Luxury breaks in fine English country hotels don’t come much better than the experience provided by Rockliffe Hall. Beyond beautiful grounds, an impressive golf course and recently renovated spa, the culinary highlight is The Orangery. Its emphasis is on both local and seasonal, which is made considerably easier by having a vegetable and herb garden on site, as well as beehives located throughout the grounds.
While there is a nod to the classic French, the main thrust of the cooking is modern British. There is no shortage of innovation across a menu which offers both à la carte and tasting options. Goose liver parfait paired with eel, rhubarb, chia and almonds has no shortage of strong and distinct flavours, but the balance across the dish is superb, the rich fattiness of the goose balanced by the oiliness of the eel, the sharp acidic bite of the rhubarb and the crunch of the nuts. Vegetarian options also impress, with no corners cut.
Our puddings saw the meal end on a high with the aptly named chocolate ‘orangery.’ We cut into a hard orange-coated shell of chocolate and a rich chocolate mousse came gushing out: great fun. The ethos behind the wine pairings is similar to that underpinning the food – a nod is made to tradition, but there is also a clear willingness to push boundaries.
Service was attentive and professional throughout, with the staff in The Orangery (and indeed across the whole of the hotel) both genuine and passionate about what they did. Just 2.5 hours on the train from London (and considerably less from Newcastle), with keen pricing and superb food, diners who make the trip won’t be disappointed.