Katy Wheeler spent the night at a newly-converted coach house that’s saddling up for success on the hotel scene.
BLEND a sympathetic, yet trendy, coach house conversion with a feast of fine dining and sprinkle liberally with spot-on service and you’ve got the recipe for a picture-perfect overnight stay at this new venue.
I say new, but this coaching house has been perched on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors since the Georgian times.
Back then it would house the horse-drawn carriages used to transport the residents of Middleton Lodge in the grandeur to which they were accustomed.
Today, it still retains that air of splendour as you make your way through the forest along a sweeping gravel drive.
Though it’s situated in the shadow of the mansion main house, itself a venue available for hire, the Coach House has a distinct character of its own.
At the helm of the £2million renovation were the mansion’s owner James Allison and his partner Rebecca Tappin, who is the design director of the Coach House.
And their love and passion for the 200-acre estate is present in every carefully-placed trinket and picture.
The theme is comfortable country and there’s plenty of nods to the great English countryside in the design which fuses reclaimed feature beams and antique brass light fittings with plush furnishings, croquet mallets for lawn games and open cast roaring fires.
Each of the nine individually-designed rooms has its own quirky character, ours had a subtle celestial theme with art works inspired by constellations.
A roll-top bath in this room makes for an unusual, yet inviting feature, like something straight out of a Flake advert. This is luxury
designed for lounging.
As warm and inviting as the room is, with plump beds you just sink into, we tore ourselves away for dinner.
You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to use the restaurant and bar and it’s definitely a destination eatery worth the drive.
A few minutes off the A1, just south of Darlington, the restaurant is a haven of fine foods and cocktails whipped up by expert mixologists.
The culinary concept is billed as “fresh estate-to-plate dining”, meals sourced from surrounding Yorkshire produce and, where possible, the immediate sprawling grounds. The result is understated decadent dining.
If proof were needed of the food’s freshness, a map shows you exactly where your meal hails from, whether it be fish freshly caught on the coast 32 miles away or Swaledale lamb reared 18 miles inland.
I enjoyed my meal so much I’ve made the 45-minute drive from Sunderland to the venue twice since my overnight stay, just for dinner.
Getting back to my first
visit though, it was the starter of caramelised king scallop, crispy pork, celeriac and fresh apple (£10) which won my patronage.
There were plenty of other worthy contenders though. It was a hotly-fought contest between the eventual winner; the pan-fried pigeon breast, liver parfait, praline and pear salad (£8) and the steak tartare, mustard mayonnaise, pickled mushrooms and egg yolk (£8.50).
The four silky scallops arrived punctuated by crispy pork balls. Though the latter weren’t the main ingredient of the dish, they almost stole
the whole show - meaty morsels packed full of flavour. If I could have ordered a bowl of them, I would have. Twice.
Mains are an equally impressive affair: a carefully thought-out selection of hearty taste bud ticklers, such as slow roast pork belly, honey roast parsnip, Italian cabbage and roasted apple (£15) and ox cheek, smoked mash, foraged mushrooms, truffle and baby onions (£16.50).
Despite the quality threaded through the Coach House, prices are reasonable and you can’t really quibble at £16 for a rib eye steak in such
It was, however, a fishy feast which reeled me in: roast hake, cauliflower, samphire, crispy mussel and clam chowder (£15).
Chowders can be often be overly-creaming, but this was executed with perfection. Rich, but not sickeningly so, the lighter nuances of the seafood were complemented, not drowned by, a luscious sauce.
The beauty of an overnight stay here is that you can sink into the leather seats and fully take advantage of the impressively-stocked bar.
Drinks aren’t just an after-thought here, they’re given as much attention to detail as the food.
The barmen use everything at their disposal, even a pipette for precision, to ensure you sup in style. My personal favourite? The Bramble - a fruity number featuring locally-sourced Durham Gin.
Feeling contentedly-full, we retired to the snug: a cosy, dimly-lit, atmospheric side room perfect for post-meal drinks.
The Coach House at Middleton Lodge may be a newcomer to the region’s boutique hotel scene, but something tells me it’s going to set the standard for affordable luxury lodging.
•Weekend packages are £200 for bed and breakfast, and the mid-week prices are £150. For more information visit www.middletonlodge.co.uk.