As you pass through the gates of Wynyard Hall, make your way up the long drive and over the bridge you can’t fail to be impressed (even in the dark).
The hotel’s low-lit restaurant has a relaxed feel despite its tall ceiling, marble arches and portraits adorning the walls. We savoured Taste of Wynyard, the eight- course tasting menu that best demonstrates Wynyard’s two-AA Rosette credentials.
Up first was an amuse-bouche of sweetcorn and sesame crackers. Light as a feather but jam-packed with flavour, the uneven sesame crisps were dotted with creamy sweetcorn purée.
Next came hay-smoked feta and fruit. The smokey salty tang of the cheese was easily balanced by the sweetness of the compressed watermelon cubes, orange, grapes and pomegranate seeds. Mint, picked from the kitchen garden, added a fresh lingering finish.
A quarter of the way through the menu, the richness quotient rose in the form of a small bowl of super-smooth foie gras topped with a thin layer of blood orange jelly, delicate ginger crisps and flower petals. Served in a wooden box filled with pebbles and a side of toasted brioche, the bold dish bounced between rich and buttery with a sharp fruitiness, nailing the balance wonderfully.
Up next came wild garlic tagliatelle, drizzled with a good slug of extra virgin olive oil, with capers and tomato hiding beneath the crispy quail’s egg which, when prodded, gave up an oozing yolk. It was all sprinkled with parmesan and chopped chives to give it that extra oomph.
Every meal needs a fish dish; this one had pan-fried stone bass on a bed of fruity couscous. Crispy, salty skin covered its delicate fall-apart-in-your-mouth flakes, which paired well with curried cauliflower.
The final hot dish, smoked rosemary duck, was the winner hands-down. The pebbles made their second appearance of the night, this time serving as a bed for a bird’s nest of foliage studded with rosemary, with two pieces of duck breast perched inside like a couple of eggs waiting to hatch. Smoke seeped from the dish, drawing the eyes of neighbouring tables. Leaf-shaped courgette pieces resembled the pinstriped skin of a watermelon, and the mini carrots had shoots attached as if they’d been plucked straight from the ground. Pink in the middle and topped with crushed almonds, the duck was the perfect end to the savoury dishes.
We were given a short break before the palate freshener of mango sorbet arrived. It may only have been small but its presentation was mighty. Served in a giant hollowed out dome of ice resting in a bowl of moss, dry ice was then poured around it, to magical effect. The petite but punchy orange ball was decorated with a mini bouquet of edible flowers and its tangy flavour didn’t disappoint.
The final dish of the menu was a smooth chocolate parfait, served with creamy sweet parsnip ice cream, with only a back hint of the vegetable. On a bed of cocoa soil were dottings of bitter orange gel, blackberries and a blackberry log, playing with sweet and sharp tastes.
It’s a long drive out of the grounds of Wynyard’s estate, during which I found myself reflecting on the journey I had taken all around the culinary globe from my seat in The Wellington Restaurant. Taking one last lingering glance in the rear-view mirror at the tall stone pillars, I only hoped it wouldn’t be too long until the next visit.
Tees Valley TS22 5NF