Recently, I recommended the multi-award winning Stones in Matlock to Great Food Club as one of my top Derbyshire picks. I’ve been a few times over the years but haven’t actually written up a review before. So, it made sense to go back and share with you all my experience. If you haven’t heard of Stones before, it’s located on the bank of the River Derwent in the beautiful town of Matlock, just on the edge of the Peak District.
Stones is a family run restaurant serving AA rosette fine dining British dishes within chic, contemporary surroundings and is the perfect setting for any occasion from a romantic meal to a fancy business lunch. Following our descent down the steps to the entrance, we were welcomed and asked whether we’d like to go to our table or head out to the riverside terrace for drinks. As it had just started spitting with rain, we opted for our table in the conservatory however had it not have been raining, we definitely would have sat outside. The terrace area has beautiful views overlooking the river.
Whilst perusing the menu, we were bought over some appetisers to enjoy along with some cocktails. Today’s selection was Tomato and Cheese Swirls, Chicken Liver Parfait and Pease Pudding along with some fresh homemade breads consisting of Treacle, Sunblushed Tomato and a Cheese one too. All had an amazing crunchy crust. The butters, served on a stone, were in both salted and pesto flavours. The pesto butter and tomato bread were a match made in heaven.
There are different menu options available at Stones. There’s a lunch, Dinner, Vegetarian and a Tasting menu too. We were booked in at night and went for the Dinner menu. Two courses are available for £32 or three courses for £36 which I’ve always believed to be great value for money for the standard of food on offer. To start, I went for one of my favourites, Crispy Goat’s Cheese with Peas and Beetroot. This is a classic combination and a lovely light starter. Mum went for the Seared Scallops (£2 supp.) which are served with Satay Sauce, Mango, Coriander and Chilli. Scallops are her favourite but the Satay Sauce had her intrigued. The Scallops had the perfect texture and the Satay was subtle, just what she was hoping for. All elements worked together brilliantly.
When it came to main courses, I was in a fussy mood. Nothing on the dinner menu was screaming out to me so I asked to take a look through the vegetarian options. I spotted the Pea and Broadbean Risotto with Lemon & Mint and that was the one for me. I’ve had Risotto at Stones previously and it was the best one I’ve had. This one was certainly up there. The dish contained really fresh tasting ingredients which was a nice change. I couldn’t manage the whole bowl unfortunately. Risotto is filling, okay?!! Mum went for the Fillet of Beef which had I chosen a main from the dinner menu, I’d have gone for myself. This is served with Peas, Leeks and Rosti Potatoes and has a £4 supplement.
The meat itself was excellent quality and was cooked as requested, medium rare. I just had to steal one of those Potatoes, they were so crispy. Dessert was a no-brainer. I wanted to go for something different to my usual choices which lead me to a Passionfruit Parfait with Grapefruit and Orange Terrine and Earl Grey Sorbet. Now, I don’t like tea so the Earl Grey Sorbet was a no no from me but if that is your thing then I can image this element compliments the dish. I however, pushed it aside. Passionfruit however, is one of my favourite flavours so this along with the smooth, creamy parfait was the perfect end to my meal. The terrine had an odd texture. Don’t get me wrong, it was very nice but I needed convincing a little more. Might have to try it again – wink wink.
Mum had a Chocolate and Butterscotch Mousse with Salted Caramel ice-cream and Popcorn. It sounded a gorgeous dessert and was well and truly demolished. With those ingredients, how could it not be? Our evening at Stones was as fantastic as always. The food is stunning both in taste and visually, the service is spot on and the atmosphere there always makes you feel welcome. It’s a beautiful restaurant with beautiful surroundings. I can’t fault a single element.
“Exudes class!” 2 weeks agoReviewed by ColonelDavey
It is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the whole offering: the service, the location next to the River Derwent Bridge, the calm effect of the light grey and white decor and a very nice conservatory – needed because of the rain. The food continued on the same lines with a terrific menu of difficult-to-make choices. Everything was beautifully presented: the charming amuses bouche and the nicely laid out chocolate accompaniments to the coffee. All four of us just loved our meals. The wild mushroom fricassee was delicious and the ham hock was both delicious and substantial without looking so. A good varied wine list also helped. The service had the same nice touches of class and efficiency. For some of us it was well worth the 2 hour journey for our annual visit. However I am thinking that I must go more than just once a year because it is well worth the effort.
“Stones, Matlock” 1 week agoReviewed by buglehorn66
A focused menu of excellent food served by friendly and attentive staff in a smart and relaxed environment, difficult to suggest any scope for improvements. The outside terrace allows time to relax prior to/after the meal.
“Wonderful ” 2 weeks agoReviewed by Chris A
I have eaten in amazing restaurants all over the world and Stones really is a hidden gem. From the friendly yet unobtrusive services to the spectacular food you really couldn’t ask for better. The tasting menu was divine, and it is easy to tell that the chefs take really pride in what they do, by serving fantastic fresh ingredients in a simple yet delightful way. Take the time to visit, you will not be disappointed.
