With talk of a Spice Girls reunion on the horizon, I have been listening to the back catalogue of their music. One song sprang to mind as I was leaving my most recent review place; The Horseshoes Long Lane, Derbyshire which is a place that has been on my radar for some time. (More on that Spice Girls’ song later.)
The Horseshoes falls under the umbrella of Berkeley Inns, a rapidly growing hospitality group leading the way in serving good food made with high quality ingredients and served in a gastropub environ.
After getting booked in to review, I found myself outside a quaint, pale biscuit coloured building emblazoned with ‘The Horseshoes’. Glad that I was in the right place and appreciating the fairly short drive from home, we were soon ensconced in the back of the eatery in the restaurant section.
Warm wood, sepia tones and candle light made for a heady triumvirate. Considering it was mid-week, the place had a nice buzz about it. I spied a few couples on date-night, yet the larger tables were taken by sprawling families, highlighting the diverse appeal of The Horseshoes.
To those who know me, I love bread. Give me warm bread and room temperature salted butter, and I’d happily pledge fealty and tattoo your name across my forehead. There was a good chance I was going to visit the nearest tattoo parlour, when a pile of warm bread and soft butter arrived with a flourish. Rye bread with a hint of lemon was refreshing and exceptionally good, whilst the sliced Parisienne loaf was soft and ticked all the boxes for a traditionalist.
I kicked off with a starter of confit duck leg (Asian dressing, pak choi, pea shoots). Succulent meat in a sublime Asian inspired glaze was the stuff of dreams. The hint of Hoisin and Chinese five spice went exceedingly well with the duck flavour. Presentation was exemplary, using fried noodles to create a focal point (I also squished these down into the sauce and scooped right up with the duck and leafy pak choi).
Dining partner thoroughly enjoyed his smoked salmon and prawns (Marie Rose, baby gem, pickled cucumber, lemon). This interpretation of prawn cocktail was inspired, which was playful and intriguing. Curls of smoked salmon nestled together looked and tasted great, whilst punchy pickled cucumber was the perfect foil to the smoky earthiness of the salmon. Gleaming, slightly piquant sauce brought the whole dish together, making this one of the strongest dishes I have seen in a long time.
My main of pan-fried Cotswold chicken breast (potato fondant, creamed mushrooms, sprouted broccoli) was a pleasing, substantial portion. I loved the cleaved breast creating more surface area to swipe through the exquisite mushroom sauce. I would have liked to see more sauce on the plate (it was very good), because I couldn’t get enough of the lovely hit of warming cracked black pepper and herbs running through it.
Dining partner’s Derbyshire lamb rump (garlic potatoes, buttered kale, Chantenay carrots, poached blackberries) was equally appreciated. Tender lamb with mouthfuls of garlic infused potatoes was magnificent, and the icing on the cake were those poached blackberries. Soft and yielding with the slightest of bites, the forest fruit juice seeped into the juices of the lamb, creating a beautifully fragrant jus.
The flavour of my dessert of apple and golden sultana parfait (apple jelly, blackberry purée) was beautiful. Delicate apple, steeped sultanas and light parfait was a magical combination and the perfect dessert for those awkward summer-autumn transition months.
Dining partner’s lime cheesecake (mojito jelly, lemon curd ice-cream) was decent, and the presentation again made this one very good looking dessert.
From an inspired menu, attentive service (look out for Will, whose exemplary service will leave you with a smile on your face) and extensive cheeseboard (I have my eye on the Brie de Meux for next time), dining at The Horseshoes is an imperative experience for those who appreciate good food. Chef Gareth Ward at the helm of the kitchen is doing some very exciting things, ensuring plates are polished clean by discerning diners (if I squinted, I could see the reflection of my face in my polished plate).
You know that Spice Girls song I mentioned at the beginning of the review? ‘What Took You So Long’ by Emma Bunton has been buzzing in my head ever since I visited The Horseshoes. Having lived in Derby for the past five years, I honestly couldn’t tell you why it had taken me so long to visit The Horseshoes. If you haven’t been (go, nay sprint there), I highly recommend a visit. To the team at The Horseshoes, see you again very soon.
Rating: (1: Hate: I’d rather eat my shoe – 10: Love: I’d sell my kidney for a meal here)
Restaurant name: The Horseshoes Ashbourne
Owner: Berkeley Inns Limited
Open since: September 2015
Address: The Horseshoes Long Lane, Long Lane Village DE6 5BJ
Wednesday To Saturday
12:00-15:00 and 18:00-21:30
12:00-15:00 and 18:00-21:00
Wheelchair friendly? Yes
Caters for dietary requirements / allergies? Yes
How to make reservation: Phone / online
Call: 01332 824625
Head Chef: Gareth Ward
Whilst in the area: The Horseshoes boasts an excellent pub, but if you’re in the mood for a pub crawl, visit The Cow at Dalbury Lees and The Cock Inn at Mugginton, which are both part of the Berkeley Inns group.