Tuesday 26 May 2015

The Duncombe Arms – Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Often on a Sunday, my wife and I (mainly me) enjoy nothing more than heading out to find a charming gastropub. Working through my list, we (she) generally like to keep within an hour’s drive of Manchester.

On the recent bank holiday Monday, with my wife having to work, I decided to drive a little further from our usual catchment area to The Duncombe Arms in the leafy village of Ellastone on the border of Staffordshire and Derbyshire.

What Michelin say: ‘A stylish dining pub owned by the Hon. Johnny Greenall - of the famous brewery family: his wife, Laura, is a descendant of the Duncombe family after which the pub is named. Food keeps to a core of classic pub dishes.

The food I ate was all good quality pub favourites with contemporary twists; the twists being “@WeWantPlates” style presentation – things on wooden boards and slates; a pie in a dinky saucepan and, anything which had been fried (whitebait & chips), arrived in a mini fryer baskets.

All flavours were good – the saffron suitably subtle in the aioli; the apple purée with the terrine not too sweet and the dark chocolate fondant had good bitter notes complemented by the rich stout ice cream. 

The biggest disappointment was the ‘pie’ (better described as a ‘pot pie’) – although generously filled with meat, the cubes of steak were rather tough. The pastry was a disappointment too – I’ve had some great pot pies (the Lapin au Vin at Daniel Boulud’s place in Singapore is one of the finest things I’ve ever eaten - here) so am not anti using pastry as a topping as opposed to an all encasing pie, but this dry disc of dull pastry didn’t even feel part of the dish. Certainly one of the most disappointing pies I’ve had in recent memory.

The saving grace was the excellent mash and braided red cabbage. A side of Triple cooked chunky chips and some Skinny fries with truffle & parmesan (well, I had to check them out, didn’t I?) completed my carb overload.

Crispy whitebait, saffron aioli

Braised pig’s head terrine, apple, radish & shallot salad

Steak & ale pie, mashed potato, braised red cabbage

Honey roasted Chantenay carrots / Triple cooked chunky chips / 
Skinny fries with truffle & parmesan

Dark chocolate fondant, stout ice cream

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