“Sensational service and fabulous food” 3 weeks agoReviewed by JKlondon09
We went to Stones as part of a foodie weekend in the Peak District, and have to say without doubt our experience here wa say far the best. The restaurant appears unassuming and the staff are casual in manner, however this hides an underlying professionalism and breadth of knowledge which made us feel in safe hands as we worked through the creative taster menu and accompanying wine flights. We felt this experience was incredibly good value and very memorable. We look forward to returning.
What do Jason Statham, Timothy Dalton and Stones Restaurant have in common? They all have connections to Derbyshire. Whilst the likelihood was slim of seeing our Jay or Tim mooching around Derbyshire, I was looking forward to visiting Stones Restaurant nestled slap bang in the centre of the sleepy market town of Matlock. The restaurant is ideally located opposite Matlock train station. It is also on a busy bus route, meaning accessibility is great. This dedicated foodie braved the hailstones (and positively apocalyptic weather) to visit the restaurant this weekend.
The descent down the steep steps feels as if you’re walking down an enchanted path (the outdoor setting is quaint and makes a great backdrop for photos). We were greeted warmly by the team, our coats whisked away as if my magic, and then we were shown to our table. The ambiance in the restaurant is understated elegance – it doesn’t cosh you over the head with it, you just FEEL it. The airy expanse feels spacious yet cosy at the same time, and I think this is down to the warm customer service. Our server for the afternoon was Laura, who took our orders, patiently explained the menu and specials to us, and disappeared into the kitchen with the efficiency of a magical elf (a compliment, I assure you).
We started with an appetiser of sunflower seed croute, blue cheese and walnut dip, with a Nigella seed sprinkling. The croute was deliciously brittle and nutty, the dip luxurious and gloriously pungent, with the Nigella seeds providing a subtle herby aftertaste. We were presented with a tray of bread; not to try the oven warm offerings would be sacrilege. The black treacle bun had a whisper of caramelised sugar on the swallow. The tomato and herb tasted of gorgeous homemade soup, whilst the cheddar cheese and onion (my favourite) was a classical flavour combination I couldn’t get enough of, with a pillowy light texture.
Bread and butter is the perfect marriage, and the butter slate didn’t disappoint. We cut a tiny medallion of butter, swiped it into the line of sea salt and slathered generously over the warm bread. It was heaven. The goats cheese was salty and tasty (what really worked was the cheese with the treacle bread). I had to set some bread aside to dip into my starter of Leek and Potato Soup (goats cheese beignet, truffle oil).
The soup was velvety smooth and gorgeous, the perfect food for a chilly wintry afternoon. Tasty tip – smash the beignet, which will leave cheesy trails in the soup, which is great to dunk the aforementioned bread into. My dining partner had the Ham Hock Croquette (piccalilli mayonnaise, pickled cauliflower, watercress). The ham had a magnificently meaty texture and went perfectly with the zingy mayonnaise. I managed to snaffle a forkful of the pickled cucumber, which I thought was innovative and a lovely little palate cleanser too.
For main, I had the Breast of Chicken (smoked garlic purée, fondant potato, creamed cabbage). The meat was tender and moist, the fondant potato a revelation (buttery soft) and the spring greens, filling and wholesome, especially with a smidgeon of the gorgeous garlicky puree. My dining partner had the Breaded Fillet of Plaice (pickled cucumber, new potatoes, capers, lemon mayonnaise). The fish was perfectly cooked and seasoned (again, I couldn’t help but slide my fork surreptitiously over onto his plate). This was a good dish, the real star being the refreshing mayonnaise with scattered capers.
I loved dining at Stones. It is one very special place indeed. Be it a romantic date night (come on guys and girls, treat your other half here), or a Father’s Day treat, you’re guaranteed to have your socks knocked off with the handsome and tasty food. A special shout out to Laura, our server on the day. She was thoughtful, attentive and a real asset to Stones Restaurant. (She kindly offered to leave the cheese dip on our table for the duration of the meal. How cool is that?) Stones Restaurant is the epitome of fine dining with a contemporary twist. Come hail or shine, Stones Restaurant is one brilliant, luminous place to be. Hat tip to Stones Restaurant; the world is a better place with you in it.
Right on the coursing waters of the River Derwent, the terrace of Stones restaurant is as bright as midsummer. We sat in the conservatory, R and I, where everybody was in a riotously good mood and whenever the waitress left the room we’d all tell each other which starters we had.
You simply could not see the place in a more fortuitous light, and when the bread arrived (one treacle, one tomato), along with the butter (one fennel, one regular), life couldn’t have been richer. The texture of the bread was peerless. The flavours were all pretty strong. Individually, they made sense, but one after the other, or on top of the other, made you yearn for one solitary thing that tasted the way you expected. Actually, the dishes themselves (three courses for £19.50 at lunch) were more restrained and traditional – the chef obviously sees the bread course as his cheeky accessory, the place he’s allowed to go wild.
