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Christmas Dining At East Lodge With Coghlans Food and Wine Experience, Rowsley


Published On Sunday 17 Dec 2023 by Sticky Beak
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His Nibs and I have been very fortunate to dine at East Lodge at the invitation of Coghlans Derbyshire Wine and Food Experience Centre before, and always had a wonderful time, so we were thrilled to be asked back for the Christmas Dining evening. It’s been one of those years where time has gone far too quickly and we haven’t seen as much of some friends as we’d wanted, so we invited a couple of them to join us.



Fledge had gamely volunteered to drive us to East Lodge though, as we battled through flood-waters, crater-like potholes and then thick fog, I think she was beginning to rue her decision! Anyhow, we made it safely to the venue and were greeted very warmly by Mr Andrew Coghlan himself whilst another lovely member of the team took our coats for us.



Andrew showed us to our table and poured us our welcome drink: a very cheeky Framboise Royale, whose bubbles instantly lifted our mood. Crackers had been placed at each setting and our party quickly pulled them and donned colourful paper hats – well, if you can’t wear party hats at Christmas, when can you?! There’s always a fantastic atmosphere at these Coghlans-hosted events, and you could tell that ‘Festive fever’ was in the air, making it even more ‘extra’.



With everyone seated, it was time for the evening to begin in earnest and the serving team came round with our first course: Chef Will Nicol’s warm Cheese and Herb Scone with Smoked Trout, Crème Fraiche and dressed Salad. Now, you all know that His Nibs doesn’t do ‘fishy’ fish so I was expecting double helpings; no such luck, thanks to him doing a full 180 and declaring that he really liked this! The flavours were light and fresh, with a delicate smokiness from the Trout and a hint of sharpness from the Crème Fraiche.  Trout has a delightful oiliness to it that lingers in the mouth and coats the tongue and cheeks with its richness, and Andrew had selected a wine that cut through this oil perfectly: a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand.



Our second course was a Parsnip and Apple Soup, presented in a cup and decorated with Newcastle-grown micro herbs and herb oil. The flavours in this were superb: winter warmth in liquid form, if you will. The Man Bird flids out about Parsnips, too (I swear he can taste one in a huge pan of soup – the culinary version of the princess and the pea!), but he surprised me yet again by finishing this morsel. Maybe it’s my cooking he doesn’t like???! Andrew had chosen a Verdelho wine to accompany this course, saying that its combination of Sauvignon’s crispness and Chardonnay’s fattiness would be superb with this; he wasn’t wrong either.



Whilst we’d been savouring the soup, Andrew had quietly been pouring the next courses wine into our glasses; a grippy Malbec from Argentina’s Mendoza region that he’d allowed to warm up over several hours. Partnering this beautiful tipple was a stunning piece of roasted saddle of Derbyshire Lamb, earthy, sweet roasted Beetroots, Honeyed Carrots and a crushed Potato and Shallot Cake. We’ve had some lovely Lamb in our time, but this was an absolutely exquisite bit of meat. I’ve always said that you can tell if an animal has had a good life and I remarked to my friend that this particular Lamb had clearly been having it large at a rave, so good was it! Andrew came round with a jug of the cooking jus and, when asked, I said that I would indeed like some more…then promptly took some of the fresh table rolls to dunk into it.



The dessert was a more-than-delicious Christmas Pudding & Frangipane Tart served with Salted Cream, and it really did epitomise the flavours of the Festive season. Nice, juicy fruit had a hint of spice in the mouth, and Frangipane’s sweetness married marvellously with them. Buttery pastry melted instantly on the tongue, imparting a nice, mellow fatty note on the palate that was assuaged by the salty edge in the Cream. Chefs Will and Meg are artists in their own rights, but proved here that they collaborate amazingly well; each and every diner was heaping praise on them as they came out to take a bow, so to speak, as we concluded this course.



Andrew had selected another red wine, a bold Shiraz, to go with the final course that was a taste of local Cheeses, Fruits and Artisan Crackers. With a strong red cheese and a Blue Cheese on the menu, the Shiraz with its tannins and medium acidity proved to be just the ticket, slipping down rather nicely. The trick, I think, is to allow red wines time to ‘breathe’ – especially if you do have the luxury of time, and Andrew had given this beauty plenty of opportunity to stretch out and showcase all of its wonderful layers of flavour.


Yet again, time had simply flown by and it was time to bid our farewells and go once more in to the night. Andrew had informed us of more dates for these wonderful dining events, and also of the pairing events that are hosted in the unit at Peak Village. For more information on any of these, visit the website www.cookingexpert.co.uk or give Lisa and Donna a buzz on 01246 453131.



Heartfelt thanks to Lisa for inviting us to this memorable evening; and thanks also to Chefs Will Nicol and Meg Lkhagvadorj for enchanting us with your delicious food, and to Andrew Coghlan for his insights on wine and being the ‘host with the most’. Not forgetting the great team that served us almost invisibly – how you manage to do that certainly is a skill.


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