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The Black Swan
Ashover, Derbyshire
01246 591926
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Out For Opening Night At Stephen's At The Black Swan, Ashover

Published On Thursday 9 May 2024 by Sticky Beak
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Sometimes, I swear the universe is ear-wigging; maybe not at the right time, I mean, where is my euro millions lottery win?! I’d been musing to The Man about the fact that we hadn’t been to Ashover in a while -  though I was referring to The Stamp (where we’d had a banging brekkie a couple of years ago) – and the universe sent us The Black Swan.

Owners Dean and David Murphy have certainly grafted hard since they took over the venue in February 2024, opening up the first-floor space - which had been empty - and turning it into a rather swish, 40-seat capacity restaurant. Chef Stephen Cameron, after whom the restaurant is named (Stephen’s at The Black Swan), has loads of experience, having previously worked at the Hunloke Arms, Figaro, and Bottle and Thyme.

Keen to tap into the zeitgeist for more responsible eating, Stephen has devised a menu that caters for vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, coeliac and gluten-intolerant diners, as well as meat lovers. Children under 12 years have their own menu, too, so literally everyone is included.

Mindful of the pub’s rural location, David and Dean worked with an interior designer to deliver an inviting-yet-unique ambience to Stephen’s. You can’t fail to be impressed by the huge mural of a Stag in sun-speckled Woodland that dominates one wall, and the antler wall-lights cast a warm glow through the space. Lush green tones and foliage hanging from the ceiling further enhance the woodland-theme, the colours picked up by the green and gold runners on the table. Exposed stonework and low ceiling beams retain the original character of this gorgeous, old stone building, whose traditional character is very much retained in the downstairs pub. Dogs are welcomed warmly in the pub; so much so, they even have their own menu!

Back to the opening night, and we had been taken to our table in Stephen’s at The Black Swan and one of the serving team handed us a glass of fizz – well you’ve got to toast to a successful venture, haven’t you? Platters of amuse bouches were served to each table, containing Fresh Figs, Blue Cheese, and cubes of bread spread with an incredibly intense Tomato Tapenade that certainly got our taste buds revved up. With our curiosity piqued, we were looking forward to the mixed platters that were going to be served next.

Leek and Potato Velouté really did live up to its name; it was smooth, thick and velvety in the mouth. The Potato gave the ‘soup’ some body and a gentle creaminess, whilst the Leek leaves a subtle oniony hint on the tongue. His Nibs’ beady eye had zoned in on the Black Pudding and Pork Scotch Egg, ready cut in half and begging to be tucked into! The egg had been perfectly soft boiled, so the yolk wasn’t solid, but it wasn’t runny either and it was surrounded by a thick layer of ‘meat’ and a wonderfully crisp, golden outer. This was chockful of flavour and certainly warrants sampling when served as an item on the regular menu with crispy Leeks and a Leek and Mustard Cream sauce.

Whilst The Man was busying himself with the Scotch Egg, I took the opportunity to scoff the fresh Salmon slices, topped with ozonic Caviar! I smiled quietly to myself when I spotted the Salmon en Croute, confident that this morsel would be all mine; after all, His Nibs doesn’t like ‘fishy’ fish. Pffftt, can’t you just rely on him to put a spanner in the works?! All of a sudden, he was feeling brave and declared that he was going to try a bit: typically, he liked it and so I found myself sharing this superb treat in all its perfectly done puff pastry glory. Mind you, it was blooming moreish.

Graciously, His Nibs did leave me to the Goats- and Blue- Cheese and Grapes; along with cool Tzatziki, Heritage Tomatoes, Nocellara Olives, Tomato Tapenade, mixed leaves and Pink Pickled Onions! This little medley really pinged on the palate and was refreshingly light in the mouth. We’d also been treated to some delicious Arancini balls (not currently on the menu) and these were excellent: the rice was perfectly done and talk about packing maximum flavour into small bites!!

Perhaps the dish that had got me intrigued the most was the Savoury Cheesecake, and I have to say that it was my favourite item on the sharing board. A medium ’chunk’ encouraged you to chew and savour the soft mix of Pesto, Feta and Olive, allowing the flavours to flow languidly over the palate at differing intervals and provide a concert of splendour for the senses to appreciate. Again, this is another dish that deserves to shine in the spotlight on a regular dining evening.

Without doubt, His Nibs’ fave dish (deservedly) was the 12-hour slow cooked Beef Cheek, balanced here on a small quenelle of Truffle oil mash. Chef Stephen Cameron might not have served the total dish on the board, but he definitely didn’t skimp on the amount of Beef Cheek!     Super-soft, and juicy in the mouth, this cut of meat was brilliantly deep in terms of taste and paired exquisitely with the indulgent flavour of the Truffle oil mash.

Desserts weren’t part of the experience on the opening night, but there was no way The Man and I could pass a sweet treat up, so we ordered Lemon Tart with edible Raspberry Glass and Black Forest Chocolate and Pistachio Mousse Cake. All desserts are £8.90 and come with your choice of Fresh Cream, Vanilla-, Chocolate-, Strawberry-, or Apple Pie- Ice Cream, or Mixed Berry or Raspberry Sorbet. 

The pastry on the Lemon Tart melted on the tongue, revealing its buttery fullness when you sucked it (easy, you lot!) and the filling was pleasurably sharp, as citrus should be. The Raspberry Sorbet was dense and creamy in texture, taking longer to melt than most Sorbets you encounter. Surprisingly, the Black Forest minx is suitable for vegans, vegetarians and is gluten free; you’d never guess it, given how fabulously rich and indulgent it was. Decorated with fresh Physallis and Blueberries, this dessert looked extremely pretty and the fresh fruit contrasted wonderfully with the dark chocolate in the mousse cake. Whole Cherries were gorgeously soft and sweet, providing the final piece of the Black Forest morsel.

A couple of Rijo coffees brought our evening to its conclusion and, having thanked the team for their excellent service and our invite to share their opening event with them, it was time to head home. If this taster is any indication of the standard of food on offer at Stephen’s at The Black Swan in Ashover, Hot Wings are very happily given!!

To book a table ring 01246 591926, and visit the Facebook page ‘The Black Swan Ashover’ for all the latest details, including live music and quiz night info.

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