Is it a case of new Broom sweeps clean at Seaham Hall?
Chef Damian Broom has recently taken over the reins in the kitchen at the landmark East Durham hotel and he’s a man on a mission, a mission to draw in more diners through the doors.
Though this most striking of boutique hotels is well-known for its spa breaks and luxury overnight stays, its dining offering has had a more chequered past.
But Damian’s approach – one which focuses on good food made with good produce, rather than chasing fine dining awards – may well be the recipe for consistent success.
After an arrival drink at the bar, we were seated in the dining room, arguably one of the finest in the North East. Where else can you eat at pristine marble tables surrounded by decadent velvet seating and 14-carat gold plated chandeliers while under the watchful eye of a portrait of its famous namesake, the fantastically flamboyant romantic poet, Lord Byron?
It’s a special experience dining here and the menu should match that. It’s had an overhaul since Damian’s tenure began, but with prices remaining the same at three courses for £45 and an additional £20 per person, making it more of a treat venue, than a regular haunt.
But that’s no bad thing: sometimes you want to dine somewhere that feels far above average. Seaham Hall is just that, without the stuffiness and stiffness of other restaurants of this ilk. It was a shame, however, to see Byron’s only half full on a Saturday night: it deserves to be a place you need to book for weeks in advance.
The menu changes regularly, but on our visit I chose the tartare of dry aged beef with beer pickled onions and girolles. The texture of the cubed beef was perfectly springy and was balanced well with the slightly tart onions and fleshy girolles.
We’d chosen the additional wine pairing option and our server Eva was excellent. Her knowledge of the wines housed in the hall’s impressive wine cellar (ask to have a look at it, it’s well worth a peek) is vast and she talked us through her choices in a friendly, easy to understand fashion without being too in your face.
For my main choice of sea trout with white asparagus, coastal vegetables and shrimp, she chose a Montagny 1er Cru Decouverte, a fruity French number that was the perfect complement to the subtle nuances of the baby pink trout and the delicate veg.
After a light two courses, the cheese pudding provided a rich finale with a selection of slabs of gooey British cheeses served with oatcakes and fruit bread. Just to ramp up the richness, Eva paired it with a Smith Woodhouse tawny port, which proved a punchy accompaniment.
As with the other dishes, it was served on satisfyingly chunky pottery, none of your daft ‘alternative’ methods of presentation here. It’s good food, executed well with picture-perfect presentation and spot on service.