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Fischer's at Baslow Hall, Derbyshire


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I’ll preface this report by saying that I looked forward to this first visit to Baslow Hall. First, because I’m keen for the North to have its fair share of destination restaurants, and second, because I’m ever-hopeful that we can trust the guides in our pursuit of quality dining. Both these rationales led me to Fischer’s at Baslow, but I’m afraid that our experience was mixed. I’m hoping that someone can re-assure me that this place is worth a second visit...

We visited last week, and opted for their ALC option and stayed overnight. For this we expected fireworks, but we were under-whelmed…

It all started very well: the amuse bouche were served on slate in the (slightly cramped) lounge and were very good. The dining room was also smaller than I expected and, in truth, the décor was a little tired (especially the threadbare carpet by the door, and our table). Nevertheless, the meal began well with a bold-tasting butternut squash soup with truffle oil. My starter was a saddle of rabbit with rosti, crayfish and a crayfish reduction - this was fine. My partner decided on the caremelised pork belly, John Dory and Peanut brittle – she wasn’t much-impressed but from what I tasted of it, I though it worked well.

The mains, however, were disappointing. I had a Taste of veal, sweatbreads, and some vegetable component that I can’t recall, all in a sweet and sour sauce. The plate arrived as a sizeable heap of meat: no complaints about portion size, and the veal was good. Yet otherwise, the elements were not readily distinguished for they were swamped by the sauce which was, I thought, too thin and too plentiful. Indeed, I can’t recall what the vegetables were in part because I couldn’t taste them given this overpowering sauce. My partner had a good piece of Sea Bass that was cooked very well, although she was bemused by the combination with cep mushrooms and a further element I forget and wasn’t convinced by this alliance. Likewise, this dish lacked the extra something that she anticipated from this restaurant.

A pre-desert of three types of mango was pleasant enough, and a Plum and Armagnac soufflé was fine for my dessert. She had a Warm chocolate pudding with pumpkin centre and ice-cream: again, she was under-whelmed. By contrast, the teas and coffees were good and the petits fours were impressive – amongst the most inventive I’ve seen of late.

So, a fine start and a flourish to finish, but otherwise, although solid overall, this meal never threatened the heights that we anticipated. At £65 a head for their ALC offering, this was a tad disappointing.

As we drove off to work next morning, two issues puzzled us. First, we didn't have a problem with the prices, but equally, we didn’t feel that we’d had brilliant value. We weren’t wowed by the meal, yet this was compounded by the rooms and additional services. Our double room was OK, although the TV-options were poor and a strong smell of wood-smoke from the hall below pervaded the bathroom. However, at £150 for the entry-level double, I’d expect a cooked breakfast. Unfortunately, that’s 10 quid extra at Fischer’s. And in truth, the continental spread that was offered in lieu was not inspiring. Neither was a morning paper included. And while a 70p Guardian isn’t a huge deal for us, this kind of penny pinching doesn’t really endear one to the place. Further, our waiter knocked over a glass of wine at dinner. He cleaned up and apologised, but it wasn’t replaced. Therefore, we expected to see some complementary drinks for a token reduction on the bill while checking out, but nothing was offered.

Given all this, we probably wouldn’t return… except for the niggling fact that the place has a good reputation. The GFG rates it 7/10, and the AA upgraded it to four rosettes last year. All of this convinced us to make the trip, yet these ratings don’t tally with our experience. So here’s the second issue… We imagine we must have caught them on an off night: this place has the reputation, the prices and the menus, but simply failed to deliver for us on this occasion. So, did we miss something here? Can anyone reassure me?

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I've had many meals at Fischers and always found lunch more reliable than dinner, though I have had some very very good dinners there.

As for the spilt glass of wine, I know you shouldn't have to ask, but if you had, it would have been replaced I'm sure.

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I went to Fischer's five years ago to attend one of my best friend's wedding. (That's "wedding" singular btw :smile: ) Unfortunately, I was the best man. I say that, not because I wasn't proud to be in that role, but because as I had to do the speech. So I was far too nervous to eat what looked like a rather nice lunch.

Max Fischer certainly has a good reputation, but as you say at £65 a head, you do want some fireworks. It's still on my list to return to, but maybe we might opt for Jon's preferred option of lunch.

