Dinner At The Farmhouse, Mackworth
I’m a social little birdie as you know reader, as well as being a total foodie and inquisitive (ok, nosey!). So when an invite comes my way to check out a new venue, it’s a pretty sure-fire deal that I’m going to accept without the need to be asked twice!
The Man Bird was nominated as chauffeur for the night, and I and the Chick were chirruping away excitedly as to what lay ahead. The car parking is more than ample, so there was no panic as we pulled up at the premises which are a very pretty stone farmhouse and a former pub (The Folly).The entrance to the Farmhouse is lovely with Potted Bay Trees lining the doorway, and when you go through the door there are logs artfully stacked at the side of a roaring feature fire and screen. The main bar is very spacious with lots of distinct little seating areas, some raised up and some tucked away, and is separated from the restaurant by glass doors. There is a lovely feeling of space throughout, but plenty of focal features to maintain an inviting atmosphere where it could easily have become overwhelmingly open and lost its charm. One thing I personally liked were the exposed light bulbs on copper pipes that were in both areas, and the copper lamps in the Wood fired Pizza area. The design team have managed to blend old world comfort with modern edginess without either jarring the other, something that is never easy to pull off. The background music was also at a gentle level so that it could be heard clearly but not intrudes on conversation. The attention to detail so far was very encouraging; could the food be equally delightful?
We were seated at a table close to the Wood-Fired Pizza oven but also overlooking a lower dining area with delightful rural views. The menu itself is quite extensive, with pleasingly different offerings to other venues. I eventually settled on the Homemade Smoked Haddock Chowder with Softly Poached Hen Egg, The Boy Wonder had Charcoal Oven-roasted Marinated Duck Skewers with Asian Salad, Sticky Plum dressing and Toasted Sesame and Chickadee had The Slow Cooked Pork and Potato Hash with Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce. My Chowder had the beautiful velvetiness to it that Chowder is renowned for and the Haddock Chunks were firm and really tasty. The egg was indeed softly poached, down to the millisecond I would guess - absolute perfection. The Mans skewers were lovely and tender, very flavoursome and an abundance of meat that was most satisfying for a starter. My chick declared her pork to be melt in the mouth and very tasty. She said it was the nicest Pork she’d ever had (including her Nanas) - praise indeed. All the dishes were nicely presented and garnished minimally so as not to detract from the dish itself. In this case, the food did a marvellous job at speaking for itself and needed no decoration.
For our mains we chose a range of different meats; The Man plumped for a 28 day aged Fillet Steak with accompanying Sweet Potato Fries and Beer Battered Onion Rings. I decided on The Duo of British Pork (Stuffed Belly and Slow-Braised Pig Cheeks) with Buttered Sweet Potato Mash, Savoy Cabbage and Red Wine Jus, and The Chick chose Pan-fried Chicken Breast with Ratatouille, Potato Gratin, Crispy Pancetta and Oyster mushroom Sauce. Again, the dishes were minimally garnished with just a couple of sprigs of Fresh Herbs to maximise the impact of the meal. My baby was very pleased with her Chicken which was beautifully moist and tender, superbly highlighted by the crispy Pancetta. The Ratatouille was nice and chunky with a substantial sauce, not an insipid watery affair that inferior restaurants serve up. Silence had descended on our table for what seemed a long period of time whilst the Boy Wonder savoured his Steak (which was cooked perfectly medium). He said the meat was “tender as you like and chock full of flavour “, and he was also impressed with the Pepper sauce he had chosen to sample. In fact, the meat was so superb that he even said he was only going to pop a smidge of sauce on his plate as he didn’t want to detract from its flavour - but the Steaks loss was the Sweet Potatoes gain! Now what can I say about my duo of Pork? All that springs to mind is “wow“! The contrast of flavours and texture between the two cuts was sublime; the creamy yet meatier texture of the Belly was juxtaposed exquisitely by the oomph and depth of flavour of the cheek. The cabbage retained just the right amount of its natural crunch to keep its beautiful flavour whilst being cooked through, and the Sweet Potato mash was lovely. Again, the Jus added a perfect amount of flavour to the dish without over-powering any of the other items on the plate.
For our dessert selection we were perhaps more predictable in our choices – Baby Bird opted for the Warm Gooey Chocolate Brownie and Vanilla Flavoured Ice Cream, I chose the Caramelised Poached Pear Creme Brulee with Walnut Shortbread and His-nibs had the Dark Chocolate and Praline Pot with Homemade Biscotti. The Brownie was indeed very chocolatey and gooey accompanied by a good quality vanilla ice cream that provided a great contrast to its richness; the Chick made short work of her dessert as I’m sure you can imagine dear reader. Likewise, The Man soon devoured his choice - the Praline had a lovely dark flavour to it and it was one of those delights that coated the tongue so that you could savour its velvety texture as it cocooned your taste buds. The Biscotti provided the perfect counterpart with their crisp crunchiness. One of my favourite sounds in the world is that satisfying “ crack “ you hear when you thwack the Caramelised sugar top on a properly executed Creme Brulee and , oh-my-gosh , I had a real Feather- Fluffing Tingle when I heard that sublime sound. For a few seconds I just sat with a grin on my little beak and drank that small pleasure in - much to the amusement of my Flock. That delicious sugar top gave way to reveal a sumptuous vanilla crème and perfectly poached pear slivers that had retained their natural texture and firmness with no hint of grittiness at all. The little rounds of Walnut Shortbread were delicately nutty so as not to stifle the delicate tastes of the Pear or Vanilla Creme. It was just an utterly perfect dessert in my eyes - sorry to keep raving on - but it was.
Now back down to earth for the (very important) nitty-gritty details that can make or break an experience at any venue. The staff were all incredibly polite and attentive throughout our evening, and they were very knowledgeable about the meats and produce used in their dishes. Check-backs were done at each course we were served, each time with a cheery smile. Plates were cleared in a pleasant amount of time and fresh cutlery placed accordingly in front of us.
I can honestly say, with no hint of pretension that if I could dine here every night of the week, I would. There really was nothing to fault - even the “hygiene facilities“ had managed to have features made of them ! Please, I implore you, dear reader, don’t leave it long before you go here, it really will lift your spirits. It doesn’t have to be an occasion – they do Wood-fired Pizzas in the evenings, and Sandwiches and Ciabattas until 6pm, so you could always pop in on your way back from Alton Towers or even a detour from shopping in the City of Derby.
Hot Wings have most definitely been awarded to “Team Farmhouse“ - but these ones tap dance and are Scoville scale hot to boot :)