From the starters to the desserts, everything was spot on at this luxurious hotel’s restaurant which is well worth the drive, says Rosie Jenkinson.
I’ve been to Seaham Hall many times before, but granted, it’s always been for the spa.
With a five-star bubble rating, it’s one of my favourite spas in the North East and it always leaves me feeling relaxed – with its outdoor hot tubs, Indian steam room and 20-metre pool with massage jet stations.
I confess, I have never been into the main hotel or had dinner at The Dining Room … until this month. Now I realise what a mistake that was.
The Dining Room has two AA Rosettes and a place in the 2019 Good Food Guide. It’s described by Seaham Hall as ‘regional dining at its best’ and has a strong, seasonal menu focused on the surrounding area. But the first thing I noticed when I walked into the restaurant was how utterly gorgeous it was.
It’s splendour is on show with two glittering chandeliers, tall Georgian windows and furnishings in luxurious gold metallics and earthy colours. It was smaller than I expected it to be, oozing warmth, and you can see how the space could have once held dinner parties in the past.
On the back wall was an impressive mirror cabinet, showcasing bottles of Spey Whisky – a throwback to its heritage with the brand, which was originally set up in Seaham Hall’s cellars.
We were seated by the window, which looked out onto the driveway’s water feature, and turned our attention to the menu which is divided into ‘small plates’ (starters) and ‘big plates’ (mains). There’s also an extensive wine list.
Our waitress brought over some sour dough bread with salted Jersey butter – both home-made. Usually the bread course is a nice filler, keeping you going until you can sink your teeth into the good stuff, but this butter was so delicious that I slathered the bread with it, going well overboard with the normal ratio of butter to bread. I didn’t care.
My pressed, slow-cooked Goosnargh chicken with smoked cod roe, heritage carrots and roasted chicken skin was a great starter. Flavours were balanced, and the crispy crunch of the chicken skin was deeply satisfying. My husband’s grilled quail with burnt apple purée and sweetheart cabbage hit all the right notes. Each ingredient was elevated to the best of its flavour potential and well cooked.
On to the mains, where I enjoyed a pork dish of slow-roasted, free-range Hylton pork with celeriac, hen of the woods and sage, and my husband enjoyed his steak of 45-day dry aged Galloway beef which was served medium-rare and accompanied with slow-cooked scorched onions, iceberg, and roasted garlic dressing. It all sounds a bit posh, and it is fine dining, but at the heart of it is good food done well.
We decided to get two sides to share amongst us, so of course we went for handcut chips, as well as an intriguing dish of star anise and orange roasted carrots. I was a bit wary, thinking the carrots would taste like ‘Christmas’, but they were fantastic. I couldn’t stop smiling when I was eating them, they were a worthy addition to the dinner. (Oh, and also the chips were fab!)
I think now would also be a good time to recognise the staff who took care of us during the course of the evening. I’ve eaten in many restaurants, but the service I received at The Dining Room was flawless. Just the right amount of attentiveness without being over-the-top, and friendly and professional. Everything I could have wanted. It doesn’t seem a hard thing to get right, yet it rarely seems to be perfect, but here it was.
Dessert came in the form of a parsnip and pear cake with poached pear, roasted parsnip ice cream and walnuts for me, and the most chocolatey thing on the menu for him – which was a large 65% chocolate with orange and honeycomb. I had clocked the parsnip dessert as soon as I had looked over the menu, and knew it had to be mine. I was so pleased with my choice. Apart from maybe needing a bit more ice cream to go alongside the huge portion of cake, the dessert was fantastic with the parsnip flavour shining through in the ice cream – it went really well with the sweet cake and soft poached pear.
As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end – and soon it was time to head home. I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had passed. Driving home, we were both unanimous in the dining experience we had had – we loved it.
All photography by Sean Elliott Photography.
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