My Pub: The Duncombe Arms, Ellastone, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Food rules: the Duncombe Arms in Derbyshire
Food rules: the Duncombe Arms in Derbyshire

Related tags My Pub Chef Food Fine dining Gastropub

An extensive renovation at the village pub in Ellastone, including a state-of-the-art kitchen, was the culmination of Laura and Johnny Greenall’s plan back in 2012.

Now, the site between Derby and Stoke-on-Trent is thriving with a fine-dining offer, a huge wine list, accommodation and access to many countryside options for visitors.

Here, co-owner Laura Greenall tells The Morning Advertiser​ all about the pub.

The pub

Located on the edge of the rural Peak District and not far from the Pennines, we are lucky enough to be located in the stunning Dove Valley Countryside.

Alongside the pub, we have Walnut House, the Garden Cottage and The Old Barn, accommodation buildings full of character with a relaxed, home away from home feel.

Facts ’n’ stats

Name:​ The Duncombe Arms

Address: ​Ellastone, Ashbourne DE6 2GZ

Senior staff:​ owners Laura and Johnny Greenall, general manager James Oddy and head chef Scott Law


Nearby is the famous Wooton Hall Estate, which Johnny is always eager to show off. After driving past the boarded-up pub every day, we couldn’t help but take it on, give it a new life and fully reinstate it as the hub of the village.

The publican

Living nearby, it was so upsetting to drive past the boarded-up pub (once the local hub of the village) every day.

After much deliberation, a visit from my mother sealed the deal. I asked her if she thought the pub’s name was related to her maiden name, Duncombe, and she replied ‘I hope so, our family crest is on the sign outside’.

Duncombe and Laura collage
Laura Greenall

With Johnny and I both coming from a hospitality background, we jumped at the chance to give a new lease of life to the historic pub.

After an extensive renovation, we added a new kitchen and a light filled dining space while maintaining the traditional features from the 1850s, with cosy nooks and snugs. We proudly opened in March 2012, aiming to serve high-quality classic and modern British food, in the warm relaxed surroundings of a local country pub.

The trade

Once called ‘the local we all wish we had’ by food critic Tom Parker-Bowles, we’re extremely proud to serve a mixed demographic of both lovely locals and guests who have travelled to the area for its amazing walks, rich history and excellent outdoor activities.

Duncombe interior fire and tables

Our welcoming bar area is designed to make those who come in daily for a casual pint and chat feel just as welcome as those who have travelled miles to enjoy the peacefulness of a rural retreat and stay with us for a few nights.

Thanks to our fantastic kitchen and bar team led by head chef Scott Law and general manager James Oddy, we have noticed crowds of foodies and drink lovers added to the mix, enjoying our seasonal menus and handcrafted ales, cocktails and extensive wine list.

The team

A family-run pub at heart, we’re extremely proud of our small team, led by myself, my husband Johnny and GM James Oddy.

We try our best to be at the pub most days, which is always in the trusty hands of James, who brings to the mix his passion for detail that he has honed over his years of experience in the hospitality industry.

Johnny Greenall, James Oddy, Laura Greenall, Scott Law resized
Johnny Greenall, James Oddy, Laura Greenall and Scott Law

Scott Law joined us just before the dreaded Covid lockdowns. He, along with his senior sous chef Matt, stuck with us through some tough times before he recently stepped up to be head chef.

We have now built a very happy kitchen brigade of 10 chefs, who have all been here for at least 18 months, with Scott at the front driving them to be the best version of themselves they can be.

It is a joy to see how much they love what they do, they truly are a family, as cliché as that sounds. But it really does reflects in the fabulous food they produce and the guests enjoyment of the dining experience here.

The drink

Our exceptional drinks list has a mix of great-value choices as well as those with a slightly higher price-point customers, who are particularly enthusiastic about their wine.

Duncombe glass garden

We are so lucky that our brilliant GM James has worked closely with Bibendum over the years, crafting a 200-strong wine list, many of which are available by the glass.

Our beers are also carefully curated to support small local breweries, with guest ales and Marston’s Pedigree, brewed in nearby Burton-upon-Trent, taking pride of place alongside our very own Duncombe Ale (which I must say is always a treat).

The food

An outstanding moment of pride for Johnny and I was being awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand four years ago and still retaining the title today. Over our time here, we have been placed in the Estrella Damn Top 50 Gastropubs​ over the years, as well as being named ‘Pub of the Year 2023 and 2024’ at the Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism and Good Food awards.

Sample dishes


Spring pea & onion risotto, English pecorino (v) £8

Chicken liver parfait, chicken skin butter, red onion marmalade, house brioche £9

Steamed Cornish mussels, pancetta, leeks, cider, milk bread roll £8 


Roast rump of Dunwood farm lamb, lamb fat potatoes, lamb breast, mint jelly, lamb fat roasted Roscoff onion, wild garlic £28

Whole pan-fried Cornish sole, Café de Paris butter, crispy straw potatoes, samphire £26

Marmite roasted cauliflower, caramelized cauliflower puree, crispy leaves, green peppercorn jus £19


Strawberry and elderflower tart, milk ice cream £8  

Fresh baked 70% chocolate tart, honey and lavender ice cream £8 

Brown butter sponge cake, poached peach, raspberry and peach sorbet, almond nougatine (n) £8

Our head chef Scott Law joined us just before lockdown 2020, and when the opportunity came up recently for someone new to lead the team, we could think of no one better suited to the role.

Scott takes huge pride in providing the guests delicious, exciting dishes, with the heart of the food rooted in British produce. The menu he designs keep in mind our diverse clientele, so whether it’s a walker popping in for a pint and steak sandwich, or a business lunch for our beautiful spring lamb and wild garlic main, or a birthday celebration with a family sharing our signature tart tatin, Scott and his team cover all the bases.

burger 50 day aged patty and sunday roast collage
50-day aged patty burger and Sunday Roast

We love working with Scott because he has really transformed the food offering at the pub, whether it’s the growth of the kitchen garden in the grounds of the pub, the foraging of ingredients in the area to make dishes truly unique to the Duncombe, or the training of the team to improve their skill set.

He makes sure to work with some great suppliers, with most of the meat coming from a 20-mile radius of the Duncombe Arms, across Staffordshire, like a recent research trip to Sprinks Farm in Horton in the Peaks, where Eddie rears the most fantastic venison.

breakfast and caramalised tart tatin
Walnut House breakfast and caramelised tart tatin

When Scott and Matt (our senior sous chef at the pub) first visited the farm, they were blown away by the operation and insisted it appeared on our menu. Just one of many examples of his dedication to bring the best of the area for the guests to enjoy their time spent in the pub. We may be biased but Scott and his team's food really is a reason in itself to make the trip up to the Duncombe Arms.

The events​  

We regularly host wine tasting dinners as Scott loves working with local huntsmen to lay on delicious game-based dinners, paired with exciting wines.

DuncombeArms-HighRes-34 (1)

We also organise special dinners and menus based around particular events throughout the year - from Cheltenham Festival and Valentine’s Day, all the way to National Yorkshire Pudding Day.

The future

Johnny and I are always looking for ways to improve, and we work closely with James, Scott and our amazing team at the pub to ensure we are always delivering our absolute best.

Feedback is always welcomed and we try our best to implement new strategies to ensure staff wellbeing, sustainability and that we continue to support our great local partners.

Walnut House resized
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