Any fan of the Great British Bake Off is more than familiar with the term ‘style over substance’, for judge Paul Hollywood is a prolific user of the saying.
Most would be won over by the very look of the contestants’ creative confectione ry, but not Paul.
He’s taught us that looks aren’t everything.
And though he might be tucking into a cake shaped like a Dalek when he delivers those dreaded words, he’s right. No matter how much effort someone puts into their presentation, the taste must match the appearance, otherwise it’s just a disappointment.
When receiving my starter at Losehill House Hotel and Spa, Paul’s haunting saying crept into my head.
My god it was pretty, so pretty I took a photo of it. I’d ordered the ham and chicken roulade with piccalilli puree and pickles – it looked like autumn deconstructed on a plate with warm glows of mustard yellow, olive green and vibrant orange dotted around the neat roulade.
Don’t be taken in too soon, I warned myself, how does it taste?
Sublime was the answer - so much so that I’d have no hesitation in introducing picky Paul Hollywood to Losehill’s head chef Darren Goodwin.
Now here’s a man who knows how to create a dish that’s as exciting for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.
Located close to Hope in the Peak District, the hotel is a hidden gem. It’s tranquil, welcoming and warm, causing any tension to melt away as you cross its rustic threshold.
The decor is homely yet stylish, and its Orangery Restaurant is truly a sight to behold. Light bounces off crisp white table cloths and sparkling glassware as it pours it in from the huge windows which frame the rural scene beyond beautifully.
But let’s get back to that food.
My partner had ordered the leek and potato soup, and although the presentation wasn’t as fancy as my dish - there is only so much you can do with soup - its smooth texture and flavours prompted sounds of enjoyment.
We were dining from Losehill’s Sunday lunch menu, which, for the high quality and presentation of the food produced, is exceptionally good value at £27.50 for three heavenly courses.
My free range chicken with dripping roast potatoes, arrived elegantly stacked with watercress resting on the top. A dish of colourful seasonal vegetables and a jug of nutmeg bread sauce accompanied it.
The roast topside of beef with horseradish Yorkshire pudding, dripping roast potatoes and gravy, was also a pleasing sight.
The chicken was moist beyond its crisp, golden skin and the beef was served just rare. Pure perfection.
Unbelievably, desserts raised the presentation bar once again. The white chocolate and lime mousse was peppered with dainty honey jelly cubes and dots of lime gel, causing my palate to switch between sweet and punchy flavours.
The mandarin panna cotta meanwhile lay next to slender orange segments and was kissed with a pistachio crumb.
There is no doubt Losehill offers a high end dining experience but it’s not at all pretentious, prissy or complicated.
Darren and his kitchen team simply focus on good, honest, locally-sourced food that is put together with passion and pizazz, so there is style and substance.
My star ratings out of six: