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The Duncombe Arms Review

Visited September 2021

The Duncombe Arms

Situated just south of the Peak District in the little village of Ellastone, The Duncombe Arms is a pub with a rather impressive list of food related accolades. Having been awarded two AA rosettes in 2017, a Michelin Bib Gourmand was bestowed by our favourite tyre munching inspectors in 2019 as well. I was therefore looking forward to some high quality food as a I rocked up for lunch with my wife and two young children, on a slightly drizzly September Saturday.

The pub wasn't difficult to find (with the help of our trusty sat nav of course) and there's a good amount of parking on site, which is always nice to see. The welcome on arrival was really warm and professional by our waitress, in fact she looked after us well for our entire stay. It's always good, particularly in this COVID-ravaged time, to be served by someone with a bit of experience who clearly knows what they're doing.

We were promptly shown to our table in one of the dining areas and I have to say, I really liked the feel of the place. We were sat on a spacious round wooden table, there was an exposed brick wall opposite which worked well, some interesting art on the wall and plenty of quirky bottles and miscellaneous objects. All in all, although there were parts of the room that were a little bit rough around the edges (e.g. some patches of flaking plaster), I thought overall the space looked great and was a perfect fit for a high end pub meal. The place was fairly quiet when we arrived, but filled up nicely as the lunch service progressed.

On offer a lunch is a full carte menu (which we ate from), a short three course (just about) children's menu and a bar menu also with sandwiches and the like. The wine list is impressive with a lot of interesting choices and plenty available by the glass. The drinks list too also covers all the major bases well, including a decent cocktail selection and a wide range of gin and whisky choices. Being the boring man that I am, I stuck with my usual Hendricks and tonic's during the meal (these were perfectly well delivered) whilst there is a good array of non-alcoholic options too, including mocktails and Seedlip, which my wife was perfectly happy with during her meal. Just to highlight what I was saying earlier about the good quality service, our waitress was able to talk through all the various Seedlip choices available without missing a beat, an impressive feat considering I'm sure there aren't too many people ordering it on an average day.

At the carte menu price point I was hoping for some bread to start the meal; there wasn't any which was a little bit of a shame, but I'd class that as only a minor disappointment. Lunch began for me with what was listed as a king scallop but was actually two pretty small scallops, served with caramelised cauliflower, grape and a sort of hazelnut puree. Although the portion size was a little mean, it was a very tasty dish, the scallops were cooked well and the puree was velvety smooth and very flavoursome. My wife had a little bit less luck with her rabbit and parsley terrine, although it was perfectly edible and a competent dish overall. The children's menu only provided a couple of starter options; the single slice of garlic bread both my daughter and son went for was tasty enough, but not exactly memorable.

The mains came in a good timeframe and were the best plates of the meal. I opted for the pork loin with white bean, truffle and parsnip. It was an excellent dish showing accomplished cooking and delivering great flavours; I really enjoyed it and I'd happily eat that dish again at any time. My wife went for the 'Duncobe Arms Burger'; I mean if it's named after the restaurant, it's got to be good right? It can be a tough ask to elevate a burger to a fine dining level (without just going crazy on expensive ingredients) but this was as good a burger as either of us could recall eating; the burger itself was very tasty and the accompanying bacon jam was a particular highlight. For the kids, my daughter enjoyed a perfectly decent kids portion of fish and chips and my son was very happy with just a side of chunky chips, which he munched on with glee.

Although the menu pacing up to this point has been spot on, there was a noticeably long wait for our desserts to arrive; the restaurant had filled up quite a lot by this point which I'd guess was the cause. I went for the white chocolate delice, accompanied by dark chocolate shards, buttermilk and sea buckthorn. It looked good on the plate and it was tasty enough, but I wasn't blown away by this one, the delice itself in particular was a bit too frozen for my liking. My wife though enjoyed a generous (and tasty) lump of sticky toffee pudding with plum ice cream. For the kids, again the children's menu was a bit limited in terms of desserts; my daughter wasn't really impressed with her pancake and ice cream, but they were able to rustle up some not-on-the-menu strawberry sorbet for my son which we very much enjoyed.

And so, after the bill was delivered without too much of a wait (complete with an automatically included ten percent service charge), a very enjoyable lunch came to an end. The service throughout our meal was very good (and perfectly child friendly) and the food was of a really good standard too, with plenty of accomplished cooking on display. Yes, there are some little things I would perhaps tweak, but overall this was an impressive meal in a really nice venue, and an experience I'd happily repeat in future.

Dress Code

None, but even at lunch I felt a little bit underdressed amongst the other guests (albeit from the older generation), so I'd probably wear a shirt for dinner.

Top Tip

Child friendly. Good amount of parking on site. Decent non-alcoholic drink options.

Guide Ratings

I have no issue at all with the AA here; it's everything a two rosette restaurant should be. The bib gourmand is a mysterious award really; there are less holders of it in the UK than there are star holders. Was the food worthy of Michelin recognition? Absolutely. Did I feel the meal was great value? Not at all. But hey, who am I to argue with the mighty red book.
Ratings Michelin Guide AA Guide Good Food Guide
At time of review Michelin Bib Gourmand AA RosetteAA Rosette Local Gem
Our view Michelin Bib Gourmand AA RosetteAA Rosette 4

Group size: 2 adults & 2 children. Total bill (including service): £136.