It has to be a pretty special restaurant to convince me to drive 4.5 hours. After a weekend at Nigel Haworth’s countryside retreat in Lancashire, I can confirm that Northcote is worth the journey.
Northcote is located on the edge of the Ribble Valley, nearby to the ruined abbey at Whalley and the spectacular Stonyhurst school. It is a popular area for keen walkers, and hikers who want a real challenge can enjoy the 38 mile Three Peaks of Lancashire. Thanks to the famously British weather, we spent most of our trip relaxing at the hotel and indulging in the award-winning food.
The hotel has 26 rooms spread over two buildings: the Manor House and the Garden Lodge. Each room has a different character, but all have comforting soft furnishings and up-to-date modern amenities. We were staying in a very spacious Garden Lodge room, which was so smart and luxurious it felt almost brand new. The rooms are designed by Jill Holst of Ward Robinson in a grown-up style, our room was quite business-like, with furniture in shades of beige and olive green. The bed was wonderful, huge and indulgent ensuring every guest gets a blissful night’s sleep.
I loved our bathroom which featured a big bathtub for evening soaks and a powerful walk-in shower. The toiletries are provided by Temple Spa, a lovely luxurious beauty brand, which made me think how nice it would be if Northcote had a spa onsite.
A wholesome Lancashire breakfast was served in our room… a feast of brioche bacon buns, fresh fruit and yoghurt and strong coffee and juice. It was immediately obvious that this array of fine food had come from a Michelin starred kitchen… the ingredients were of the finest quality and each dish was presented beautifully. I was particularly impressed with the delicious Greave’s home-cured bacon and the sausages from Farnsworths in Whalley.
The main reason to stay at Northcote is to eat in their renowned restaurant. Chef Patron Nigel Haworth and Executive Chef Lisa Allen are both well-known for their TV appearances on Saturday Kitchen, Masterchef and the Great British Menu. Northcote proudly holds one Michelin star and is often considered as one of the country’s finest hotel restaurants. I was excited to be trying the gastronomic cuisine days after the restaurant had hosted the prestigious Obsession food festival.
There are various menus to choose from, and though we were tempted by the tasting menus, we opted for a more sensible three-courses. There is a choice of seasonal lunch menu (£33.50 for 3 courses and coffee), or the more elaborate a la carte. After speaking to the very well-informed waitress we decided on a few of Nigel’s signature dishes.
To start, the White Beetroot with coconut and white chocolate was a wonderfully healthy and refreshing dish. The subtle earthy flavours of beetroot matched perfectly with the sweet chocolate and the fresh coconut. Orkney Scallop with dashi and seaweed was another light starter, the delicate flavours of the sea blended carefully with the Japanese inspired dashi broth.
To make up for the lack of calories in the starters we went all out with the mains; Wild Venison with liquorice mole and kolhrabi for me, and Beef steak with triple cooked chips for my guest. It was a real treat to indulge in such superior meats. The venison was particularly delicious, cleverly cooked with a hint of spicy aniseed from the liquorice and a crunch from the segments of kolhrabi, a lovely winter cabbage vegetable.
For dessert I convinced the staff to let me try the magical Lemon Meringue Pie, a triumph thanks to it’s Instagrammable appeal. A lifelike cocoa-butter lemon cracks to reveal a beautiful citrus mousse which sits on an assortment of meringue and lemon bits. It was my ideal dessert, vibrant and satisfying yet cleansing for the palate.
The meal was accompanied by unusual and delicious wines from the sommelier. I was pleasantly surprised to see Northcote offer wine in taster 70ml size, so you can try a different wine with each course without needing a lie down at the end of the meal!
While in the area I also highly recommend a pub lunch at The Three Fishes, nearby to the hotel. This friendly gastropub is also owned and overseen by Nigel Haworth and serves up great seasonal food and local drinks. After a long country walk there is nothing better than a hearty Lancashire hotpot, a speciality at the Three Fishes.
More information and book a room or table at Northcote here.