Wandering the grounds of Wynyard Hall is akin to taking a turn about the gardens in an Austen novel.
But you don’t have to be a guest at this country-esque pile, perched on the edge of Stockton and Teesside, to dine here.
The grand Wellington restaurant welcomes residents and non-residents through its spectacular doors.
Though there’s certainly an air of grandeur in this dining room, thanks to its ornate chandeliers, plush seating and oil paintings, it’s not overly stuffy. The striking paintings reflect the history of this former family seat of the Vane-Tempest-Stewart family, which was built in the 1820s.
Today it’s owned by former owner of NUFC Sir John Hall, but rather than strip it of its fine historic features, he preserved them in all their splendour.
Looming large in The Wellington restaurant is a painting of the Duke of Wellington in honour of his visit to the home. Though you feel as though you’re walking in the footsteps of history, the cuisine is contemporary at the two AA rosette restaurant.
The menu isn’t cheap, but it’s not as pricey as you may think for the setting. The a la carte menu is served daily from 7pm to 9.30pm and comes in at £26 for two courses or three courses for £32 and is great for a special occasion or an evening trip out.
The menu’s concise, but not too flowery, as is often the case with fancier restaurants.
Starter choices ranged from Rioja braised octopus, steamed bass and fennel to hen egg ravioli with truffle, artichoke and rosemary.
I chose the slow cooked pork, which arrived as a beautifully tender swirl with which my knife slid through with ease.
On this occasion it was served with two scallops which balanced out the more rich tones of the pork. A dollop of creamy mash and a splash of gravy provided the perfect accompaniment.
Special mention must also go to a selection of breads which are served gratis. Piping hot and made on site, they were utterly moreish, especially when smothered in lashings of pre-warmed salted butter and rich ham-infused version, which gave it a smokey kick.
Mains continue the British classics theme with choices such as truffle poached chicken breast, mashed potato and spring greens and stuffed saddle of rabbit.
After a meaty start to the proceedings, I chose a lighter main: the pan-fried stone bass with curried razor clams and Moroccan cauliflower couscous.
A satisfying slab of sea bass was served on a bed of cous cous. The razor clam made for an unusual addition and it introduced a more exotic flavour palette with hints of spicy North Africa. My only quibble was that the cous cous was rather dry and could have done with some extra seasoning in the preparation stage.
I couldn’t shoe-horn a pudding in, though that didn’t stop us salivating over the rather flamboyant choices.
Instead, the cherry on the top of this meal was our service. The staff seemed well adept at reading the room and knowing who wanted discreet service and who, like us, wanted to chat about the restaurant and its colourful history.