Review: The Brasserie by Atkinson, Rockliffe Hall, near Darlington

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FIRST of all a confession. My wife and I got absolutely and hopelessly lost on our way to the Rockliffe Hall Hotel – and that was with the use of a satnav.

Eventually, we had to ring the five-star hotel and ask to be directed in. If we had known where we were going, the journey from Sunderland to Hurworth would have taken about 40 minutes.

Anyway, I’m delighted we managed to find our way there, because our meal at the Brasserie was of historic proportions.

Although it has been open for a couple of years, everything about the hotel felt new, the décor tasteful and the carpets bouncy under our feet.

The Brasserie itself is situated above the spa. It has an intimate feel, with wonderfully attentive, but not obtrusive staff. There are tables, booths and also banquet-style seating.

The Atkinson in the title of the restaurant is Kenny Atkinson, one of the most respected chefs in the country and who won his second Michelin star while at Seaham Hall.

After being ushered to our table, we perused the menu with a mocktail of raspberry and apple. It made this teetotaller almost feel grown up.

I chose from the market menu, great value at £29.95 for three courses, although there is a separate a la carte menu.

I started with the Jerusalem artichoke which was divine. For my main course I had Whixley Grange Farm Pork, pan roasted to perfection.

It arrived with pease pudding and glazed carrots. I had ordered new potatoes as an extra. Portions were of a generous nature, and the vegetables were cooked to bring out their flavour – not too crispy, but not at all soggy,

To finish I chose vanilla rice pudding with marinated blackberries. This was a fantastic dessert, very creamy and full of flavour.

My partner, as usual, not being as hungry as me, ordered just a main course from the a la carte menu. It was slow-braised beef on a creamed potato puree with mushrooms, beans and smoked bacon – this was a meal in itself, a large portion stunningly presented and was declared “wonderfully tasty.”

The generous portion of chunky chips ordered as an extra were fried to perfection and came served with garlic mayonnaise.

We finished with a café latte served with shortbread biscuits and, happily sated, set off home – somewhat apprehensively given our inauspicious arrival.

The market menu changes regularly, and the hotel also hosts the more luxurious Kenny Atkinson at the Orangery restaurant.

As you’d expect from a restaurant of this quality, there is a wide and varied wine list from which to choose.

Rob Lawson