Rockliffe Hall, the five-star luxury golf and spa hotel situated in the idyllic village of Hurworth, on the edge of County Durham, hosted an eight-day long Festival Of Food last week and I was kindly invited along to one of their key events, the Taste of the North East Banquet.
The aim of the banquet was to celebrate the finest North East produce with a selection of the regions most talented chefs.
I’ve visited Rockcliffe a handful of times before and have thoroughly enjoyed each visit. The standard of the establishment never disappoints. Myself and my uncle, a self-confessed foodie went along last Thursday evening to tantalize our taste buds.
The spotlight on the evening was shone on chefs Andy Simms from the Bay Horse Hurworth, Ronald Robson from Beeronomy Newcastle, Stephen Lawford from Chadwicks Inn Maltby and David Henry from the Crathorne Arms.
We arrived at the Clubhouse at 7 pm to enjoy a drink and some light canapes which set the tone for the evening! At around 7:30 pm we headed into the Grassholme Suite for the four ‘northeast’ inspired courses created by the guest chefs.
The menu for the evening was as follows…
CAULIFLOWER PANNA COTTA
Earl Grey Tea Smoked Duck Breast, Curry Granola, Apple, Pickled Mustard Seeds
By Andy Simms from the Bay Horse Hurworth
OCTOPUS, SQUID, MUSSEL & DASHI BROTH
Pork Crackling & Wakame
By Ronald Robson from Beeronomy (formerly of Nova Seafood & Grill)
BEEF, MUSHROOM & ONION
Dry Aged Neasham Beef Fillet, Oxtail Ravioli, Caramelised Onion & Mushroom, Truffle Sauce
By Steven Lawford from Chadwicks Inn Maltby
Cherry & Chocolate
By David Henry from the Crathorne Arms
The tables were dressed beautifully, set with place cards so each of us knew where we were sitting as there were around 80 guests who attended the evening. The atmosphere was buzzing in Grassholme Suite as we all sat in anticipation.
First up was the Cauliflower Panna Cotta by Andy from the Bay Horse Hurworth. Before each dish was served, a short film about the chef and the dish they had created for us was played which I thought was a great touch and very interesting to see where each had gotten their inspiration from.
The Bay Horse Hurworth, set in a wonderful 15th-century coaching inn, has received a number of awards over the years including the Michelin Bib Gourmand and GastroPub Chef of the Year and is regularly featured in dining bibles such as the Good Food Guide and Michelin Guide, so you could say we were excited to see what chef Andy had in store for us. Admittedly, I was sceptical of this dish as I just couldn’t even begin to imagine what to expect. It was, as expected presented amazingly, and tasted unexpectedly divine. I say that as there’s a few random flavours and textures in the mix but they all worked so delicately well together, especially the Curry Granola. A genius creation!
Second up, after a short wait, was the Octopus, Squid, Mussel & Dashi Broth by Ronald from Beeronomy. Formerly known as Nova Seafood & Grill, Beeronomy is one of the latest additions to NE1! This course was the dish I was most looking forward, I love seafood and was intrigued to taste Ronald’s ability to combine Pork Crackling with seafood! It was an interesting dish, to say the least! The fish itself was all super fresh and full of flavour. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Dashi Broth but all in all, it worked well together.
The main course was the Beef, Mushroom & Onion dish by Steven from Chadwicks Inn. Chadwicks is situated in a sleepy village on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors and is a traditional country pub with an award-winning restaurant. The 5-minute film showcased Steven creating his own pasta for the dish and I couldn’t wait to try it! This dish turned out to be my favourite of them all, the beef was cooked to absolute perfection and partnered with the oxtail ravioli was heavenly. I didn’t want it to end!
Last but by no means least, dessert by David from the Crathorne Arms. The Crathorne Arms has quite the reputation in the North East, being voted the best Sunday lunch in Teesside last year I had high expectations! And, I wasn’t left disappointed. The Pistachio Parfait was an absolute masterpiece! In the short film, we were shown how David created the presentation of the dishes using a record player, so creative and innovative. The proof is always in the pudding and it was scrumptious! Again, for this dish I was curious to see how the flavours would work together but who knew pistachio worked SO well with cherry?! I was so impressed by the dish.
By this point, I was ready to roll home! We had such a wonderful evening at the Taste of the North East Banquet, each dish was exquisite and delicious. The staff at Rockcliffe were so lovely throughout the evening, attending to every need of each table. We were welcomed in with open arms and kept up to speed with what was going on throughout the event.
I think the whole concept of the Festival of Food at Rockcliffe is a fantastic way to move with the times and trends. I especially loved the idea of this banquet, celebrating talent outside of Rockliffe Hall and it was executed perfectly! I hope it returns next year!