There’s no doubt about the reputation of Baslow’s Cavendish Hotel from the time you walk through the door – and spot a wall decorated with AA rosette award plates.
On the same wall are the hotel’s menus and a list of the many local suppliers that head chef Mike Thompson likes to support.
“I always wanted to cook at the top end,” he says. “I truly believe you can taste the difference when you use fresh produce, in season, and we’ve so many excellent producers on our doorstep.”
The hotel is on the Chatsworth estate and Mike’s also happy to head out to the local countryside in his spare time for a spot of foraging.
A local lad, he trained at High Peak College in Buxton. But his career reads like a tour guide to top restaurants – from the Priory Hotel at Bath and the Devonshire Arms at Bolton Abbey, to Riber Hall, Thyme in Sheffield and Michelin-starred Fischer’s Baslow Hall.
Immediately before arriving at the Cavendish nearly three years ago, he and his brother ran their own place, the Druid Inn at Birchover, earning a coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand.
An award for Pub Sandwich of the Year in 2005 almost diverted him into the world of commercial catering, with sandwich companies competing for his services.
“It was exciting at the time but I soon realised my heart was in running my own kitchen,” says Mike.
The Cavendish has proved the perfect place to develop his career, supported by a strong team.
“We enjoy experimenting and introducing new ideas to our menus but it’s a serious business when you have two restaurants, a private dining room and hotel guests to cater for,” he says.
“Not only that, we have the Kitchen Table where diners eat in the kitchen, watching their meal being cooked. It gives guests the chance to see us at work during a busy service and to fire questions while I’m cooking.
“They tend to be genuinely interested in their food so it’s a good experience for me too.”
Quality may be key at the Cavendish, but Mike and his team pride themselves on serving food that looks as good as it tastes.
The results are spectacular, but many of the dishes can be successfully reproduced at home, with a little careful preparation – like this barbecued mackerel tartar, with all the accompaniments.
Mike has shared his recipes so that keen amateurs can try their hand at cooking Cavendish-style.
But he enjoys the simple things in life too: “My mother’s food brings back great memories – her meat and potato pie with Henderson’s Relish and mushy peas always hit the spot… and it’s even better with a pint of local real ale!”
Barbecued Mackerel & Tartar with beetroot macaroon, horseradish ice cream & lime caviar
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 fresh fillets, boned & smoked
500ml organic beetroot juice
5 sheets gelatine
5g agar agar
1 mackerel fillet, boned & dried
1⁄2 banana shallot, diced
1⁄2 lemon juice & zest
2 tsp Greek yogurt
1 tsp chopped fresh chives
1 tsp fresh dill
500g lime puree
125g agar agar
Horseradish Ice Cream:
125g egg yolks
2 tbsp fresh horseradish grated
315g ground almonds
525g icing sugar
60g plain flour
285g egg whites
185g castor sugar
9g beetroot juice
10g beetroot powder
Heat beetroot juice with gelatine and agar agar until dissolved; pour on to non-stick tray 2mm thick. Leave to set then cut into sheets 5 x 8 cm. Mix together remaining ingredients to create mackerel tartar. Spoon and roll inside set jelly sheets to create beetroot cannelloni.
Add lime puree to water, boil to reduce by half. Add agar agar and leave to cool 10 mins then place in a plastic bottle. Place a 1 litre bowl of vegetable oil in freezer for 30 mins; when cold, drip lime solution into oil, creating small balls. Drain and wash.
Horseradish Ice Cream:
Whisk together sugar and egg yolks. Add remaining ingredients and cook 5 mins, stirring constantly. Churn in an ice cream maker & freeze.
Mix almonds, flour & icing sugar in food processor.
Beat egg whites until stiff, add sugar slowly; then beetroot juice & powder. Fold in meringue and pipe into macaroons. Rest 30min, then cook 20min at 130ºC
Garnish with fresh radish halves & shavings, lemon balm, micro coriander & beetroot powder. Ball horseradish ice cream between 2 macaroons and arrange all ingredients. Finish with a drizzle of rapeseed oil.