It’s almost dark when we arrive at Walwick Hall, which is a little irritating given I’ve spent the drive up here telling my partner about the amazing views enjoyed from their dining room. He’s never visited before (and during my sole previous visit there was only time for a coffee and a look at the view), so we’re looking forward to our evening.
All is warm and cosy inside, and minutes after arriving we’re settled into a pair of comfortable armchairs in the richly-decorated drawing room (where a fire blazes in the grate) examining the menu and enjoying a stupendous glass of Italian sparkling wine. A promising start.
Having ordered and had time to relax and enjoy our fizz, we’re shown through to the dining room and promptly brought fresh poppy-seed rolls with salted butter, swiftly followed by our first course. The dining room is busy, and we take a little time to take in the opulent surroundings – think boldly-printed wallpaper, gold-framed mirrors and rich fabrics throughout.
My partner has chosen roasted wood pigeon, which comes with a perfectly-flaky confit leg pithivier, kale and rich red wine baked figs (£10.50). My seared Isle of Mull scallops (£11.95) are very well cooked (by which I mean cooked in the right way, rather than well-done) and are served with two hefty triangles of tender pork belly, apple purée, fresh apple and a spicy black pudding crumb. Both dishes are artfully presented – all swishes of this and spatters of that – but there’s plenty of substance to match the style.
My main course is roast haunch of Highland venison (£21.95) with textures of beetroot, kale and a fabulously rich, bitter chocolate sauce. Venison isn’t something you find on just any old menu, and I can never resist ordering it when I get the chance. This is served beautifully pink, and almost melts in the mouth. Across the table, my partner has once again ordered lamb (which he’s made a habit of ever since he realised I don’t really like it, perhaps to avoid having to share). His rack of local lamb (£22.50) is pink and perfect in the middle, and comes with a potato terrine, aubergine purée, baby onions and delicious pan juices. Despite the richness of the dishes, they’re perfectly balanced in every way, and our extra order of vegetables (while lovely) turns out to have been an unnecessary addition.
To finish, my partner orders a beautiful plate of fennel panna cotta, orange sorbet and gel, with candied fennel (£6.95), while I (without a sweet tooth in my head) choose a selection of three artisan cheeses (£8.50) – a tangy black bomber cheddar, a satisfyingly camembert-like Tunworth, and a strong Bluemin White blue cheese. All this is served with homemade oatcakes, crispy walnut and raisin bread, a fruit chutney and pickled grapes (the grapes are odd, but strangely enjoyable).
It’s late by now – and despite the kind offer of a nightcap in the cosy bar before we leave, it’s time to hit the road. I pick up some information on Christmas afternoon teas on the way out – just in case.
What we expected: Accomplished cooking in a smart hotel. | What we got: Perfect presentation and flavours to match. | What we wish we’d tried: The ‘peach melba macaron’ dessert.
Walwick Hall Hotel
Humshaugh, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 4BJ