The Hardwicke Hall Manor Hotel near Blackhall is well and truly back on top form after a refurbishment.
Nestled in the picturesque countryside near Castle Eden, the hotel has always been a popular place for get-togethers.
With beautiful outdoor areas and lovely indoor old-world charm, Hardwicke Hall manages to maintain a country manor house feel, reminiscent of a Downton Abbey era.
However, in recent years, the main dining room has been letting it down with a tired and outdated decor – as my husband so delicately put it “like an old people’s nursing home”.
However, this is all in the past – the room has been transformed with a new dark blue and gold decor, giving it the glamour such a gem deserves.
To see the new-look surroundings, I took along the family, consisting of husband, daughter and parents, for a special treat. Not only is the decor beautiful, but so were the four courses of food.
Three of us opted for the mushroom starter, which was really tasty and packed with flavour, while one went for prawn cocktail and the other for melon, which they said were equally good.
Next came the soup course, which was a creamy vegetable, and I have to say probably the best soup I have ever had.
I’m not much of a soup fan, but we all agreed this was absolutely delicious, rich and satisfying.
Dad and I both chose the chicken in a creamy mustard sauce for our mains and we both thought it was really good.
The sauce was spot on with just a hint of mustard coming through, which I liked because it wasn’t overpowering.
Mum opted for the roast beef and got a huge plate of mouthwateringly-tender meat.
The vegetables were all nicely cooked and the only slight disappointment was that my husband and daughter, who both chose pork, said their meat was nice, but not great, as it was a tad lacking in flavour.
They soon perked up when it was time to choose dessert.
There were at least seven options to choose from and because they were at a dessert station, you could see for yourself what you wanted.
This did create problems making a decision, because they all looked so good.
I had the sticky toffee pudding and sauce, which could have been a bit warmer, but was still good.
The rest of the party had a range of choices, including cheesecake, chocolate cake and pavlova, all of which looked delicious and judging by the empty bowls, tasted it too.
Staff were all really friendly and helpful and there was a lovely, relaxed atmosphere, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
To top it all, for five of us, with a soft drink each, as well as coffee and mints, the bill came to just under £125 – a bargain!