By Sarah Blake
Let’s cut to the chase, I’ve found my special place. Northcote, you have my heart. I don’t say this lightly, but finding fault with this epicurean utopia is nigh on impossible.
Having held a Michelin Star since 1996, this northern delight is well steered by celebrated chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen and renowned hotelier Craig Bancroft.
For lovers of luxury stays and out-of-this-world dining, heaven is a place on earth. And it’s nearer than you think.
Perfectly situated in the stunning Ribble Valley in the very centre of the UK, Northcote is only 15 minutes from the M6, or 13 miles from Preston train station, where the fast train to London takes just over two hours. Here’s what happened when we checked in for the night.
As a world-class destination, it stands to reason that Northcote is located mere minutes from the Forest of Bowland, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
It’s no exaggeration to say that we were instantly wooed by the breathtaking backdrop as we arrived at Northcote by car. For drivers, it’s worth noting that the picture-perfect Victorian manor house has two sizeable car parks which include Tesla, Porsche and Pod Point electric car charges. And if you really want to arrive in style, there is a helipad close by.
Globally famed for its gastronomic greatness, Northcote is so much more than a foodie delight. The converted country house has been altered and added to over the years, managing to retain the charm of yesteryear whilst ultimately enhancing the indulgence experienced during a stay at such a prestigious property. It was clear from the start this is a place where memories are made.
As we entered the main building and headed to the reception desk we were instantly aware of a ubiquitous sense of etiquette and decorum, without the slightest hint of pretentiousness or uncomfortable formality.
Surrounded by all the trappings of an outstanding luxury hotel, we were greeted with the very best northern hospitality. The consistently dedicated, knowledgeable, friendly and impassioned team turned out to be one of the highlights of our stay.
STYLE AND INTERIORS
Striking the right balance between classic and contemporary is no mean feat, yet Northcote has managed to successfully combine the two. At its heart, the hotel is quintessentially British.
Our favourite communal space was the bar and lounge area, decorated in rich hues and warm accent colours, with a leather-fronted bar and a plethora of period features, including a tastefully tiled open fireplace.
The highest level of craftsmanship is evident throughout but, make no mistake, the furnishings are definitely not designed to be admired as museum-like pieces. They are there to provide comfort, to be used, and repeatedly enjoyed.
Every area and room at Northcote has its own sense of character. In contrast to the deeper shades and traditional styling of the lounge, the restaurant is utterly elegant in muted tones, with sophisticated seating and a show-stopping contemporary chandelier.
Outside the spacious terrace is hugely atmospheric, with enviable views over the rolling Ribble Valley. The terrace leads both to the gardens, which provide the kitchen with organic fruit and vegetables, and to the relatively new Garden Lodges.
We were personally escorted to our room, a junior suite in the Garden Lodge, and as soon as we saw it we instantly wished we were staying longer. On entrance, we stepped into a short hallway which opened out into a bedroom that oozed elegance. The stylish suite harmoniously fused neutrals with bursts of burnt orange that made the space feel warm and welcoming.
Featured furniture included a dressing table and chair, a large sofa, two resplendent armchairs and a sizeable bed. The bathroom was an experience all of its own, with two sinks, double walk-in rainfall shower and a spectacular bath taking centre stage. But the pièce de resistance was the suite’s spacious stone pillar balcony and the awe inspiring views that accompanied it.
In total, Northcote has 26 rooms; 18 classic, superior, and deluxe rooms in the Manor House, and eight junior and master suites in the Garden Lodge. Each of the rooms have unique styling and character, and all feature exceptional furnishings, sophisticated lighting and the utmost attention to detail.
FOOD AND DRINK
When we managed to tear ourselves away from the luxurious comfort of our room, we headed to the lounge bar for a pre-dinner tipple. With an extensive list of cocktails, mocktails and spirits, plus an award-winning selection of wines, we were more than spoilt for choice. Tempted as we were by the Northcote Classic Champagne Cocktail (£18.50), we opted for a large glass of Pinot Noir (£10.70) and my absolute favourite – a French Martini (£11.50).
Aperitifs polished off, we were ushered into the dining room where we settled down to enjoy The Five Course Spring Gourmet Menu (£115pp) created by Lisa Goodwin-Allen, one of the country’s most prominent and pioneering chefs and a TV regular on shows such as James Martin’s Saturday Morning, Great British Menu and Saturday Kitchen. One of the youngest women to ever run a Michelin-starred kitchen, Lisa became head chef of Northcote at the age of 23, before being promoted to executive chef in 2015.
Northcote has now held its Michelin Star for 26 years, and we can absolutely attest to infallible courses of edible artistry and exquisite explosions of flavour. Each dish was introduced by exceptionally knowledgeable serving staff, who held us spellbound by their descriptions and eager to savour each culinary delight.
We particularly enjoyed the Wild Turbot, which was served with Clam, Bacon, Smoked Potato and Roe. And we adored the Yorkshire Rhubarb, which came with Honeycomb ‘Semi Freddo’ and Fennel Pollen.
To drink, we opted for a recommended bottle of Reserva, Alta, Marqués de Murrieta, 2016 (£65). Although wine pairing (£70pp) is available alongside the five-course tasting menu.
More relaxed dining can be found in the bar lounge and terrace menus. At the other end of the scale, those who want the ultimate Northcote experience should book the Chef’s Table. Located in the heart of the kitchen, it seats up to 16 guests and is housed inside a glass room, offering an intimate view of exactly how Michelin-starred meals are prepared and plated.
And we must mention the breakfast menu. Drinks options included Champagne, Buck’s Fizz and Bloody Mary. Still satiated from the previous evening’s fine dining, we opted for Toasted English Muffins, but could have chosen more substantial dishes such as the Traditional English Breakfast, Lancashire Cheese Soufflé or Smashed Avocado, Chilli, Coriander on Sourdough with Bowland Poached Egg.
Want to go one step further than dining out on Michelin Star food and learn how to make it yourself? Then the Northcote Cookery School is for you. During the full-day course, which includes breakfast, lunch and a tour of the Northcote kitchen, you will be taught how to make at least four dishes, all of which you can take away to enjoy at home.
Finally, Northcote is host to the most wondrous, one-of-a-kind food festival. Called Obsession, it takes place annually in January and February, lasts two weeks, and showcases exceptional gastronomical talent from all over the UK and Ireland. Different chefs cook on different nights and Obsession 2022 involved 18 chefs, 18 Michelin Stars and 1,600 guests who had travelled from far and wide.
Demand to eat, stay and learn to cook at Northcote is exceptionally high. To put it into perspective, they received 15,000 requests to attend Obsession 2022 within two weeks of announcing the line-up. Yes, you will undoubtedly have to book fairly far in advance. And yes, it is absolutely worth the wait.
Prices start from £255 a night for bed and breakfast in a classic room
Gourmet breaks, which include The Five Course Gourmet tasting menu, start at £340
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