Clare gets in to the Countryside
One of the very best things about Sheffield is its proximity to the countryside.
A twenty minute drive from my city centre flat will get me far enough out of the city for me to forget all my woes. (That is, of course, providing I have the reception to Google the nearest country pub on my phone; a necessity no matter where I am.)
Twenty minutes further and that drive will take me to one of my favourite hotels; Losehill House. Set in Hope, in-between Lose Hill and Win Hill, it occupies a truly idyllic setting; one that I discovered about two years ago as I celebrated my 30th birthday there. It had been an interesting trip as the snow had been quite bad and our little Aygo could only do so much on the icy lane up to the hotel, but it had been worthwhile. The hotel was gorgeous and the restaurant had been the real highlight for us.
Since that trip I have been itching to return and on spotting a damn good deal on their website (£165 for a double room with breakfast and dinner included) I decided it was time to celebrate another birthday there.
Dinner was at 8pm and shortly beforehand we made our way down to the bar area where there are plenty of comfy looking sofas to choose from. We plonk ourselves down on one of the larger sofas and peruse the menu.
Pretty little canapés arrive shortly. Olives were good, dates stuffed with chorizo were interesting and Bloody Mary jellies were brilliant.
After ordering food, along with a bottle of Australian Shiraz (which was lovely), we were shown to our table. The restaurant is located in the orangery which is a beautiful space with views to the hill behind the hotel. Admittedly at 8pm at night, there was no view to be had but looking out into the darkness was still pretty special and we really did feel like we were in the middle of nowhere.
Although the hotel was full, the restaurant was quiet as the majority of the guests were attending a conference. To be honest, it was a bit too quiet and some music would have helped the atmosphere. Having said that there was no awkwardness and although the setting was pretty formal there was a young mother feeding her baby in one corner and the hotel cat slinking around in the other.
To begin, I had the Charcuterie which was a dish of Bresaola of White Peak beef and Five Spiced Ashbourne Pork with picked cabbage and spelt bread. There was also a slice of pork terrine on the plate; a tasty addition that wasn’t mentioned on the menu. It was a perfect choice for a meat lover like myself. The beef was beautiful and deliciously rare in the centre with a good level of fat running through it. The fat slices of pork were good and salty and well matched with the pickled cabbage.
The husband went for something a bit lighter with pan fried sea bass. It was well cooked; a moist and soft flesh with a crispy skin. Also on the plate was a subtle aubergine puree with a portion of shaved fennel which helped keep the dish light and fresh. He was also pleased to find tasty chunks of chorizo dotted around the plate.
Sticking with the meat theme, I went for the Elton Estate venison loin. Thick slices of venison were soft and pink; just as I like it and the sticky brushstroke of chocolate was a perfect accompaniment. To the side there was a suet pudding filled with more juicy venison in a rich gravy. Oh my! Red meat and suet pudding! I was happy. Of course there is also a bit of room for some veg in my life (as well as on the plate) and the buttery kale and chervil root were most welcome.
My husband had the fillet of Ashbourne pork with belly pork. The fillet was pretty pink leaving it moist and tender. It seems that more and more restaurants are daring to serve this meat rare and, although the issue still causes much debate, I am personally happy to leave the decision to the chef. If he knows that the meat is well sourced and is happy to serve the meat pink, then I’m happy to eat it… as is the husband.
The belly pork would have pleased traditionalists as it had been cooked for 48 hours, but serving it next to the rare meat highlighted the fact that it was drier (although the crackling was excellent). To the side was a dollop of black pudding puree and a croquette of bubble and squeak wrapped in even more crackling. It was a good hearty, British dish and he cleared his plate with gusto.
We were feeling a little full by this point, but as the rate of the room included the full three coursers it would have been rude not to have dessert too! There were about six dishes to choose from, including cheese and biscuits (and unfortunately I was too full for that). I very almost went for a dish of plums, all cooked in a variety of ways, but decided against it at the last minute and plummeted for the dark chocolate and hazelnut cake.
This was a mistake; it was too filling for me and I’m slightly allergic to hazelnuts. Having said that the sides of malt barley ice cream and white chocolate mousse were good, as was the chocolate soil and the dots of rich and dark chocolate. In fact there was enough on my plate to keep what there is of my sweet tooth happy and, of course, the cake gave me an excuse to sample the Muscat dessert wine (which was gorgeous).
In all fairness I had really wanted the pear tart tatin but my husband had 'bagsied' it first and I didn't have the strength to fight him for it (another mistake). The tart tatin came shaped as a pear and was thoroughly enjoyed especially as the pastry was thick and sticky with caramel. We'd overheard another diner declare that she hadn't enjoyed the side of Stilton and walnut ice cream, and of course Stilton is an acquired taste in its own right and to have it in ice cream form is a whole new sensation, but we’d have happily had a bowl of the stuff on its own.
There was the option of rounding off with coffee and petit fours in the lounge, but we were far too full to contemplate such a thing. We needed lie down, and thankfully, we were in the right place so we crawled off to bed.
You’ll be glad to know that, although still stuffed after the meal, we managed to make it to a breakfast of a Derbyshire speciality; oatcakes. Thick oaty pancakes covered in meaty rashers of bacon and plenty of cheese was a pure indulgence and incredibly calorific, but allowable as a one off.
Once again we’d had a lovely time. The hotel is in a truly beautiful setting. There’s a full spa onsite too making this an ideal place for a romantic trip away. Our room, although the smallest, was more than ample with the usual facilities as well as some fancier than average toiletries and an ample supply of milk (why would four cartons of UHT milk ever be enough?).
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