I had wanted to try Lovage in Bakewell ever since it opened about seven months ago. I finally got to go for lunch last week. I took my Mum for a festive treat. Here’s what I thought…
Lovage by Lee Smith is an exciting addition to the Peak District’s food scene. Chef Owner Lee Smith was a regional finalist in the 2019 series of Great British Menu. Smith was previously Head Chef at Michelin-starred Samphire in Jersey. He has also worked at the legendary Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Originally from Mansfield, Smith returned to the East Midlands to open his own restaurant. In less than a year, Lovage has earnt a spot in the prestigious Michelin Guide.
Housed in an historic building, in Bakewell town centre, Lovage successfully marries country casual with a stylish, refined elegance. Exposed beams and a beautiful parquet floor are offset by contemporary light fittings. Chic dried flowers and grasses compliment a colour palette of neutrals and deep forest green.
The menu at Lovage Bakewell
Lovage offers a set lunch menu of two courses for £29 or three courses for £34. I was delighted to learn that this can be mixed and matched between the two menus. It was also good to see a sommelier’s suggestion of a wine pairing for each course of the set menu. Sadly we were both driving and so didn’t partake in any wine on this occasion but I will definitely arrange a chauffeur next time!
The a la carte menu features four choices on each course. Starters range from £12 to £14, main courses from £20 for a vegetarian dish or £27 to £30 for the meat options and then desserts were typically £11 or £15 for an English cheese plate. There is also a tasting menu available in the evening.
Our experience at Lovage Bakewell
The older I get, the more I prefer a daytime jaunt with an early finish to get home and settled (I fully appreciate what an old dear this makes me seem. Believe me, I am here to embrace it!). Dining out at lunch also makes fine dining more accessible rather than reserving it for a special occasion.
We were warmly welcomed and immediately felt at ease to enjoy the experience.
Prior to the starters we were served freshly baked granary bread. This was served with homemade butter, enriched with a local rapeseed oil. Both were excellent. Also accompanying was a ‘snack’ of a little tartlet filled with caramelised onion topped with cream cheese and truffle.
Whilst I think the set menu offers great value, there are only two choices on each course. Neither of the starters set my heart alight so I opted for an a la carte starter of beetroot, burrata, black garlic, sorrel and pine nuts. This was exceptionally well presented with deep jewel tones of beetroot and little pools of savoury black garlic. I enjoyed this dish but wished the beetroot hadn’t been quite so pickled.
My Mum ordered the soup from the set menu. This was a celeriac and truffle soup, beautifully garnished with hazelnut, celery and apple. A perfect choice on a wintery day! Mum commented on the depth of flavour and the pleasingly “zingy bits”.
Both of our main courses were from the set menu. I opted for the vegetarian dish of roast cauliflower served with the most delicious cauliflower puree, pistachio and pine nut butter, sea vegetables and chicory. I really enjoyed this. The cauliflower was moreish-ly buttery and off set with the piquant sea vegetable and peppery chicory. I loved the texture of the pine nuts.
My Mum ordered the chalk stream trout served with Jerusalem artichoke and horseradish. This was dressed at the table with the most vividly coloured watercress sauce. Both of the dishes were gluten free.
At this point we were both pleasantly full, so decided not to order dessert but just to proceed with coffee and petit fours. This proved to be an excellent decision on this occasion as we were served a very generously sized mince pie. This consisted of a really fresh, citrussy mincemeat encased in the most beautifully flaky pastry. There was also a delectable white chocolate fudge, served in edible rice paper.
Something I really rated at Lovage was the service. Attentive, professional but unfailing friendly. All three of the female staff were absolutely lovely and really took the time to personalise our experience.
Overall, I absolutely loved Lovage Bakewell. Not only was the food a real treat but the general vibe was spot on. I loved the décor and the service. It’s not at all pretentious – but still does things ‘properly’.
I went accidentally vegetarian on this occasion. I’m already looking forward to a return visit when I plan on exploring the wine list and the meat!
Well executed fine dining in a contemporary, understated setting with immaculate service.
Lovage is situated in Bakewell town centre, DE45 1DS. There are several car parks within short walking distance. These will get busy at peak tourist times so do factor in time to park. We parked in the market place which is pay and display.
Two courses (all from the set menu, apart from one a la carte starter), a large bottle of mineral water and two coffees and petit fours came to £72, excluding tip.
Love fine dining? Read my review of Aqua Garden’s pop-up dining events.