Surrounded by the rich flora and foliage of Jesmond Dene, Newcastle’s only independently owned boutique hotel has the atmosphere of a plush country pile – while still being only a short walk from Ilford Road Metro Station.
The history of the Grade II-listed building is as colourful as the artworks it regularly changes on its walls, and stretches back to the early nineteenth century. Since then, it’s been everything from a grand Georgian home to a school before, in 2005, becoming a 40-bed hotel and restaurant.
You don’t have to be a hotel resident to dine in its splendid restaurant, which strikes just right the balance between feeling special, yet homely. This summer, The Restaurant underwent a refurbishment to echo a change in direction with the food and it’s served to make it all the more welcoming.
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We were seated in the lounge which wouldn’t look out of place in a scene from The Great Gatsby with its impressively stocked bar, whisky trolley, roaring fire and effortlessly cool furniture.
The menu’s the brainchild of Danny Parker, previously of Michelin-starred House of Tides, and he’s done much to make the food on offer here more accessible, while maintaining its two AA Rosette standards.
In keeping with the change in season, the a la carte version (available Monday through Saturday from 12pm-2pm / 6pm-9.30pm and Sunday evenings) featured food to warm your cockles, from substantial starters such as game terrine and leek and potato soup served with chives and cheese straws to hearty mains such as braised shoulder of beef, tender stem broccoli and triple cooked chips and roasted pumpkin and Parisian gnocchi with sage, pine nuts, brown butter and mushrooms.
After pre-drinks in the lounge (from arguably one of the best wine lists in the city), we were seated in the Garden Room area of The Restaurant, where floor to ceiling windows bring the lushness of the gardens inside. This nod to nature is a feature of the refurb, which uses lighter, more muted tones than its previous incarnation to create a more relaxed atmosphere.
I chose the cured salmon with pickled mushrooms, tarragon and lime (£11), which offered a well-balanced medley of flavours, heightened by the zing of the lime. Portion-size, was spot on too and larger than I recall from my last visit here a few years ago.
For mains I had the Northumberland venison loin, served with apples picked from the hotel’s romantic gardens, kale, blackberries and parsnips, which was the priciest main at £32.
It proved to be Autumn on a plate: a hearty offering of buttery, pink venison, artistically-presented with rounds of sweet apple and sprinkled with kale that was just the right side of crisp. I’d also ordered a side of creamed potato (£3.95), which was so moreishly velvety I’ve tried to recreate it at home – and failed.
I was verging on being stuffed, but the cheese trolley (four for £10 or 6 for £14) had caught my eye and was just too tempting to resist. Our server was excellent at talking us through the unusual choices and the interesting stories behind some of the small batch cheeses – such as Killeen Gouda, which was born from a Dutch woman’s love of Ireland – that made this House visit all the more of an experience to write home about.