Incidentally, we had one of the very nice rooms in the annex, which was all that was left and not cheap. I think it was about £150 for that five years ago, so I thought the extra £10 each for breakfast was a tad cynical too. But hey, I am greedy so paid for it anyway.

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But hey, I am greedy.

Yes.

Cheers

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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As you'll note from the report above, Jon, I wasn't overly impressed by Fischer's at Baslow Hall - but to be fair to them, although vogueish at the moment, the amuse was probably the best of the pumpkin offerings I've tasted this year.

(edit:) Actually, scrub that: I tasted a similar dish (as a starter) with a ravioli of foie gras recently that was better - at Winteringham Fields. But save for that, F@BH was the best I've had of late.

Edited by Kropotkin (log)
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My personal experience also only amounts to one visit about 5 years ago and I ended up in about the same place you did, Kroptokin (with a touch of the Jon Tsengs regarding the soup...): it was good but, well, unoriginal actually.

My starter was the then 'amuse de jour' sweeping the country: probably a White Bean Veloute at that time. One of the mains was a pigs trotter with black pudding and foie gras that had been lifted from a Novelli dish; the desert was a Ramsay lift etc etc All very competently done but not that much cheaper than I'd paid for them first time round at Ramsay and Novelli...Like you, I felt it lacked fireworks, not because these weren't nice dishes and it wasn't flavoursome but because I'd hoped for a bit more individual style and flair than your average tribute band.

What's its USP, other than the geography ?

Gareth

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What's the USP/PoD of most places? Geography's as good as any other.

Actually, from what you're saying (and I don't disagree having been there only a couple of times) Fischer's provides a useful service--putting on the trendy michelin dishes de nos jours for people stuck miles from anywhere. Maybe there's a marketing campaign there?

Edited by BertieWooster (log)

It no longer exists, but it was lovely.

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I hate to beg for help in my own back yard but...

My dad swears blind that somewhere in the Baslow neck of the woods there is a very, very good dining-pub which is owned by the people behind Fischers.

He swears it's the just about the only excellent meal out he's had in Derbyshire (which is a little harsh, though believable) yet old fool that he is he can't remember the name and can give me only the sketchiest of directions.

Anyone have an idea as to what and where it might be?

Oh by the way, if anyone else is marooned in England's lost county then I still rate the home-cooked pub grub at The Packhorse in Hayfield (good roasts and the bread and butter pudding is amongst the tastiest I've had) and I also had an excellent meal at The Peacock at Rowsley (also had a cheese and really good ham toastie with homemade piccalilli). The Stocks cafe at Chapel en Le Frith is worth a look for a light lunch and has some good bottled beers too (as well as a homemade 'Lancashire duck' as part of it's full English).

Cheers

Thom

Edited by thom (log)

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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No, nope, absolutely not.

Oh ok, then it is. Thanks for that. I should have just Googled it shouldn't I?

Awful website but the menu looks good (certainly a godsend for my neck of the woods) and reading between the lines they seem to have the place set up right.

Might have to pop down there soonish.

Cheers Bap-meister

Thom

It's all true... I admit to being the MD of Holden Media, organisers of the Northern Restaurant and Bar exhibition, the Northern Hospitality Awards and other Northern based events too numerous to mention.

I don't post here as frequently as I once did, but to hear me regularly rambling on about bollocks - much of it food and restaurant-related - in a bite-size fashion then add me on twitter as "thomhetheringto".

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  • 1 year later...

Sunday lunch here today with t'other half.

Some nibbles of hand-fried crisps to start, very good.

Starter of mosaic of guinea fowl, fois gras & ham hock - excellent dish, although I think it could have been a touch warmer (not fridge cold but not room temp). Other half had crab & scallop ravioli with ginger bisque - sauce was fine but filling lacked salt.

Mains were both roast beef & trimmings - absolutely excellent, including the nicest parsnip i've ever had. Excellent gravy/"sauce".

A fantastic panna cotta w/ poached rhubarb for me and an excellent apple & sultana crumble (cinamon creme anglais included), many petit fours and great coffee.

With a couple of soft drinks and half a bottle of wine, the best £100 i've spent in a long time.

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  • 8 months later...

Saturday "festive" lunch today, in the slightly-snowy but beautiful surroundings.

