In a bid to trump conventionality the Ewing and I celebrated our nuptials on leap Day. As well as being a suitably contrary date, we also cunningly thought it would avoid the need for scrabbling round for the least wilted bunch of petrol station flowers every 365 days. Of course, all that has actually happened is that we now seem to find ourselves celebrating both the 28th February and 1st March.
This year we also decided to throw in a lunch on the 27th, at the Michelin starred and highly lauded and Fischer’s of Baslow Hall, whach was just down the road from where we were staying in Tideswell. That's of course if we could correctly follow the sat nav; instead we ending up taking a more ‘scenic’ route and having a customary anniversary ‘disagreement’ before we had even arrived.
Luckily things picked up pretty quickly and we were soon enjoying a glass of fizz alongside some (polenta?) jenga chip thingies, served with a dish of sweet and smoky spiced aubergine puree, whilst sitting beside a roaring log fire in the drawing room. So far so good.
On being seated in the dining room we were left alsone with the fancy bread basket, a very dangerous thing indeed, which contained a hazelnut and raisin roll (good) and a treacle loaf (better). This was followed by an amuse bouche of onion soup topped with thyme foam. The herb infused foam, so often an unpleasant spaff of froth, was particularly tasty, working well with the sweet earthy soup.
We had picked the - very decent value at £27 for three courses - set menu, and to start I chose the seared squid with radicchio risotto; a riot of dark pink grains topped with a scattering of frosty sea herbs that looked rather like nuggets of green glass that had washed up on the beach. This was very good without really jumping up and grabbing me, I think I was expecting more of a bitter note from the radicchio to act as a foil for the sweet and tender squid.
The Ewing’s sea bream with blood orange and fennel was another fine looker. Here the bright acid punch of the citrus really set off the fish, which had been cooked perfectly to end up with crisp skin whilst remaining soft and flaky within. Blood orange is a fabulous thing, and here the brightness and astringency felt like a welcome shot of summer.
For the main we both chose the bavette with shin pie, cheesy mash, greens and carrots. Well, who wouldn’t? This was another fine piece of cooking; the slow cooked shin served in a hollowed out marrow bone only being improved by its buttery potato carapace. The steak had an iron-rich smoky flavour that paired perfectly with the slick of good gravy and pile of roasted root veg.
To drink I went with a Thornbridge Jaipur, brewed just up the road in Bakewell; a rather unconventional but spot on pairing with the spiciness perfectly complimenting the beef. The Ewing had a fishbowl of something red, French and pricey. Good job I love her.
My pudding, a kind of ‘deconstructed’ vanilla cheesecake with blood orange sorbet, felt like a bit of a disappointment, but only because there was so little of it and it tasted so good. Refined and beautiful is all very well - and the cheesecake was meltingly buttery and rich, probably not to be recommended in huge quantities - but three mouthfuls doesn't a memorable pud make.
In contrast the Ewing’s chocolate cake with brown butter ice cream, crumble and malted cream came as a generous slab of stickiness that kept even her quiet for a few minutes. The smoky caramel sauce and malted cream made particularly fine accompaniments.
From here we retired back into the drawing room for coffee and petit fours in front of the fire. The coffee, a silver cafetiere of giant proportions that was left on our table for us to help ourselves, was a caffeinated dream for the Ewing. Although she may have felt differently when trying to sleep later that evening after five or six cups of the stuff. The petit fours - fair salted caramel truffles and fabulous raspberry macaroons - were also very welcome, even after all that had preceded them
The whole Fischer’s experience is resolutely old school and none the worse for it. From the glasses of fizz to start to the coffee around the fire to finish, we were looked after impeccably. What’s more it’s thumpingly good value grub if you eat from the lunch menu and the manicured grounds are the perfect place to burn off a chocolate truffle or two. A very happy three quarters anniversary, indeed.