The last time I ate at Northcote Manor was over eight years ago, before the extended kitchens, cookery school and before the new lodge. This was our Friday night treat. Around 40 minutes in the car from Hale, I forgot how much of a world apart this place is, with views of hills and farms. Most of all I was looking forward to the food.
We were booked into one of the Garden Lodge rooms, intending to add the wine flight to our gourmet menu. Spacious and stylish ours boasted a balcony and impressive bathroom with huge bath for soaking and his and hers showers.
I could see this being a great place to return to after forays into the Ribble Valley.
But this time we were here for the food. Michelin-star chef patron, Nigel Haworth, and executive head chef, Lisa Goodwin-Allen, prepare a five-course monthly gourmet menu from the best seasonal and local produce.
After a glass of champagne in the bar, accompanied by a selection of canapés, we were seated in the restaurant, with views of the setting sun. Now, the first thing I would like to say is that the team who looked after us so excellently, coping with my many questions so well, are professional yet friendly. It’s beautiful and etiquette-ically correct, but there wasn’t a hint of starchiness. Indeed, that Friday night, the restaurant was full of people who enjoyed good food. Pure and simple.
And so to our menu. Aged MT. Grace Farm Wagyu Beef Tartare, Sticky Rice with Whispering Angel, Caves d’Esclans, Cotes de Provence, 2015; Orkney Scallop, Dashi, Seaweed with Albarino Bodegas Terras Gauda, O Rosal, Rias Baixas, Galicia, 2015; White Beetroot, Coconut, White Chocolate with Polish Hill Riesling, Grosset, Clare Valley, 2015; Wild Venison, Liquorice Mole, Kolhrabi with Le Cigare Volant, Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz, 2011; and Lemon Meringue Pie accompanied by Moscato d’Asti, Pio Cesare, Piedmont, 2015.
Superlatives abounded – from the parfait amuse-bouche served on edible soil (we chose not to) to the sashimi scallop and beyond. The words on the menu didn’t capture the tastes and journey we went on. For example, the Wagyu was so tender it really did melt in your mouth. I may have used this analogy in the past, but now I know what it really means. Dishes are presented with the latest culinary progression, smoke revealing cloches and granita goat’s cheese but stop just this side of unnecessary. And while it’s all about flavour, it is also about texture. As a wordsmith, I have submitted to the fact that I will fail in my attempt to describe it with anything that approaches accuracy. I would hate to do it a disservice.