Starter was a mosaic of derbyshire pork with piccalilli and sourdough - delicious porky goodness, perfect temperature and the 'allili with the right amount of heat. Mrs had a prawn cocktail with the freshest prawns I've ever had, god knows where they were from but were A+ for taste.

Mains for me was a safe braised beef shin, delicious and unctuous, but the far away winner was Baslow Goose with red & white cabbage, chestnuts, roast veg - amazing piece of meat (huge portion too) and was the real stand out dish of the day.

Mrs had cheese, a fine selection but could have used some explaining as to what was what maybe. Mine was a fantastic bruleed bread & butter pudding with Baileys ice-cream and was so more-ish I wanted to order another but t'other half wouldn't let me :(

Excellent coffee (a whole press full of it, we had about 6 cups each -that's how it should be done fellas!) with a superb mini mince pie.

Room was packed and an excellent lunch all around again - thumbs up from me.

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  • 2 years later...

I went at the end of February for what they called an 'Extravaganza' night. This meant a 7 course degustation, each accompanied by a glass of wine, plus canapes and a glass of sparkling (Graham Beck, South African) to start, all for £120. I didn't realise it at the time of booking, but it was the first time they'd done it, so we dropped on a bit since they also offered single room rates in conjunction, which basically meant half-price doubles. If I recall correctly the total package was £365, but we did have one of their superior rooms, which was effectively a suite with a separate lounge area.

The food, I admit, was what I'd call good but not spectacular. All very tasty and correct. It's well executed classical presented in a modish fashion. Certainly nothing to complain about. What made the night so incredible though was the generosity with the booze. Almost every glass was topped up without question, and on two occasions, repeated in full. But, and it's a big, very positive but, all the wines they served were a minimum of £40, and in the case of the red (an incredible New Zealand Pinot whose name escapes me now) £65 list price!

The only real gripe, and it's more of a warning I guess, is whilst the room was good value for £125 inc breakfast, I would have been mortified had I paid the usual £250 asking price. Yes, it's nicely appointed, but there was only one TV in the lounge (nothing in the bedroom), no mini-bar or air-con (God knows what it's like in summer) and, red-faced, hands-up on this point, our pine bed was very rickety. The room service and staff are obviously lovely when around, but once an evening closes down, that's your lot till breakfast. I know these country house hotels aren't cheap and Fischer's aren't the only ones asking this sort of money but, taking everything into consideration, that's very steep in my opinion - it's 5 star central London prices for a glorified B&B. I can only assume they justify the price by way of the overseas tourism constantly passing through to see Chatsworth.

They have another Extravaganza coming up on the 14th July. The price has crept up slightly to £130 and there's no mention of sparkles and canapes on arrival, though that's not to say it won't still be part of the offer. I don't think I'd hurry there at the usual rates, but on these evenings I can tell you there's a real deal to be had.

Btw, just in case it hasn't been mentioned, the converted pub just down the road is called Rowleys.

Edited by marcusjames (log)
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Quite disappointing to read the not so shining reports. Surprised to see how it kept its Star then this year, if it is not that outstanding.

I am booked in for their tasting menu on the 6th May, starting to question that now though :(

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Matutu, don't worry, it's definitely worth a star. I am not sure this thread as a whole is a fair representation of the establishment, it makes the place sound like it's stuck in the late 80's / early 90's, which it certainly isn't. OK, it isn't about trailblazing, super edgy gastro-fireworks I admit, but - as I mentioned earlier - tasty, well executed food. I wish I had some photos to post because the presentation is hardly backward either. Can any other board members provide?

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Yes I agree with Marcus. The food and cooking is far better than certain other one star restaurants I could mention. Its just unfortunate that there is a growing band of folk who expect everything to be so'bang on trend'. I do agree with some of the comments with regards to the rooms. If you are staying over, I would recommend bagging a garden room, which are far better appointed than the rooms in the main house. Just enjoy it for what it is.

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To stick up for Fischers - I've eaten in lots of 1 and 2 star restaurants, but I'd still rate Fischers as my favourite restaurant. It's great; good portions, great surroundings, friendly staff - really recommend it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The food will never set the world on fire, but it is solid cooking. Not everyone wants the 'modern' take on food, and just because it has a star that is not what should always be expected; look at st John for example. I admit I have had disappointing and expensive dinners here, but it is up there with other 1 stars in terms of quality, service etc.

Just interested tim6, where are you working that is so miles in front??

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