenty of Capers and their salty tang more than held its own against the punchy French salad dressing. The flavours were clean, crisp and bright on the palate, another marvellous dish to savour on a warm spring evening.
If I’m being perfectly honest, there isn’t a single dish on the menu that The Man Bird and I didn’t go “ooh, that sounds nice” at, so there is plenty of choice at The Cow at Dalbury Lees. There wasn’t a single pudding that we couldn’t have demolished either; but we settled on the Treacle Tart with Clotted Cream for me, and the Rhubarb and Custard Fool with Pink Peppercorn Shortbread for His Nibs.
My Treacle Tart was a complete smasher in all its gooey glory. A nice firm buttery pastry base housed a thick layer of Treacly wondrousness, and there was a nice thin baked layer of treacle to form a discernible top. Micro Lemon Balm leaves adorned the quenelle of clotted cream, so it looked very pretty on the plate as it came to me. The tart was served warm so the clotted cream began to melt as I plopped it on top; granted, it didn’t much of a chance to melt as I was a complete piggy and soon walloped it down!
Across the table, The Man was showing a bit more class than me, I’m ashamed to admit. His choice of dessert was also a pretty thing to behold with its two-tone appearance. The bottom, rose hued rhubarb layer was wonderfully tart on the tongue, and the top cream coloured tier was sinfully good custard. There’s a tendency sometimes to over-sweeten custard, which I personally don’t like; the Chef at The Cow thinks as I do and the custard in this Fool was perfect, tempering the fruit fantastically well.
Gorgeous crumbly Shortbread rounds provided a great textural hit for this pud, and they just had a gentle whisper of peppercorn warmth to them. Another dessert that went down rather nicely.
We finished up our evening with two black coffees, and were pleasantly surprised by the generous cups that they came in. Other than Espresso, there should always be enough coffee for you to leave a little rather than be left needing/wanting a second cup I think. The coffee used was a rounded medium roast that didn’t require either the addition of sugar or milk to it; it was perfectly capable of being drunk solo.
The prices at The Cow are reasonable too, and there’s a simple price scale for each menu section. Nibbles are all £3.50 each, Flat breads are £8.50, small plates priced at either £5.50 or £6.50, large plates were £11, and desserts all £5 except the mouse (cheese) board that carries a £2 supplement.
Hot Wings are definitely deserved here; we had no complaints about the quality and quantity of food served, or indeed the quality of the service. Definitely no complaints about the premises in terms of either cleanliness or atmosphere, both were spot-on. Seriously, if you haven’t been here before I recommend that you don’t leave it too long to come and try it for yourselves :)