R had plaice goujons with mushy peas, and the goujons could not have been more crowd-pleasing: they were like a starter from a classy wedding, which is to say meticulously assembled but nothing that might frighten a fussy old timer or a child. The plaice had a clean, sweet flavour and the texture balance was satisfying (there’s something elemental about a crunchy case and squishy innard – it works everywhere, from a fish-finger to a fondant chocolate). The tartar sauce was clearly home-made, with a dill-centric freshness.
I had black pudding with poached egg. The latter had achieved the rare feat of a yolk that was slightly more cooked than the albumen (how you’d go about that, without separating and then reconjoining the elements, I have no idea, though I’m sure it involves a warm bath). The black pudding was lively, peppery and rich. I prefer mine just a fraction less cooked, so that it has a more liverish texture, but I know this is subjective.
He then had pork cutlet – exactly like a chop, except that it sounds posher – with mash and savoy cabbage with bacon. The pork was lovely: moist, pale, quite delicate but distinctly meaty. The mash and cabbage were way too salty – you couldn’t even open your palate properly to taste the ingredients, because you would have been bombarded by salt. It would have been like looking directly at the sun. This was a shame, because I’m sure all the raw materials were delicious (my chips were stunning).
I had rump steak, which I asked for rare and which arrived medium. That was fine, I like it medium, and I was pleased to have followed my hunch (“cute village, traditional values, last orders for lunch at 1.30pm… probably errs towards overcooking”). The meat itself was wonderful, but the pink-peppercorn sauce I found confusing. It’s incredibly floral, at times tasting almost like a mouthful of parma violets. I get along with it fine elsewhere in world cuisine, but when I’m expecting black or green pepper, it doesn’t do anything remotely comparable. Some gorgeous field mushrooms, a tomato that was downright tasty and sprigs of dressed watercress left the charm of this dish undeniable. But it had tinkered with a thing that wasn’t broke.
My poached pear with honey panna cotta was incredible: the honey element turned it on its head. The pear was sweet and demure. A round of vanilla ice cream was beautifully creamy. R had pistachio crème brûlée, which he loved. I have never, I admit, had so much pistachio flavour packed on one spoon. Seasoning’s important and all that, but when my only complaints are about salt and pepper, I chalk that up as a find.
JUST over 12 months ago, a fire devastated Stones Restaurant in Matlock, a place your spy had dined at a few months earlier and thoroughly enjoyed. The fine-dining restaurant, in a picture-perfect spot with lovely views over the River Derwent, was forced to close for a while. It reopened earlier this year – and is even better than before. Owners Jade, Kevin and Kate were in the middle of extending Stones when the fire happened and, thankfully, the new annexe to the main dining area, with a glass roof and great views on to the patio area, was not damaged.
It did, though, force a redesign of the restaurant and Stones gets top marks from your spy for layout and decor, which is neutral with splashes of colour to give a warm, toasty feeling. During my last visit, your spy felt that Stones was, perhaps, a little too intimate, with tables very close together. The new layout means there is a more room between tables while still keeping an cosy feel. I was dining with family for a special occasion – and Stones is definitely a special occasion kind of place.
At £30 for three courses, it is quite reasonable for a fine-dining place which prides itself on using as much fresh, locally sourced produce as it can and boasts two rosettes for the quality of its food. After we were led to our table, an assortment of savoury nuts and olives were brought to the table while your spy sipped a strawberry Bellini cocktail and my companions enjoyed a gin and tonic.
For starters, your spy chose a seasonal roasted pumpkin risotto, while my companions went for seared scallops and a smoked mackerel, potato and horseradish terrine. All three dishes were beautifully presented. My risotto, which was glazed with goat’s cheese, was complemented with a delicious pumpkin seed oil. It was like all good risottos should be – oozy, creamy and rich.
The smoked mackerel terrine, which was served with pancetta, beetroot and a tasty dill mayonnaise, got top marks, as did the seared scallops, which came with spicy chorizo, tomato and smoked paprika. The additional flavoured bread – tomato and feta and an unusual but tasty treacle version, served alongside flavoured butter – were a welcome accompaniment, especially when mopping up the rest of my risotto. For the main course, your spy chose another Italian-inspired dish – ricotta and spinach cannelloni – while fellow diners went for braised blade of Derbyshire beef and the fish of the day.
The cannelloni was served with creamed leeks, mushrooms and vegetables, was superb. The beef was served with cabbage, pearl onions and bacon, confit roast vegetables, Parisienne potatoes and a red wine jus. It was perfect. Our fish lover thoroughly enjoyed their dish, too. My companions had to admit defeat when it came to ordering dessert but your spy, delighted by the starters and main course, just couldn’t resist it. After much deliberation, your spy chose treacle tart – and asked for three spoons, knowing my companions both had a soft spot for this traditional English pudding.
Your spy had enjoyed the rest of the meal – but was completely blown away by the dessert, a neat-looking tart served with peanut butter mousse and caramel ice-cream, topped with tiny pieces of golden honeycomb. The three spoons proved a wise choice, too, meaning there was still a little room for the petit fours which came with our coffee at the end of the night. The perfect end to a perfect evening.