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Thursday, 7 March 2013

Sunday Lunch at Losehill House‏, Hope

Another half-term, another trip up to my ancestral home in Cheshire to drop off the children with their grandparents. For the return journey this time, I decided to take Mrs CWB to Losehill House in Hope for Sunday lunch.

It had been originally recommended to me by local Michelin-starred chef Mark Poynton of Alimentum last year, but previous attempts to arrange a meal there had fallen foul of wedding bookings.

On this occasion we almost didn't make it again - due to snow: whilst Cheshire was completely snow-free, and Hope had only a light dusting, the road from Chapel en le Frith to Castleton (via the literally gorgeous Winnats Pass) was a complete white-out and only just passable in places.

The final challenge in getting there is that it is located up a rough track off a small side-road that loops round the back of Mam Tor, so is not exactly the kind of place you stumble across.

And yet, once arrived, there is no sense that this is in the middle of nowhere - whilst the exterior of the building is Peak District country house, inside is there is sophisticated, relaxed elegance; the restaurant, pleasantly formal yet unstuffy, is housed in a extensive conservatory with views across a gently wooded valley.

Arriving on the dot of 12:30, we are almost the only people there, but are soon joined by couples on a spa break and a multi-generational group, still animated but with a sense of post-wedding relaxation.

Perusing the menu, I order my now-habitual glass of Tio Pepe fino and chef Darren Goodwin pops out to say hello.

Mrs CWB decides on a soft drink and, as I am doing the driving, I make a mental note that mine has to last me until the main course arrives.

It being a Sunday lunch, the menu has a relatively traditional feel and I opt to start with monkfish - seared cheeks that turn out to be little morsels of perfectly fresh, crisp-yet-tender, meaty white fish with a cauliflower puree and crispy bacon.

The flavours, cooking and quality of ingredients are faultless and Mrs CWB declares her starter of duck, goat's cheese and pepper roulade to be similarly excellent.

The food it seems, mirrors the layout of the restaurant itself - tasteful, classic and well-executed; no surprises, no affected quirkiness, just well-done - and I find myself appreciating the consistency and unfussy attention to detail.

The mains follow a similar pattern: my roast sirloin of White Peak beef is incredibly tender and deliciously cooked - pink in the middle, slightly charred on the outside and thinly cut.

The accompanying Yorkshire pudding and dripping roast potatoes are exactly as they should be. And the one non-standard touch - little parcels that ooze out a creamy horseradish sauce when cut - is so deft as to provide only the merest hint of how much more clever the meal could have been, had only the kitchen opted to make it so.

My accompanying wine, a Ciconia 2011 from Portugal - a blend of native Touriga Nacional with Iberian Tempranillo and some international Syrah - has juicy red fruits and a mouthfilling acidity to cut through the roast meat, potatoes and yorkshire, but also the typical herbaceous eucalyptus to stand up to the aromatic horseradish.

For dessert I stay local and opt for a Bakewell tart - served slightly warm and oven fresh, the accompanying raspberry sorbet cuts through the marzipan richness but the addition of macerated sour cherries, sharp and with a touch of spirit bitterness, seems slightly out of balance with the rest of the dish.

With the journey to Cambridge still ahead of us, we forgo the lazy lounging of coffee and petits fours in favour of driving back in daylight with views of Edale Valley, Kinder, the Derwent Moors and Hope Valley.

Were I a Michelin inspector with a tick-list of requirements, I might have the knocked off a few half-marks for minor imperfections such as some ice crystals in the sorbet or the wine a degree or so too warm. But as someone taking his wife out for lunch on a blessedly free Sunday afternoon, it was perfect and we arrive home with a few hours of the weekend still to enjoy.


We return back up north just a few days later to pick up the kids and take them to the Blue John Mines on the way home. Lunch on that occasion consists of panini and burgers from Peveril Stores.

It is too cold to consider a walk, but I drive around a little to show them the road washed away.

Eating our lunches in the shadow of Mam Tor, #2 child announces that he would like to do the walk from the summit along the ridge to Hope. It's maybe five miles, but on a warm summer's day it should be a fantastic mini-hike.

I make a mental note of this as potential family day out and resolve that it should probably finish with a meal at Losehill House.

Other related articles
North of England: Fischer's of Baslow, The Box Tree, Ilkley, at 50 (for Jancis Robinson), Malmaison Manchester, Lindeth Howe, Cumbria
Cambridge: The Three Horseshoes, Hotel du Vin, Fitzbillies, Alimentum
France: L'Alembic in Nuits St Georges
Austria: Plachutta, Vienna, Hotel Schloß Dürnstein

Losehill House - website, twitter
Chef Darren Goodwin - twitter
Chef Mark Poynton - twitter

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