Dining like lords and ladies: Review of Walworth Castle after £50,000 restaurant investment
There aren’t many places in the North East where you can dine like Lords and Ladies.
But a recent renovation of Walworth Castle’s restaurant makes this striking landmark even more of a draw. The latest owners of this stately hotel and restaurant have invested £8million into updating the site, which dates back to 1189 when the castle was built by Sir Gilbert Hansard whose family were famous for chronicling debates in the Houses of Parliament.
Though it was never a castle for battle, Walworth Castle has hosted Royalty over the centuries, most notably King James VI Scotland, who was travelling down to his Coronation to become King James I of England.
Although it’s been added to over the years, the castle still maintains its majestic features, from its tower which proudly flies the English flag to the suits of armour which guard huge stained glass windows and its atmospheric Medieval cellar. Its imposing grandeur makes it the perfect backdrop for nuptials, but it also attracts guests and diners from far and wide.
A five-minute drive from the A1 and five miles from Darlington, it’s an easy spot to find and we visited on a sunny Autumn night as the sun set over over its sprawling 18acres of lawns and woodland. A wedding was taking place, but the hotel and its 32 bedrooms are large enough so that you don’t feel like you’re intruding on the happy couple.
Rooms are traditional in style, each with its own individual character, and ours had a wooden four-poster bed and a huge bay window straight from the pages of a fairytale book, which helped the venue scoop the title of Best Western UK Small Hotel 2018.
Downstairs, we dined at the new 1189 restaurant, which has opened following a £50,000 investment in the dining area, which fuses contemporary trends with the existing historical features of the room. Think stone walls meets industrial chic lighting meets on-trend blue leather seating.
Meanwhile, the menu would satisfy a King with its hearty offering of options such as French Onion Soup, Roast English meat board, Oxtail, beef skirt and real ale suet pudding and, in a nod to its North East location, a chicken parmo with chips.
I chose the curry-spiced scallops served with cauliflower purée and Granny Smith (£9) to start. The delicate flavour of the scallops was lifted with a kick of curry and the tart of the Granny Smith that made for a lively medley of flavours.
For mains I had the 9oz 21-day dry aged fillet steak (£25.95), a belly-busting portion served with satisfyingly chunky chips, grilled tomato, mushrooms, and bourbon sauce. It also comes with pickled onion rings, which I swerved for salad which wasn’t a problem for the accommodating staff.
They were also helpful as we navigated the wine list which, instead of being split into red, white and rosé, are categorised under Good, Better and Best according to price.
The next morning we had a wander around the well-manicured grounds and took in the tranquillity. If you have time, it’s also worth checking out the on site Birds of Prey centre which is open Friday to Monday during the colder months.