Why is it that certain elite restaurants are singled out for honours while others, with equally good food and service, are passed over year after year?
I, for one, believe Sheffield is a hotbed of culinary talent, appreciated by those who frequent its dining hotspots, but yet to be discovered by the guide-writing sheep, who follow the well-worn track of ratings and rosettes.
However, there are one or two restaurants so outstanding that no-one could quibble. Michelin-starred Fischer’s at Baslow Hall is a case in point: a place that simply oozes decadence and ambrosial delights.
The Michelin-starred price tag puts it beyond the reach of many, but Fischer’s is keen to welcome ordinary folk. Hence its current £20.13 lunch menu – and the reason you find us soaking up the sunshine in its glorious gardens as we prepare to try it out for ourselves.
The ‘restaurant with rooms’ was founded by chef Max Fischer in 1988, awarded a Michelin star six years later – and has maintained it ever since. In recent years Max has spent more time developing his extensive kitchen garden, leaving the cooking in the skilled hands of head chef Rupert Rowley.
Rupert trained at Sheffield College and honed his talent alongside Raymond Blanc, John Burton Race and Gordon Ramsay before arriving at Baslow Hall in 2002.
His style is essentially British, with the emphasis on quality ingredients, balanced flavours and contrasting textures, all beautifully executed and superbly presented.
The lunch deal offers a choice of three dishes for each course: at £20.13 for two courses, an extra fiver for three plus £4 for coffee. But oh! It’s worth every penny.
We’re shown into the dining room, which is formal as the service, dominated by stone mullions, acres of white napery and a vast bowl of lilies, asters and delphiniums, fresh from the garden.
We begin with a complimentary chef’s savoury: little glass bowls of slightly fizzy tomato jelly, iced bacon cream and vivid green lettuce foam. It’s a treat for the eye as well as the palate; a teasing mosaic of flavour, texture and temperature.
Next I have smooth Peakland pannacotta: rich and cheesy, with a salad of dressed heritage tomatoes.
My companion tucks into sweet, meaty pork belly with peanut dressing, poached quail’s eggs, wilted leaves and slivers of kohlrabi, crisp and juicy as an apple.
My main course is salmon, sitting crisp-skinned and pretty on a bed of French-style peas, asparagus and green beans, with a white wine and herb velouté.
Succulent grilled chicken breast maintains the standard, gingered up with a miso glaze and balanced by smoky chargrilled cabbage and shallot, sweetcorn, giant couscous and nasturtium leaves – each flavour distinct yet working beautifully together.
Dessert is poached peach and goats curd ice cream for me; cherry and almond tart for him – disappointing only because it lacks almond flavour, and delicious even so.
Altogether a meal worthy of its star status.
* Fischer’s at Baslow Hall, Calver Road, Baslow (01246) 583 259 Fischer’s Baslow Hall