Tucked away in the historic Derbyshire village of Higham, Santo’s Higham Farm Hotel is built around a 15th century farmhouse. As you walk into reception, you notice Italian granite table tops, beautifully worn stone floors and an ancient sunken well.
It’s Friday night and the award winning hotel is full. Around me, the happy burble of contended patrons. The staff and their manager, Santo, are attentive and eager to please.
There are 4 dining rooms, ranging from formal to informal. The menu is refreshingly simple; a 2 page affair that changes seasonally. As we take our seats, we’re met with a choice of warm, freshly baked roles (wholemeal or cheese and paprika) – a promising start to a fantastic meal.
The chef’s fine dining pedigree is obvious. Each plate is considered, balanced and carefully constructed.
The first dish is the elegant Crispy Parmesan Risotto Balls (mini Arancini). Sat on a bed of creamy celeriac and truffle puree, and served with cubes of salt baked Kohlrabi, and crisp baby endive.
In Sicily, Arancini are robust and rustic.
But here, they are elevated to an elegant, well balanced starter. The gentle heat of the Kohlrabi and subtle bitterness of baby endive works superbly with creamy, cheesy crunch of the small Arancini.
The Confit Duck Leg Rilette is equally sophisticated. The Rilette has a rich and complex flavour, with a hint of star anise, balanced beautifully with a treacly spiced pear puree, a velvety celeriac remoulade and stunning duck breast, delicately smoked, in-house.
For Main Course, we try the light and visually striking pan fried, Fillet of Cod. Served with golden saffron and garlic turned potatoes, buttered kale, fresh samphire, tiny scooped out vegetables and a heady seafood sauce.
We follow this with, slow braised Shoulder of Lamb. Cooked low and slow for 12 hours. The locally sourced meat is moist and packed with flavour. Teamed with and sweet, sharp and spicy red cabbage, comforting mash and the crunchiest of green beans, this dish should be eaten frequently.
We finish with an opulent Cheesecake, made with a generous vanilla filling and crunchy biscuit. Paired perfectly with a soft set full bodied blackberry sorbet and luxurious white chocolate crisp.