Open since only 25th April, Arthur’s is a small 22 seat restaurant from mother and son team Suzy & Leo Hill – owner and chef respectively – located in the Derbyshire town of Belper
From the moment I clapped eyes on their Instagram I immediately wanted to visit – the promise of dishes such as rabbit & wild garlic kiev with asparagus and broad bean had me excited! (Sadly this wasn’t on the menu the night we visited!)
The restaurant offers small-plate dining, and menus will change with the seasons (as I write this their new menu has just been announced!) We visited as a four which gave us the perfect excuse to make sure we tried every dish on the menu (twice over!), starting with the warm wild garlic focaccia and wonderfully fragrant wild garlic oil for dipping. The bread was brilliantly bouncy with a lovely salty crust, and a delight when dipped in the vibrant oil
We shared a charcuterie platter of salami, chorizo, prosciutto & bresaola, served with pickled gherkins and capers, and pickled rhubarb which was gorgeous and complimented the meats perfectly (the bresaola being everyone’s favourite)
The main dishes then started to arrive, first of which was the rabbit croquettes with spring greens & lemon aioli. Tender parcels of shredded rabbit were encased in crunchy panko crumbs and deep fried until gloriously golden and crisp, the lemon and greens adding a freshness
Chunky flaky cod cheeks were served with crunchy shoestring fries, and a light tangy tartare sauce brought both together. I enjoyed the contrasting textures and the play on fish and chips
The chargrilled asparagus with goats cheese and cured yolk was a massive hit, the charred edges of the asparagus imparting a real depth of flavour and a summery barbecue-esque taste
Next up was lamb cutlet & rolled lamb breast with wild garlic, both of which were incredibly juicy. The cutlet was served very pink – possibly under done for some but we enjoyed it – a testament to the quality of the meat, and the bones were picked clean. To me wild garlic is a hit with everything so I was pleased to see it again here – simple ingredients allowed to shine without too much fuss
The sea bass with sliced courgette, courgette flowers and courgette sauce was a very pretty dish, the skin on the fish perfectly crisp and the flesh nice and flaky, however it was a little over-salted which did overpower the dish – less seasoning and it would be spot on
This next dish divided the table with two keen and two not-so — a duck heart skewer with rhubarb, brioche & rose. As with the lamb, the duck hearts could have benefitted from just a few seconds more cooking for my taste and I’d like to see maybe a bit more colour on the outside, I was however very pleased to see more of that pickled rhubarb which I’m convinced would compliment literally anything you put it with (and was great just on its own too!)
The nettle soup was light, velvety and green tasting, and was poured onto curds and both whole & shaved hazelnuts at the table. It made me want to go out and immediately (but carefully!) collect nettles to re-create it!
‘Wood pigeon with chicken shop flavours’ was served two ways – pan seared breast, and fried leg with more crispy shoestring fries. Once again the pigeon breast was very pink but as with the lamb, the meat cut like butter and was very tender. The leg was well seasoned, crumbed and deep fried, but retained moisture and certainly made you think ‘chicken shop’!
Octopus, broad beans & chorizo were served with a seperate bowl of broth – we weren’t sure of the significance of the broth and the dish would be fine without it, or maybe if it was served in a bowl so the broth could be poured over and eaten with a spoon it would have tied the two elements together? In any case, the octopus was well cooked with a lovely char on the outside that I always hope for, and chorizo is always a winner giving a paprika smokiness to the beans
Perhaps it was more evident because we tried every dish, but there are quite a few elements that re-occur throughout the menu such as the fries, pea shoots, sliced asparagus & broad beans – just an observation really, but I suppose it’s a nice way to ensure less wastage by making sure all your ingredients are used efficiently
The jersey royals on the menu had sold out, so instead we had an heirloom tomato salad. Simple, fresh and clean, it served almost as a palate cleanser before the desserts
Onto desserts and the ale cake with banana & miso was up first. The cake itself felt quite dense to cut through but was actually really moist and moreish, and the dish had a light miso saltiness & a subtle banana flavour from the ice cream
The rhubarb crumble and custard were both very light – a welcome surprise from what is 9 times out of 10 a very heavy pudding. The stewed rhubarb had the perfect amount of sweetness & plenty of juice, and the topping was buttery & crumbly
The smoked chocolate delice was rich with dark chocolate but also fluffy, and had just a hint of smokiness with a crunchy chocolate biscuit base. The coffee ice cream was gorgously smooth and creamy with the perfect amount of coffee flavour
We also ordered the ‘sweets’ (told you we tried the whole menu!) The chilli granita was perhaps a spicy step too far for me, but the rest of the elements were spot on – more chocolate delice as above, heavenly smoked fudge, and sweet potato ice cream which we all loved but none of us could pin-point the flavour!
Overall I enjoyed what we ate – some plates just need that bit of refinement and I look forward to returning to see what new dishes the changing seasons have to offer!
For a chef that’s only been cooking for 4 years this is an ambitious project but you can clearly see what he’s trying to achieve and I admire his adventurousness. I really hope that the people of Belper embrace Arthur’s as it brings some much needed modernity to the area
It’s worth noting that the restaurant is BYOB and they don’t charge corkage so if you want to drink alcohol with your meal, you’ll need to take it with you. The friendly staff happily lent us an ice bucket and corkscrew, and made sure we had plenty of glasses for each of the drinks we had too
Have you been to Arthur’s yet?