Food Review – Rockcliffe Hall

Fine dine with wine

Dave Allan visits The Orangery to check out the latest creation from Rockliffe Hall’s celebrated chef Richard Allen…

Luxury languishes in every corner of Rockliffe Hall Hotel. From its world-class spa and 18-hole championship golf course to the elegant rooms of its award-winning hotel, here is a place stamped with quality. And Rockliffe’s flagship 4AA Rosette Orangery restaurant will ensure it stays right at the top of any discerning foodies’ wish list with the launch of its new 10-course tasting menu.

Yes, you did read that correctly. Executive chef Richard Allen has delivered his latest mouth-watering marvel in the shape and flavour of no less than ten courses.

And he delivers on his promise to provide a unique journey of textures, temperatures and tastes, where every dish tells its own story.

Having booked in for an overnight stay, my better half Bernie and I had built our appetites indulging in the hotel’s superb spa facilities before happily joining knowledgeable head sommelier Daniel Jonberger in the cellar for a wine-tasting session that was as entertaining as it was educational.

Now we were ready for further indulgence on a busy Saturday evening amid the tasteful, gold hue of the Orangery.

If 10 courses sounds like too much, be assured that servings lean towards the petit. Each course – a work of art every time – is tasty and small enough to leave you wanting more.

As we opted for the wine pairing option, each dish was coupled with an exquisite wine specially selected and served by Daniel, who readily admits to having had great fun creating the combinations with Richard, one of the UK’s most celebrated chefs.

My wife and I pride ourselves in being open-minded about trying new food, but even we raised our eyebrows as our first course arrived…Beetroot and Ragstone Cheese.

We needn’t have worried. The wonderfully light dish was topped by the unusual texture of melt-in-the-mouth beetroot meringue wafers. It shouldn’t have worked but it very definitely did.

Next up was Lamb Hotpot, served in tiny mug-shaped pots. And so delicious, we both agreed, that we could easily have eaten a whole plate of it.

Our next course was Crab, Chicken Crisp, Bergamont and Harissa, which a quick Google check told us was a Tunisian pepper paste, which we flushed down with a fine Portuguese red.

The next taste explosion came in the form of tender, juicy morsels of pigeon combined with dahl, coriander, lime and cashew.

Then came chalk stream trout, fermented cucumber, mussel and dill, a stunning combination of subtle tastes and strong flavours. Our attention switched to the wine, a 2014 Reisling from the Wente Vineyard in the States. Thankfully, Daniel warned us in advance that it smelled like petrol. Thankfully, it tasted of heaven.

The delights continued as we enjoyed Landrace pork, langoustine and kimchi – a perfect match for an Italian Merlot – followed by Blue Monday Cheese, Waldorf flavours and chia seed, coupled with a superb 2007 Riversalte Ambie.

It was at this point that Bernie announced herself full. But she nobly battled on, finding room for pudding – first preserved strawberries, shiso and sake, before an overly green dish of pear, pistachio and matcha that she enjoyed more than I did.

Let’s be clear, the Orangery’s tasting menu definitely isn’t for picky eaters. The decidedly experimental feel to the experience continued to the end with a final “course” of a macaroon perched on some pine leaves.

It doesn’t come cheap either. The tasting menu is £80 per head – and another £60 if you go for the wine pairing option.

However, we were unanimous that the entire experience had lived up to our own very high expectations. That included the exquisite, friendly service from an international trio of Stockholm’s Daniel, Jatin from Bombay and Johannes from Bruges.

Our view on the 10-course tasting menu? Ten out of 10 – even if my other half would have been happy to stop after a magnificent seven.