REVIEW: Black Knight restaurant, Lumley Castle, Chester-le-Street

Lumley Castle, Chester-le-Street
Lumley Castle, Chester-le-Street
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FOOD fit for a king?

We certainly dined like queens in the palatial surroundings of Lumley Castle.

Starter at Black Knight

Starter at Black Knight

There are few places in Britain where you can take your seat amidst 600 years of history. But the venue’s Black Knight restaurant gives you the chance to do just that.

This was my first time dining in the restaurant – I hadn’t realised it was open to non-residents.

But you don’t need to be a king, queen or even a hotel guest to enjoy a meal here.

There’s an imposing grandeur to this restaurant which is decorated in heavy hues of rich reds with swathes of brocade fabric and baroque-style artworks on the stone walls.

They say you should eat dinner like a pauper, but here you can breakfast, lunch and dine like a king.

No bland magnolia walls and food served on trendy slate tiles here – old school opulence is the dish of the day, every day.

It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but it certainly stands out from the gastro pubs that are popping up around the region.

The lighting is equally as atmospheric, as candlelit tables evoke a setting of yesteryear.

It’s not hard to imagine this castle in the days of witches and wizards. Fast forward six centuries and the chefs in the kitchen have conjured up an imaginative a la carte menu that changes with the seasons.

Pudding at Black Knight

Pudding at Black Knight

The starters are an eclectic mix to say the least with options ranging from Jerusalem artichoke and nutmeg soup and pigeon breast to cola and BBQ braised pork terrine and homemade paneer and spinach curry.

I chose the red mullet, which though not cheap, wasn’t as expensive as I expected from the setting, at £7.95.

I was presented with a generous portion and though the main ingredient is a delicately-flavoured fish, it was enhanced by a chunky celeriac and leek rosti, swirls of a rich pea puree and punctuated with a punchy anchovy and parsley butter. It was an intoxicating blend and I savoured every forkful.

As befitting a winter menu, the mains are a hearty affair with options such as Lumley beef fillet stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in parma ham (£26.50), pan seared duck breast (£21.50) and confit of belly pork with parsnip fig jam and shallot and cider jus (£18.50).

Vegetarians don’t miss out. They aren’t just an after-thought here, to be palmed off with a bland veggie lasagne.

Options are as enticing as the meat-eating menu and include savoury pumpkin and sweet potato pie (£15) and aromatic Thai green vegetable curry (£13.50).

Getting back to the meat, I chose venison (£22), perhaps my favourite form of game. Though it’s a meat often presented as a steak, presentation was a bit more left field here and it was served sliced into lean strips on a disc of wild mushroom and cranberry omelette.

To the side was a celeriac dauphinoise, which made a refreshing change from a potato accompaniment, with a rich thyme and puy lentil jus.

Though the meat was so tender I’m not sure it needed the addition of the omelette, I devoured it none the less.

I was royally stuffed, but I’d been so impressed with the first two courses I felt compelled to order a third.

The passion fruit mousse gateau was a tastebud triumph: a smooth and light mousse drizzled in a mango salsa and pierced with a giant brandy snap. It managed to be both filling and refreshing and was a perfect palate cleanser.

They say you should eat dinner like a pauper, but here you can breakfast, lunch and dine like a king.