Championing eating locally

Paul Blakey, head chef at Doxford Hall Hotel.
Paul Blakey, head chef at Doxford Hall Hotel.
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Eating local has become a major trend in recent years as consumers switch on to the superior quality and economic and environmental benefits of regional food.

Cooking with locally-produced meat is something Paul Blakey has championed throughout his 15-year career as a chef in Northumberland. Now head chef at Doxford Hall Hotel, near Alnwick, he is bringing this passion to the restaurant at the four-star country house hotel and spa.

Doxford Hall is known as a superb wedding and conference venue and is making a name for itself as a top dining destination. The restaurant has just received two AA rosettes in recognition of its quality. For Paul, that quality starts by sourcing the very best local ingredients from Northumbrian suppliers

The beef on the menu is primarily from local farms and the restaurant uses Sunnyhill Free Range Eggs from Belford and Northumbrian cheeses.

Paul said: “I’m home-fed and bred myself in the North East and as far as I’m concerned, you can’t get better than Northumbrian meat. It’s something I’ve always insisted on.

“The quality is superb and local meat really does have a taste synonymous with the area where it’s produced. Visitors and locals like to see it on the menu and it makes a real difference to their dining experience.

“Doxford Hall spends thousands of pounds on meat every year and, as well as getting a quality product, we’re supporting local farmers and the local economy.”

The majority of the meat served at the hotel is sourced from Longframlington butcher R Green & Son. Established in 1888 by the great-grandfather of current owner Chris Green, the butcher works extensively with local farmers and producers and buys local stock from the auction mart at Acklington.

Chris said: “In tough economic times, some of the large hotels and eating establishments have to look at cutting costs and often this is to the disadvantage of local farmers.

“Fortunately, this isn’t a route that Doxford Hall has taken and the quality of the meals served is testament to the quality of the ingredients. Ourselves as butchers and hotels like Doxford Hall are vital links in the chain that ensures top-class livestock farming remains a viable business in Northumberland.”

R Green & Son is an accredited member of the EBLEX quality scheme for beef and lamb. It sources beef from Acklington Mart and wholesalers providing Northumbrian-reared meat.

Lamb from Low Town Farm, less than half-a-mile away from the shop in Longframlington, is a particular favourite with Paul at Doxford.

John and Edward Cuthbert, who farm Low Town Farm near Longframlington, have 70 beef cows and 600 Texel cross ewes. Many generations of the family have farmed Low Town.

Edward said: “A lot of work goes into producing the best quality Northumberland lamb and we’ve always known you can taste the difference between local lamb and meat from elsewhere.

“In the last few years, there has been a drive for people to eat local and we are most appreciative of Paul at Doxford the other local chefs that use our lamb. I would say that that in the region of 30 per cent of the lambs that we produce are consumed locally.”