Food review - The Shire Horse Inn, Wyaston
- Credit: Archant
Our reviewer enjoys a friendly atmosphere and good food in the heart of Derbyshire
Times have changed at the Shire Horse – of course, the last time I visited was about 1970 and I sat outside in my dad’s car with lemonade and crisps. The drive to Wyaston along the leafy lanes between Derby and Ashbourne is just as wonderful, though, and the inn still has a magnificent chestnut tree on a triangle of grass across from the front door. Inside, it has maintained its impressive bar but added various dining areas and now looks very much the smart, comfortable, country dining pub. New log burners at either end of the long room are sure to be a blessing for weary walkers in winter, and accompanying dogs are welcome in the bar.
My colleague and I were greeted by owner Joe Rowland, who took charge here five years ago and, ably assisted by Carlo Girometti on front-of-house, chef Steve Harman and his second-in-command Josh Scales, has been updating and improving the premises and the food-and-drink offering ever since. On the summer lunchtime of our visit the atmosphere was warm and welcoming. Diners can choose to sit in the bar area, move down towards the cosy paddock room (suitably adorned with horse-themed news cuttings and paintings), on into the restaurant or through to the conservatory. If you decide to sit outside you can enjoy a completely unspoiled view reaching across the countryside as far as Thorpe Cloud.
We decided on the Paddock Room and were soon ensconced with a drink from the bar – which stocks four different cask ales – and making our choices from the menu board. A list of favourite dishes has starters ranging from homemade soup of the day (£3.95) to handmade fishcakes (£6.75) and main dishes including seafood linguine (£13.95), Derbyshire lamb (£15.95), and a choice of steaks from Derbyshire farms. The Shire Horse’s own classic dishes include homemade pie of the day (£10.50), Whitby Scampi (£8.50) and trio of Cumberland sausages (£10.25). All are served with a variety of delicious-sounding accompaniments. There is also a Specials board that changes regularly, with main dishes like Devonshire crab salad (£12.95), or medallions of venison in Parma ham, wild mushroom and whisky sauce with dauphinoise potatoes and braised red cabbage (£16.95).
As it was lunchtime, we decided on lighter options, my friend choosing Grilled flat mushroom glazed with Stilton and Port (£5.95), which she deemed perfect with a light crunchy topping, tasty Stilton coating and enough side salad to make you feel virtuous. My back-to-the-70s choice of prawn cocktail (£6.50) was just as appetising: fresh, light, clean-tasting and packed with juicy prawns.
The buzz of happy diners around proved everyone was as happy with their choices and Carlo’s seamless service continued as our main course arrived after just enough of a pause – with time to order a zesty glass of white wine from an impressive list which also includes 10 gins and eight whiskies. My colleague decided on Panfried seabass fillets with mixed herbs, asparagus, lemon juice and side salad (£14.95), while I opted for Gressingham duck breast with herbs, red cabbage and red wine sauce (£14.95). All main dishes include a choice of new, sautéed or dauphinoise potatoes or twice-fried chips. The sea bass was declared ‘succulent’, the asparagus ‘cooked to perfection’ and the overall hint of lemony zest ‘toothsome’. My duck breast was one of the finest I’ve eaten: beautifully cooked – the knife sliced through it as if through butter – and its richness was balanced by the slight acidity of the red cabbage. A slice of buttery dauphinoise potatoes added to the luxury. We couldn’t help but be delighted with a meal of top-quality local ingredients that had been excellently cooked and not overcomplicated.
Having watched various puddings making their way past to other diners, there was no way to resist the appearance of a chalk board listing desserts. Puddings are £5 with wonderful Coldeaton Jersey ice cream (from the farm near Ashbourne) at £4.75 and a cheeseboard at £7.25. My friend went for honeycomb and caramel cheesecake on a biscuit base with clotted cream while, torn between sticky toffee pudding with custard and warm Belgium waffles with caramel fudge ice cream, I instead opted for a crème brûlée with Scottish raspberries. The latter – served in a cup of exactly the right proportions – had a perfect sweet/tart balance with lovely soft crème, juicy raspberries and a crisp thin layer of sugar. When she managed to stop eating for a moment, my colleague announced her sweet to be ‘mouth-wateringly delicious’. Certainly the surprise sauce oozing out (maple syrup?) and the scoop of clotted cream seemed to stun her into silence – in fairness she did let me try a small teaspoonful.
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Joe and his colleagues are certainly to be commended on running a friendly, comfortable pub/restaurant with a top-class standard of food that uses high quality local suppliers. There is a separate young eaters’ menu, the Sunday lunches are apparently very popular (there’s no service on Sunday evenings) and as well as regular theme nights (Steak Thursdays, Fish Fridays), there have been Mediterranean, Spanish, Chinese and Gourmet nights – I was really sorry to have just missed the Italian night. It certainly won’t be long before I go for another drive along the leafy lanes near Ashbourne and just happen to call in at the Shire Horse. u
The Shire Horse Inn, Edlaston Lane, Wyaston, DE6 2DQ, 01335 342714, theshirehorse.co.uk