Chef's kitchen table at top Derbyshire hotel is a perfect blend of fine dining and culinary theatre

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Watching chefs prepare gourmet food is a popular dining experience in swish restaurants around the country nowadays yet it's a concept which is thought to have originated decades ago on the edge of the Chatsworth estate in Derbyshire.

Stuart Bond, who is sommelier at the Cavendish Hotel, Baslow, said: "We believe we're the first pioneers of it. Forget all those hotels and restaurants in London that have been doing it since the's the original concept of Eric Marsh when he was proprietor in the late seventies/early eighties.

"The chef's kitchen table is very popular here at the Cavendish and it's now in its fourth generation."

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Dining in the kitchen gives guests the opportunity to watch the hard-working team putting their flair, creativity and passion into transforming raw ingredients into works of art.

Greg Lowe, head chef at the Cavendish Hotel, presents the Chatworth beef course.Greg Lowe, head chef at the Cavendish Hotel, presents the Chatworth beef course.
Greg Lowe, head chef at the Cavendish Hotel, presents the Chatworth beef course.

Greg Lowe, head chef, said: "We roughly do one kitchen table a week and we can cater for up to six people at a time. We try to do the kitchen table bespoke so we adapt it to the individual need of the customer by talking to them and finding out what they like and don't like."

The team has to be quick-thinking and adaptable should a customer wish to go off-piste from the 'surprise' menu. This happened three times when my partner and I were invited to experience the chef’s kitchen table. Over a glass of champagne in the hotel lounge, we were asked whether we had any dietary requirements or allergies - to which we replied 'no', completely forgetting that I didn’t eat fish. But the chefs remained cool and calm, swapping the fish for vegetarian fare.

The initial substitution came in the amuse bouches. While my partner tucked into a dill pomme puree with battered prawn, I savoured a pastry case with whipped goats cheese, diced beetroot and chives.

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Onto the first course and you really couldn't tell the difference in look between the trout escabeche and carrot equivalent which arrived with pureed grapefruit, herbs, pickled carrot and courgette with a reduction of carrot juice and saffron. These pretty plates of food tasted as good as they looked and set the tone for the feast.

Trout escabeche.Trout escabeche.
Trout escabeche.

The evening truly was a voyage of discovery. Partridge, which neither of us had eaten before, was placed in front of us. The chef described how the bird is rested in a short brine for 30 minutes and the fillets turned into a muesli. The legs of the partridge are 'confit' (cooked at a low temperature) for 12 hours, the bones are removed and are then covered in an almond crumb. Pickled blackberries, cauliflower shavings and a whisky sauce made with the stock completed the dish. So tender, the partridge melted in the mouth and took us out of our comfort zone by giving us a taste for being more adventurous in our choice of food when eating out.

Onto the third course and yet another substitution with my companion relishing the pan-fried cod wrapped in Nori seaweed with parmentier potatoes, mussels and sea herbs including samphire, monks beard, salted fingers and chard. "This has taken the meal to number one - best yet," he purred. My curried cauliflower steak had a nice crunchy texture in contrast to the softness of the wild rice and was accompanied by sate sauce, coconut yoghurt and kale.

Onto the piece de resistance – beef reared on the Chatsworth estate. No fear of a substitution in this course as we both love beef. We tucked into a short rib which was slow braised overnight for 14 hours topped with onion crumb, turnip mash and baby turnip and a fillet of beef accompanied by red wine sauce, pickled walnut puree and watercress puree. This truly was heaven on a plate and we relished every mouthful.

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Apricot souffle paired with apricot sorbet nestling on a bed of coconut snow and complemented by basil and coconut creme anglaise proved a deliciously light dessert. A wonderful finale to the best meal we’ve ever eaten and we have previously dined in a Michelin starred restaurant.

Partridge was a surprise highlight of the meal for diners who had never tried it before.Partridge was a surprise highlight of the meal for diners who had never tried it before.
Partridge was a surprise highlight of the meal for diners who had never tried it before.

On the front-row of this culinary theatre we found out that executive chef Adam Harper works with head chef Greg to devise the menu and the pair invite suggestions from their kitchen team. We learned the provenance of ingredients including meat from the Chatsworth estates and Moss Valley Pork, fish from supplier RG Morris in Buxton, mushrooms from The Mushroom Emporium at Wigley and rapeseed oil produced from crops grown up the road from the Cavendish Hotel.

Even the invitation to one of the finest dining establishments in Derbyshire was done in style, arriving in a hamper of Chatsworth goodies. It felt like Christmas had come early as we unwrapped salmon pate, chicken rillette, crackers, piccalilli, fruitcake, cookies, hazlenut praline, apple juice and lemonade and tucked into an evening picnic at home.

A place at the Cavendish Hotel’s kitchen table starts at £125 and for an additional £50 there’s a wine flight to accompany each of the five courses. To make a reservation go to