Love is in the air at Sitwell Arms - and they don’t need Valentine’s Day to get juices flowing
Everyone loves a warm reception but the front desk at the Sitwell Arms might need to turn down the heat a little...
The busy wedding venue hosts 150 big-day celebrations a year - but it’s also come up with a few matches of its own.
Reception staff at the 200-year-old Renishaw hotel and restaurant have ended up marrying or partnering hotel chefs on FIVE occasions in the last 20 years.
Former chef and now the hotel’s general manager Daniel Nutt met his wife Amanda there in 1996 and they married in 2000.
“Over the years there has been something a bit special about that reception,” said 40-year old Daniel.
“I met my wife when she was working on reception and I was head chef and there have been four other marriages or long-term partnerships between chefs and receptionists while I’ve been here.
“There was head chef Neil and Lisa, head chef Ricky and Jenny, sous chef Daniel and Donna and junior sous chef Simon and Hayley.
“We’re not quite sure what’s going on but we have a laugh about it now and again.”
Well that’s everyone married off, but what about the food?
We went to the Wild Boar restaurant at the Sitwell Arms on Thursday – steak night along with Friday – and chose dishes from the steak and a la carte menus.
We were offered a seat in the bar where we ordered our food - 30 minutes later we were shown to our table in a quiet restaurant.
I started with a belter.
Potato rosti with black pudding, bacon, a poached egg and deep fried leeks.
The potato rosti was crisp on the outside and soft within and went beautifully with the meaty depth of the black pudding and the oozing richness of the soft-poached egg.
All this was topped with super-crispy streaky bacon and some long strips of crunchy deep fried leeks. Lovely stuff.
Karen’s starter was a chicken liver terrine served with toast, homemade pickle and salad.
The terrine was packed with the earthy flavours of liver, the pickle was sharp and sweet and, although the salad might have had a little something to help it along, the dish worked well.
For mains I went for a steak - I’d been waiting for the moment and the place and this felt like it - pepper sauce, twice-cooked chips, cherry tomatoes and onion rings.
The steak was top class.
Over the weeks the name Owen Taylor’s butchers of Leabrooks near Alfreton in Derbyshire has come up time and again when restaurateurs are asked who supplies their meats. Their sirloin steak was voted best in England at April 2015’s EBLEX Excellence Awards.
I couldn’t say if it was the best in England or not but it was juicy, tender, full of flavour and nicely lubricated by a glass of decent house red.
The steak of your dreams.
The onion rings were large, crisp and tasty though more than two would have been nice and a hint of veg might have been good too.
The steak also came with some splendidly crunchy and fluffy chips – made from maris piper potatoes – and some roast tomatoes still on the vine that could have done with another 10 minutes in the oven for me.
It was at about this time that I spotted a picture on the wall of a man with a garishly decorated pig’s head on a plate.
Underneath what looked like an 18th century engraving was a recipe for ‘Pig’s head, boiled’ which contained the following:
‘One pigs head, 1lb of common salt, 1oz of saltpeter and pease pudding’.
Saltpeter - often produced from dung, straw and urine filtered through potash - has been used as a preservative since the middle ages - and is also found in fertilizers, tree stump removal, rocket propellants and fireworks.
A fine piece of culinary history, but Daniel and I agreed we’d rather stick with Owen Taylor’s steaks, thanks.
Our desserts arrived and both looked fantastic.
Karen had chocolate fudge brownie with pistachio ice cream and I went for lemon curd Pavlova with rhubarb.
The rhubarb was nicely tart, the lemon curd offered something a bit different but the meringue nests were basic and the whole thing fine but less than inspiring.
Karen’s brownie was rich and moist but the pistachio ice-cream, while pleasant enough, could have been any flavour.
Chatting later, current receptionist Charlotte Mallender says she thinks the apparent ‘Love Hotel’ theme among chefs and receptionists is because staff spend a lot of time together.
“One of my best friends Hayley started here on reception and she is engaged now and expecting a baby.
“We all work fairly long hours and spend a lot of time with each other and people get to know each other well with working together,” laughed 27-year-old Charlotte who has worked at the hotel for seven years.
So does she have her eye on someone - especially with Valentine’s Day coming up?
“No, no, it’s mostly girls in the kitchen now – we need some fresh meat.”
Even award-winning Owen Taylor might struggle to fill that order…
For three courses each and a glass of red wine and with a £5 off special offer we paid £57.55.
Star rating out of five:
* Food 4
* Atmosphere 4
* Service 4
* Value 4
* Sitwell Arms Hotel, 39 Station Road, Renishaw, Derbys, S21 3WF
* Restaurant open: Lunch, Tue to Fri noon–2pm, Sun noon–3pm. Evenings, Tue to Sat 6–9pm.
* Tel: 0800 0820804. * Email: firstname.lastname@example.org