Fine dining is a phrase that has become overused in recent years, and with more and more restaurants seeking to fall under the category of this coveted label, it has become increasingly difficult for the customer to navigate the fine dining landscape. However, in a small but spacious building adjacent to the old mill buildings of Darley Abbey, lies a rejuvenated and regenerated stalwart of Derbyshire’s culinary pedigree, Darleys. After forging a well-established reputation for fantastic food and an excellent atmosphere, Darleys found itself at a crossroads needing to bring something exciting and creative after a period of stagnation. However, in 2020, Darleys came under new ownership, with father and son duo Lee Bebbington and Robert Ellis bringing a new direction, with a vision to serve both European and British inspired dishes that push the boundaries of cooking. After a recent visit to the Derbyshire establishment, it is clear to see that they are succeeding in exactly what they set out to achieve.
With a light, fresh and airy layout, the arrangement of the restaurant consists of two levels with a raised area and a lower more informal seating area with marble tables and two leather alcoves. There is a distinctive stylish twist to the interior of the restaurant that adds an intimate yet understated atmosphere but ensures the focus remains on the food. From the bar, you can rest assured that any requests will be catered for, as an expert mixologist is on hand to create anything from a Martini to a French 75. Furthermore, Darleys maintains a strict ethos of interacting with local suppliers, so you will be able to find drinks options from White Peak Distillery, who we featured in our third print edition, as well as specially selected wines from Halfpenny Green vineyard in Staffordshire. The specialist house sommelier will help you to pair your wine perfectly with your meal, and with an extensive list of excellent wines, you will not be short of options.
Of course, however, the main attraction is the outstanding cooking that incorporates traditional, contemporary and progressive techniques and ideas which helps to keep Darleys at the cutting edge of the culinary world. The balance of culinary concepts and its dish choice has ensured that Darleys does not fall into the pretentious trap that fine dining restaurants can sometimes be susceptible to. The evening menu revolves around a set dinner menu, alongside a tasting menu and the dishes are beautifully presented, with stylish creativity. The Guide’s recommendation from the dinner menu would have to be the Pan Seared Scallop with Sweet Potato, Ginger and Black Vinegar Gel to start, followed by the Newlyn Harbour Monkfish with Chorizo, Corn and Romesco Sauce and to finish White Chocolate with Lemon, Honey and Sesame (put together by Chef Will Bee). The flavours in all three of these dishes were sublime and it possible to pick out all the nuances and subtleties from the bold flavours demonstrating the calibre of chefs that Darleys has in the kitchen. Without doubt, Darleys is back and back with a bang and do not be surprised if the fine Derbyshire establishment is knocking on the door of a Michelin star soon.