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This stunningly beautiful county might have been a bit of a gastronomic desert a decade or so ago (give or take a handful of decent restaurants), but today it’s chock full of choices to suit all tastes – from sophisticated, five-star dining rooms bristling with white linen to cool, contemporary bistros.
Top-quality local produce takes centre stage, whether you’ve plumped for the traditional, supremely elegant Hassop Hall, Max Fischer’s kitchen wizardry at his eponymous restaurant (pictured, right) or the sat-back vibe at Chesterfield’s Non Solo Vino. Whatever your bag, you can afford a smug smile; Derbyshire is one of the country’s best kept culinary secrets.
Part of a stable of gastropubs and eateries belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (of Chatsworth fame), this hostelry is located just a skip from their fabulous farm shop. The kitchen makes the most of local bounty with the likes of posh faggots or corned beef hash with homemade ketchup.
If it’s a Michelin-starred experience you’re after, look no further. The handsome, vine-clad hall oozes charm and cheerfulness, with every leaf on your plate coming from Max Fischer’s extraordinary vegetable plot. Elsewhere, impeccably sourced meat, game and fish a given.
Embrace your inner Lady Grantham in this elegant Downton-esque country-house hotel, where beautifully presented, traditional dishes might include trout meunière and ‘homemade puddings from the trolley’. However, Hassop is anything but stuffy: despite acres of Wilton carpet and white napkins, no one will bat an eye if you’re dressed down.
Chesterfield might not be synonymous with chic, but it has a certain charm and this stylish wine bar-cum-bistro is one reason for making the trip. An impressively authentic grazing menu is neatly matched by a wide choice of wines by the glass.
Tessa Bramley might hold a Michelin star, but it doesn’t stop her floating round her informal dining room chatting to punters, glass in her hand. She was foraging long before beardy boy-chefs ‘discovered’ the idea, and continues to create exquisite food from the kitchen she shares with talented Nathan Smith.
Once Haddon Hall’s dower house, this graceful, deeply comfortable country-house hotel is all stone walls and oak settles, although its modern food nods to the Mediterranean – think pigeon with spinach, Puy lentils and Madeira jus. Otherwise, a pared-down bar menu beckons if you can’t move from the fireplace.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book, this atmospheric slice of history wears its heritage well. Lovely old features co-exist with unexpectedly contemporary touches that extend to the menu: expect the likes of squid with watermelon and olive or turbot with oxtail and salsify.
Given that this is a low, rambling stone roadhouse in the middle of nowhere, you might expect to walk in to open fires and horse brasses. Instead, visitors can expect a sleek, contemporary vibe plus a similarly modern menu with local produce at its heart. The Red Lion shouldn’t work, but it does.
It looks like a traditional, stone-built pub in a quiet village with Chatsworth on the doorstep, but don’t be fooled – Rowleys has a secret life as a chic bistro with an open kitchen. Gifted chef Rupert Rowley offers up the likes of lamb hogget with salsa verde, but you can get fish and chips too.
Just another gussied-up gastropub or a gem in the making? The latter, judging by the interesting dishes coming out of James Duckett’s kitchen: devilled sprats, rabbit terrine and steamed beef and ale pudding are more subtle than they sound, and who could resist salted pollock fritters.