The Blacksmiths, Clayworth
Jane Marsh visited The Blacksmiths at Clayworth to find a stylish venue which goes that bit further to welcome guests.
I invited my husband on this dining mission, which gave us a chance to relax and catch up after a very busy week for both of us. We visited early on a Friday evening and already the large car park at the rear of the building was filling up with vehicles. A good sign, as far as I am concerned, that people travel to eat here.
Ellesha, the events manager, welcomed us and we sat down in the bar to look through the menus. The Blacksmiths is obviously as popular with locals enjoying an early evening drink as it is as a gastro pub and we could feel ourselves unwind too as others began their weekend.
The Blacksmiths was completely renovated six years ago and the décor is a mix of forged, exposed steels and vertical chains providing subtle curtain panels between areas, with the contemporary and natural feel of hewn wood table tops and slate. Suspended antique toboggans and ski poles all add to the charm of the interior.
The menus, devised by head chef Peter, offer a similar approach of elegant quality with quirky, edgier options. We could choose from the evening menu or the daily specials, offering three more options for each course, which were chalked on a blackboarded beam between the open plan bar and seating areas.
I could easily have chosen from several tempting dishes but decisions have to be made. Warm, homemade mini loaves served with balsamic and olive oil were brought to the table while our starters were prepared. I began with scallops served with cod brandade, fennel salad and pomegranate. Paul had been tempted by the red onion tartlet, one of the daily specials. Both dishes were beautifully presented on their plates – very appetising even before we tucked in. The balance of flavours was perfect with my scallops, indeed it was one of the highlights of the evening for me that the kitchen pitches flavours so well. Fresh, light and clean, these were excellent choices to begin our meal.
The owner of The Blacksmiths rears lamb on a nearby farm, so I was very tempted to make this my main dish but it was served with a faggot, not a favourite of mine, so I went for the cod instead. My husband went straight for an 8oz fillet steak served with twice-cooked chips and a mixed salad. I love fish and this dish delighted me. The pan-fried cod was served on a bed of Mediterranean cous cous, red pepper salsa and a lobster bisque sauce. What a delicious combination! My husband asked for his steak to be served medium and that is exactly what arrived. A fine piece of steak indeed.
For dessert we ordered crème brûlée served with brandy snaps and gooseberry compote for me and apple crumble served with vanilla custard and ice cream for Paul. We were deep in conversation and hadn’t realised our desserts had not been ordered until our lovely waitress came and apologised profusely. We would have been blissfully unaware if she hadn’t mentioned it and her service had been otherwise excellent. Our choices finished our meal perfectly. The fruit had been treated with respect and retained the sharpness to offset the rich intensity of the custards and sugar.
After dinner we were invited to look around the other facilities which the Blacksmiths offers. A private dining room, which overlooks the gardens, is accessed via a spiral staircase to the upper floor of a green oak built extension at the back of the building. Ideal for special occasion celebrations, the large dining table can seat up to twenty.
We passed invitingly modernised cottages on the left of the driveway as we drove in, which provide overnight accommodation to diners too. Rated 5 star, it is not hard to see why their boutique design and finish is so attractive to guests, especially those wanting to make the most of their dining experience. The menus are brimming with seasonal freshness and are changed frequently. I would recommend that you look on The Blacksmiths website prior to your visit to see the most up to date choices. A nice touch, as we concluded the evening, was a dish of homemade chocolate truffles and macarons, served with coffee. Delicious!
It is our wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks and yes, we have booked to go back to The Blacksmiths; a special place for our special celebration.