A few weeks ago I received an invitation to dinner at The Orangery at St Elphins, and after a little research was immediately intrigued as the restaurant is actually part of a retirement village…
One of 9 locations owned by Audley Villages, St Elphin’s Park is situated in Darley Dale, not far from Matlock, Derbyshire
Set within 14 acres in the Derbyshire Dales, at the centre of the 127-property village is a stunning restored former Victorian school which houses the Audley Club, and in turn, The Orangery Restaurant
Now I know what you might be thinking – retirement village, really?! But cast aside any preconceptions and trust me when I say that The Orangery is as far from what you imagine a restaurant in a retirement village to be as possible, and instead has more of a hotel vibe. You know that feeling that you get when you’re staying in a hotel and you pad down to the restaurant in the evening, the lighting is soft, background music is playing away and you just feel instantly at home? That’s what it felt like here!
We were warmly greeted by Fiona, and shown to a table in the bar area where we sat and enjoyed a drink whilst taking a look at the menu. We visited towards the end of September so it was lovely to see a more autumnal feel to some of the dishes on the menu, in tune with the changing seasons
Mains were split into two sections – ‘Classics’ which included the likes of fish & chips, burger and caesar salad, and ‘Mains’ where you’ll find dishes such as duck breast with spiced sweet potato puree and sea trout with clams & scallop velouté
No sooner had we placed our orders, fresh bread arrived at our table with gorgeous salted and truffle whipped butters – all of which were devoured within seconds!
We were taken through to our table by the window and promptly sank into the plush wingback chairs, practically cocooning us in comfort!
Moments later our starters were placed before us – I chose wood pigeon which was beautifully gamey, simply cooked & buttery soft, and was accompanied by earthy ‘beetroot textures’ including discs of cooked beetroot and beetroot leaf, a puree and a beetroot powder. Ripe pear added a freshness and sweetness, and the slightest hint of tangy blue cheese just made the dish pop!, cutting through the other hearty flavours on the plate
For my main I chose the venison. The star of the show was obviously the stunning venison loin, nicely seared on the outside and blushing on the inside, but it was the accompanying purees of broccoli & black garlic that really packed a punch – both perfectly seasoned with a real richness & depth of flavours, whilst still making sure the main ingredients were easily identifiable. Baby turnips and roasted vegetables all had a lovely char on the outside, giving them a smokey taste. The dish was finished off with a light meaty jus that complimented all of the other elements on the plate. We also ordered sides of tenderstem broccoli & silky creamed potatoes which were a welcome addition (I mean, when don’t you need mash?!)
Both the starters and mains were perfectly proportioned, leaving just enough room for something sweet!
My chosen dessert combined two of my favourites – cherries & almonds! Silky smooth & subtly flavoured almond panna cotta sat alongside a cherry sorbet, which was zingy with a hint of sharpness that complemented the sweeter elements perfectly. A delicate almond ‘cigar’ was filled with cherry mousse and gave a wonderful contrast in texture, whilst the toasted marzipan was just heavenly! Small pieces of fresh cherry and cherry puree finished off the decadent dish superbly
We reluctantly dragged ourselves out of our cocoons and headed home, having had a thoroughly lovely evening! I’m not really sure what I expected but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality & presentation of the food and the sumptious surroundings, and the staff and service were excellent throughout our visit
I’d highly recommend eating at The Orangery, and I’m really glad I was introduced to this hidden gem! The restaurant is open to the public not just residents, and you can book a table for lunch or dinner 7 days a week (Sundays lunch only)
Thank you to Fiona & team for making us so welcome!
Our meal was complimentary but all opinions are 100% my own