Grand buildings, both new and old appeared as we drove towards Rockliffe Hall’s extensive grounds lit up on the dark November night. With the sky clear and air frosty the buildings provided a perfect backdrop, a real shame we didn’t have more time to explore the grounds earlier in the day.
Michelin starred Head Chef Kenny Atkinson is a winner of the BBC’s Great British Menu so expectations were high and we certainly weren’t let down.
Upon arrival we were greeted with upmost respect at the hotel entrance and pointed in the direction of The Brasserie by Atkinson. We passed through the swanky interior and fantastic looking spa before making our way up to the restaurant.
The hardest decision of the night was our choice of order! The menu is full of classic dishes with plenty of local fresh produce included.
For starters I opted for the Whixley Grange Farm Pork whilst my partner went for the Goosnargh Duck. The pork was braised and pan fried and accompanied by pan seared scallops, creating a contrasting combination of soft shellfish and crispy meat.
The terrine of duck was exceptionally presented whilst the combination of the duck leg, ham hock and savoy cabbage was excellent. The highlight of the dish however was the smoked duck breast, which was delicious.
For my main, I selected the North East Coast Halibut, this was served on a bed of butternut squash risotto with spring onions and coriander. The fish was extremely succulent, my fork cutting easliy through the soft flakes. The crispy skin covered in rock salt epitomised the taste of the North Sea.
My partner plumped for the pan roasted Woodman’s House Farm Chicken which she described as being intensely succulent. it was accompanied with a beautifully rich gravy.
Again, the selection of desserts lead to another difficult choice between chocolate mousse, fig and almond tart and coconut panna cotta filling the menu. The pick of the night was most certainly the Date and Ginger Pudding, undoubtedly one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted. The sticky toffee sauce was incredible with the moist sponge, and vanilla ice cream cut through the richness of the dish.
We also sampled the selection of local cheeses, all sourced from County Durham farms, served with fig jelly, celery and a selection of biscuits.
Over the course of the night the staff went out of their way to make sure we were well catered and cared for.
I’d thoroughly recommend The Brasserie by Atkinson at Rockliffe Hall for any special occasion. I’m told it’s only a five minute taxi journey from Darlington train station whilst also easily accessible from the region’s main road links. To enjoy further splendour, add further aspects of the five star resort to your visit; the luxury spa and renowned golf course are all equally recommended. If you’re travelling from further afield or are looking for an idyllic local stay take a look at Rockliffe Hall for your stay, I know I’ll be back!