When I visited: April 2018
Location: Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Recommended
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Ambience: Fun, smart / casual
Course of the meal: Hand-dived scallop
If I could change one thing: More truffle taste in guinea fowl course
It’s always good to check out the ‘best’ restaurant in an area not known for fine dining, and The Lighthouse has gained a good reputation for high-quality, locally sourced food in the Burton-upon-Trent / Derbyshire region.
The service was really friendly throughout (with quite a lot of server-customer interaction as lots of sauces were poured at the table) and the atmosphere was laid-back and fun on a Saturday night. There was only one menu (a great-value tasting menu at £60). To accompany this, we had beer and a bottle of white Albariño and a glass of red Malbec between us.
There was a bit of weird gapping in terms of timing of service at the beginning; we were pretty hungry by the time we got any food (this also occurred later, with a longer-than-usual gap in between a couple of the ‘main’ courses).
The first course on the tasting menu was snacks of aged beef from Ashover Farm: a tendon puff with piccalilli, a crispy BBQ cheek with burnt onion ketchup, and a ‘tartare’ with aged Welsh wagyu ‘NYC style’. These were all light and delicious and a good way to set the tone for the meat-heavy, very English style of the food on the tasting menu. We got sourdough with cultured butter next (this was a good time to notice the cutlery and crockery, which was all beautiful; we also each had a mega cutlery block from which to draw the appropriate forks and knives for each course).
The first ‘starter’ was a veal sweetbread ‘nugget’ with Wye Valley asparagus, ramson pesto and Hollandaise sausage-stuffed morels; this was well-balanced and not too big, if a little too salty. Next came the wonderful hand-dived scallop from Orkney roasted in wild garlic butter, with baked Jersey potato and oscietra caviar, smoked eel velouté, bacon and squid, with a squid cracker served with sour cream and chive. I thought this course was the best as although it involved several elements, they all complemented each other really well.
The toasted cep brioche with liver parfait and crispy skin was good but again a little too salty. The guinea fowl course was ‘Makhani style’ with burnt lettuce ‘Caesar’ and fresh Alba truffle – but unfortunately this course followed the bad trend that I’ve been seeing a lot in the past year or so, where courses claiming to feature ‘truffles’ do so but without any real truffle taste.
The ‘pre-dessert’ was a warm local honey tart with honeycomb and nitro frozen milk, which worked well as a prelude to the marbled chocolate served ‘melting’ with raw passionfruit, sea salt and miso caramel, which was very rich. My favourite of the desserts was the English strawberry ‘cheesecake’ from Scaddows Farm with ‘minus 8’ vinegar, aerated cheese and smashed meringue. We also got a ‘takeaway’ course of raspberry sugar donuts.
I enjoyed my meal at The Lighthouse. I think that maybe with one or two more standout courses it would be a 4-hoot restaurant, but I’m not surprised at all that it’s doing so well just as it is.