What We Thought of Walwick Hall's New Five-course Tasting Menu
We take a mini-escape to Walwick Hall to sample their new five-course tasting menu
Checking in, we’re quickly shown to our spacious suite (which is called Horse), and are met by an explosion of pink floral fabrics, pretty knick-knacks and thoughtful touches.
There’s fresh water, fruit and homemade shortbread by the coffee machine on the dresser, and in the fabulous marbled bathroom (with a walk-in shower and freestanding bath) we discover luxurious Walwick Hall toiletries. The suite is flooded with light from the huge windows, and would be a wonderful space in which to relax.
We, however, simply deposit our bags and head back downstairs. Having arrived a little later than planned, we just have time for a peek at Walwick’s new sunroom – a stylish, glass-walled private dining space which opens directly out onto the stone terrace running along the front of the hotel.
Back in the opulent but comfortable Drawing Room, we’re greeted with our welcome drink – red wine punch with gin, apple juice, lime juice and pomegranate syrup – which sounds completely awful to me (neither a gin nor a red wine drinker) but turns out to be light, refreshing and satisfyingly tart.
We’re here to try Walwick Hall’s new tasting menu – a five-course spectacular, with wine pairings – and we begin in the Drawing Room with a glass of Champagne from one of the oldest Champagne houses in Europe, and on being shown through to our table, we’re served a selection of bread before our first dish arrives. Our first offering is an amuse bouche – a light wild garlic espuma with delicate wild garlic flowers and gnocchi.
Our first course proper is a creamy scallop gratin with peas, lardons, Stornaway black pudding and a crisp parmesan crust, served with a fabulously-smooth French viognier, which we love. Next up, a ham hock and foie gras ballotine, with watercress purée, salad, a sprinkling of delightfully sharp pickled mushrooms and a delicate thyme cracker. Alongside this, we’re served an Australian pinot gris.
We move onto red with our next course – and the soft Catalunyan wine goes perfectly with our roasted lamb rump. Alongside the pink chunks of rump, we have densely-flavoured crispy belly, wild garlic emulsion (we’re assured that the chef picked the wild garlic himself), peas, confit tomatoes, fondant potato and anchovies.
Neither my partner nor myself has much of a sweet tooth, but our dessert course tests our savoury bias to its limits: a dainty slice of duck egg custard tart, with a rhubarb and custard macaron and delicate stem ginger ice cream, the flavours perfectly, exquisitely balanced, and improved yet further by the accompanying glass of sweet, fruity Australian wine (it’s far more syrupy than anything I would usually drink, but perfectly chosen and perfectly paired).
Our penultimate course is a Hebridean blue cheese, served with Dundee cake, pickled shallots, sourdough and port jelly, and a measure of 10-year-old Tawny port, after which we amble slowly back into the Drawing Room for coffee. Tasting menus can sometimes seem like a feat of endurance, but this one is just enough to feel special, and not so much that we begin to flag. Even so, we only manage to nibble at a few of the sweet treats which come with our coffee, and are grateful for a squishy sofa to sink into. A few of our fellow diners have also retired here for a more comfortable seat, and there’s a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere.
In the morning, we’re the first people into the pool – an expanse of shimmering turquoise in a glass-walled building overlooking the Hall’s carefully-manicured gardens. From the raised hot tub, we can see for miles across the Tyne Valley as it opens out below us. We have the place to ourselves for a hour, and are driven back to the hotel only by hunger.
Back in the Dining Room, breakfast is another spectacular (although thankfully not five courses). We start with English breakfast tea, dainty pastries, toast and fresh juices, before ordering from the tempting breakfast menu. My partner chooses eggs Benedict, and I have the same but with smoked salmon instead of ham, and a hash brown on the side. By the time we check out, we’ve been at the Hall less than 16 hours – but feel as refreshed as if we’ve been away for a week.
Walwick Hall’s five-course tasting menu is £65 per person, and the wine package is £30 per person.
Walwick Hall, Humsaugh, Hexham NE46 4BJ