There’s been something of a refurbishment since we were last at Northcote. The redesign of the lounge and bar areas certainly has a more spacious air to it. Not sure about all the pink cushions, though. We’d booked a “gourmet break” which includes bed, breakfast and the five course no-choice dinner. It also throws in a cream tea on arrival – a couple of scones each with a good strawberry jam. It was time for a siesta.
Canapés were good – a tiny “cornetto” stuffed with a caramelised onion mousse and a Lancashire cheese and celeriac croquette. They came with a half bottle of champagne which is part of the “gourmet” package.
Northcote prides itself on its wine as much as it does with its food and it’s no surprise that they offer a pairing with each course. That can work out to be quite a bit of booze but they also offer the pairings in 70ml servings – ideal to get a taste of the wines, without getting pissed.
The dining room hasn’t yet had its refurbishment and, in comparison with the lounge area, now looks a bit dated. The update is due later in the year and, apparently, while that work is going on , the restaurant will operate from another room with folk being somewhat crammed in on small tables. Once seated, there was the almost obligatory amuse bouche – a goat’s cheese mousse, pickled beetroot and beetroot ice cream. I thought it worked well. My partner, who isn’t at all keen on goat’s cheese, thought otherwise.
The first course was another that divided us. I think duck ham was on the menu when we were here in 2009 and, then, had recently featured as part of Nigel Haworth’s efforts on Great British Menu. This was rich, fatty and utterly delicious, to my mind. I got seconds as herself wasn’t keen – she’s not a fan of rich and fatty, which meant I also got seconds of the liver parfait. Alongside, and cutting through all the fatty richness were slices of asian pear (no, me neither) and a scattering of blue cheese. A drizzle of sweet sherry sauce set it all off. My favourite dish of the evening.
Second course might be described as a loaded potato skin, although that would do it no justice whatsoever. The skin was a perfect crispness. And I mean a perfect crispness. It was filled with a very wet mousse – more sauce than mousse – of potato and confit leeks. A good balance of textures and flavours here – set off by a slice of griddled leek on the side. My partner’s favourite dish.
Next up, a lobster dish. Some poached flesh, claw meat in a lovely tempura batter, slices of orange and a champagne sauce. It was my turn to think a dish hadn’t quite hit the mark – the tempura apart, it just didn’t seem to come together for me.
Then the main course of English veal. A slice of loin, perfectly cooked to medium rare. A slice of rib, long cooked and deeply savoury. Kidney, quickly fried and still pink. Mushrooms and spinach going towards the “five a day”. A really well considered and well crafted dish.
Dessert was a chocolate cylinder, filled with a soft caramel, nuts and rasiins. The first mouthful didn’t thrill us. It tasted awfully sweet and a bit mono-dimensional. But, by the end of the second spoonful, we were both fans. It was accompanied by a sharp sheep’s milk ice cream and some sugar work which, for all the world, looked like crumpled cellophane.
We took coffee in the lounge. It wasn’t as hot as you’d like it to be. But it tasted good, as did the petit fours. And then there was just the “full English” to look forward to in the morning.