JESMOND Dene House: Food by head chef Michael Penaluna; wire dogs courtesy of a seven foot tall James Bond bad guy lookalike!
While this hotel oozes grandeur, you can’t help but fall in love with its penchant for the off-beat and quirky.
Decorative dogs, fashioned out of steel wire, can be found dotted around the hotel and were produced by Gary Tiplady, a North East sculptor more famous, perhaps, for being the double of metal-toothed 007 villain Jaws.
The metal pooches join various other off-beat conversation pieces, from Norman Cornish paintings of flat capped Northerners in the drawing room to the photos of, among other sporting stars of their day, former Leeds United footballer Duncan McKenzie jumping a Mini Cooper inside St James’s Park. You can find that memorable moment of the Seventies hanging in the Gents!
The surprises, however, are not confined to the décor.
Jesmond Dene’s head chef Michael Penaluna certainly likes to knock up some eye-catching dishes.
I’ve waxed lyrical before about his salty chocolate balls (don’t laugh), but the theatre surrounding this dessert’s presentation never ceases to impress. The cricket ball sized spheres are delivered to the table taking centre stage on the plate before being melted into a satisfying sticky goo by the liberal application of hot chocolate, poured by the waiting staff. The collapsing dark chocolate balls fold in on themselves to reveal roasted peanuts in a salty caramel. Hats off to head pastry chef Kristian Branch and his team for the desserts. They’re simply superb.
But before we get to that stage, there’s plenty on the menu to whet the appetite.
I was tempted to go for the rare breed pork collar with chicory, orange and ginger, only to given a word of advice from the waiter. He asked me how I liked my pork, and ventured that if I’m a big fan of crackling, I should try the belly pork.
His advice was welcome and directed me towards the less expensive option too. Not only was he saving me a few quid, but he was on the money with his opinion.
The belly pork was exceptional and accompanied by butternut squash, fennel, chorizo and a crackling that delivered a sea salty crunch.
My wife was equally impressed by the belted Galloway beef fillet with Northumberland leeks, crisp bone marrow, shallots and potato puree. This was hearty organic farm fayre so steeped in the country that I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had wielded a shotgun and shouted “Get orf moi laaand.”
The dinner menu is sophisticated and full of North East flavour. Lobster, sea bass and lamb were strong candidates for top spot, but there were also some interesting and different dishes to catch the eye, such as Earl Grey poached chicken or rabbit loin with white pudding.
Michael Penaluna’s evening menu at Jesmond Dene fully deserves its three AA rosettes, but the hotel isn’t a one-trick fine dining pony.
The hotel is open all day and attracts a variety of diners at breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. While it’s not 10 minutes drive from the city centre, the hotel is also set in the countrified Jesmond Dene and boasts its own terrace and gardens.
Its secluded location means you really do feel as if you’re a hundred miles away from the hurly burly of modern life. It’s why the boutique rooms are popular and why there are some great foodie events put on at the hotel with overnight stay options on offer.
Even if you’re not staying overnight, the £25 set lunch menu is particularly good value for money. An example being starter: clam risotto and Laphroaig; main: North Sea beer battered cod and chips and sweet: rhubarb and vanilla pavlova.
Grand, contemporary, quirky, and boasting its very own pack of metal wire dogs, Jesmond Dene is barking up the right tree when it comes to quality dining in sumptuous surroundings.
At a Glance:
Jesmond Dene House,
Jesmond Dene Road,
Father’s Day: Sunday, June 15. Sunday Lunch: Three-course meal with a gift for Dad to take home. £35.00 per adult and £19.50 per child.
Friday, June 13: Dinner with Champagne Pol Roger: The house of Pol Roger is among the long-established and traditional family enterprises in the Champagne region of France which has now become Jesmond Dene’s poured house champagne. A special 4-course Champagne dinner is taking place. Jonathan Smailes, from Pol Roger, will be co-hosting the evening and will provide a short presentation explaining the history of Pol Roger, which is both fascinating and amusing.
Menu Wild Garlic Risotto (Pol Roger Pure NV); Confit Salmon, Garden Herbs (Pol Roger Vintage Rose 2004); Spring Lamb Cutlet, Lamb Navarin, Minted Fresh Peas and Fondant Potato (Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 2000); Garden Rhubarb Pavlova and Vanilla Ice Cream (Pol Roger Rich NV); Coffee and Petits Fours. The cost per person is £95.00.
To book for either event contact the events team on 0191 212 3000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org