Chatsworth had better watch out – another local stately home is set to cook up a treat for visitors.
Nearby Hardwick Hall now boasts a new restaurant – and chef Ricky Stephenson aims to put produce from the beautiful 900-acre National Trust-run Hardwick estate on every plate.
“I wouldn’t like to say we are competing with Chatsworth, but they are our benchmark,” says Birley 27-year-old Ricky.
“They do food extremely well and we will be just as good as them,” he vows.
The Great Barn Restaurant opens in a heritage building in the Elizabethan hall’s stableyard on Monday, offering dishes that feature as much home-grown produce and estate-reared meat as Ricky can get his hands on.
“We will be crafting a seasonal menu from local produce throughout the year. We’ve got home-grown herbs, salads and vegetables plus Hardwick Long Horn beef in our sandwiches and our pies. As soon as the estate lamb is ready it will be on the menu,” he says.
“I’m working very closely with the head gardener too. We’ve discussed what she can grow for us and have lots of plans for the future. The restaurant will hopefully be getting its own veg patch out front and an asparagus bed. The fact that I could cook with produce straight from the gardens was what drew me here.”
Granville College-trained, Ricky was head chef at the Sitwell Arms, Renishaw, before running the restaurant for Woodhouse retirement village Brunswick Gardens. The over 55s community loved traditional home cooking and old favourites like locally-made sausage and mash, lamb shank and pies have travelled with Ricky, and he’s introducing a taste of modern British cuisine.
It was the formidable Bess of Hardwick who first created Hardwick in the late 1500s at Doe Lea, Chesterfield. One of the most significant Elizabethan country houses in England, it has recently had £6.5 million invested in its stableyard. The contemporary restaurant will replace the quaint cafe in the hall’s old kitchen, which ironically gave the catering staff little room to cook.
The new restaurant, open daily 9am-6pm, has a children’s menu, highchairs, vegetarian, dairy and wheat-free options and boasts four distinct areas, including a loft for relaxing with breakfast and the Sunday papers.