As much as I love to travel, having already kicked this year off with trips to Tenerife, Florida and Ibiza. New York is booked but just too far on the horizon, so outings closer to home are currently drawing my attention. It’s now Summer menu launch season so dining invitations are in abundance.
If you are looking to get out and about now the brighter weather is making an appearance, believe me there are some really tasty options on offer.
The North East of England has something for everyone and is a truly special destination. Whether you are looking for a rural retreat, city centre break or coastal getaway you can find it here. With great scenery, a vibrant culture, terrific people, places and activities the North East caters for everybody and so do the hotels, bars and restaurants.
Fish is my soul food of choice and you can’t go far wrong with dining at Tynemouth’s wonderful fish haven Riley’s Fish Shack. Another favourite fish place (pun intended) of mine is Saltwater Fish Co within Fenwick’s department store in Newcastle city centre. Don’t be put off by the location this is an absolutely superb fish restaurant from Terry Laybourne’s 21 Hospitality group. Not keen on fish? then try Porterhouse or Cafe 21 they all marvellous eateries in the city centre.
Kicking off the Summer menu launch for me last month was a visit to the luxurious and award winning Matfen Hall. Located less than 20 miles from Newcastle City Centre, Matfen Hall boasts one of the more sought after rural destinations for those looking for luxurious pampering, great golfing, weddings and spa breaks.
Matfen Hall is a magnificent grandiose building in stunning surroundings. The four star resort has recently had a facelift (we all have to stay youthful you know!) and currently sporting a more modern luxe decor since my previous visits. I enjoyed the teals and opulent lighting of the rooms leading from the spectacular Great Hall where the menu Launch was held. Usually the dining is within the comfortable and elegant surroundings of The Library.
The evening was served ‘family style’ as they like to say in Las Vegas. With the presentation of small portion tasters of the dishes being served for an evening of sharing. Great for tasting although it makes it difficult to comment on actual portion size or how the dishes are usually presented individually. Head Chef; Paul Blakey was however on hand to describe how his Summer menu inspirations are drawn from locally sourced and truly fresh ingredients. Wine pairing for the evening was provided by Bin 21, wine supplier to the hotel.
Delivered to the table were a selection of 4 of the starters from the new summer menu.
Ham & Pea Terrine, a split pea soup accompanied with toasted bloomer and apple salad. A fresh and tasty starter, although I did think this was better suited to a more autumnal menu.
Seared Woodpigeon, wild mushroom tortellini with truffle and shallot vinaigrette served with deep fried egg yolk. Not a great fan of egg this was however an impressive looking dish but not to my personal taste.
Slow braised Pork Cheek served with a spicy tomato and crayfish broth, spring onion, ginger and lime salad. The soup was quite delicious and contained just the perfect amount of kick to get your senses tingling.
Undoubtably my favourite of the starters was the Beetroot Press. Lavishly large slices of fresh beetroot encasing goats cheese fondant, guacamole, pepper salsa and topped with sourdough crouton. The flavours boldly complimented each other perfectly and this was a light and contemporary start to the meal.
Pan Seared Fillet of Sea Trout served with seared scallops, samphire and broad beans. I’m already a self confessed fish foodie and this was a good choice and a winning combination for a fresh Summer menu dish.
Slow cooked blade of beef accompanied with roast onions, truffle, tarragon and tempura oyster. Slow cooked, rich, moist and tender this dish was cooked to perfection and would certainly be my main of choice from this menu.
Roast rump of new season lamb served with seared liver, pancetta and Lyonnaise potato. The lamb was served perfectly pink and sat well with the pancetta. Admittedly, I’m not a huge lamb fan (my dog on the other hand would have been licking his lips) but this was a well presented attractive and flavoursome dish.
Pan roasted pork fillet with chorizo, pork belly wellington and sauerkraut. Served with an exceptional jus, this addition gave the dish an extra dimension it required. The sauerkraut was also a terrific accompaniment.
The wine selection for the evening was a splendid Gable View, Western Cape,Sauvignon Blanc perfectly chilled and my personal favourite of the evening.
Also being served was an Il Conto, Vecchio, Pinot Grigio. And for reds; an Argento, Mendoza, Malbec and a very enjoyable and palatable Condoriti, Valle Central, Malbec.
Whilst feeling suitably full we were served up a dessert platter which included;
Pineapple upside down cake with coconut ice cream and dark rum syrup.
Five spice panna cotta with vanilla sponge fingers.
Dark chocolate & espresso coffee cup accompanied by hazelnut praline biscuits.
I felt a slight disappointment in the dessert selection and thought this wasn’t particularly representative of a Summer menu, a little too old school and traditional for my personal taste. Perhaps the expectation is that by the time you reach dessert you are too satisfied to partake!
The food is fresh and of excellent quality and leaned towards more classic traditional. Main courses are priced between £20 to £25 with starters just under £10 and desserts around £7. The food is priced well for the standard on offer.
The location, grounds and views of Matfen Hall are absolutely spectacular and this is the major feature of the hotel. The building itself is wonderfully grand. If you are looking for traditional this is a good choice although my personal experiences of the service, assessed over a couple of visits, hasn’t been the four star quality you would perhaps expect.
With a vast selection of restaurants in and around the area unless you are enjoying an overnight stay, Matfen Hall wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for a dining venue although it is a great place for a special occasion or event.
If you are a foodie make sure you read some of my other reviews of restaurants in and around Newcastle