Chef Matt serves up his Aubergine

Nikki and Matthew Rushton outside their new restaurant, Aubergine, in Chesterfield
Nikki and Matthew Rushton outside their new restaurant, Aubergine, in Chesterfield

A FORMER lawnmower shop in the middle of a lacklustre high street may not be the obvious place to start a new life – but chef Matt Rushton has high hopes.

It’s a long way from the lofty heights of London, where he worked for the irascible Gordon Ramsay. But it’s the realisation of a dream for Matt, who has named his first restaurant Aubergine – just as Ramsay did.

Matt is a Chesterfield lad, born and bred, whose career has spanned the five-star St Pierre Park in Guernsey, the acclaimed Peacock at Rowsley in the Peak District and, latterly, the swanky new Casa hotel just up the road in his home town.

Despite having been head chef at Casa for less than a year, when the opportunity arose to launch his own restaurant, Matt seized it. His wife Nikki is on board to run front-of-house operations.

“We had a vision,” he says. “We’d looked at lots of places but we just walked in here and fell in love with it.”

He believes the Sheffield Road venue is perfect: well placed for both the new b2net stadium and the planned Waterside canal basin redevelopment.

Aubergine has a contemporary elegance, combining a lounge area and outside seating with an open kitchen and 38-seat restaurant.

It is open daily (closed Monday) for breakfast, lunch and light meals, with a full restaurant service Thursday to Saturday evenings.

The response has both delighted and astonished Matt: “We expected it to take six months to build up to this stage, not just a few weeks! It’s working fantastically.”

Highlights of the contemporary British menu include confit belly pork with garlic mash and smoked bacon jus (£11.95) and sea bass with crushed potatoes and prawn and chive velouté (£13.95).

A set lunch menu offers two courses for £13.95 or three for £15.95.

For details and opening times, visit www.auberginechesterfield.com