A comfortable country house hotel on the edge of the Ribble Valley, Northcote has held a Michelin star for over two decades and has been an important trailblazer for modern, seasonal British cooking, led first by Nigel Haworth then more recently by Lisa Goodwin-Allen.
The dining room certainly has an old-school charm about it - snow-white tablecloths, sparkling glassware and besuited service signal that we’re firmly in fine-dining territory, not to mention the magnificent crystal chandeliers overhead. The beige leather chairs are plush and squidgy, which is excellent news as you’ll be settling in for a little while to enjoy your choice of a five-course seasonal tasting menu, one of the set menus or a la carte, depending when you visit.
Lisa’s menus champion Lancashire’s bountiful larder, providing ample opportunity for great ingredients to shine. Chargrilled asparagus was packed with flavour, served simply with creamy sheep’s curd and sharp wood-sorrel leaves, and the menu doesn’t hold back on big flavours elsewhere either, with a glazed, roasted quail breast, juxtaposed neatly against a swish of turnip puree, tangy apple gel and deep, rich sauce.
Northcote might feel a little old-fashioned to metropolitan eyes, but there’s no fault to be found in the flavours and technical execution of the cooking here. Our favourite dish of the evening was, in fact, something that felt a little more contemporary: a scallop with the most perfect of sears, sat in the middle of a sauce Veronique - a vermouth, grape and tarragon sauce, here made with fermented grapes and split with tarragon oil. It was as beautiful to look at as it was to eat.
Matched with note-perfect wines and friendly service, Northcote’s dependably delicious cooking finishes showing talent in the pastry kitchen too - a playful dish of frozen Amalfi lemon crumb, served with yoghurt sorbet and honey meringue. If you catch Northcote on a glorious sunny evening, as we did, you may gaze out into the Ribble Valley beyond and think, there are very few better places to be.