The conversation flowed all night. That is, until the dessert arrived. Then there was silence, well, at least a break from the talking. The sound of chatter was replaced by satisfied purrs of delight.
We were both in chocolate heaven, shifting all of our attention and focus onto the indulgent pudding on our plate. No talking – simply because there was a far more important task at hand; to enjoy every tantalising mouthful.
Eventually, the missus peered up from her sweet and uttered the words (with a massive smile to boot): “Oh my God, this is delicious. It’s one of the best desserts I have ever tasted.”
Now, I’ve been around long enough to know that you never argue with a woman. But in this particular instance, I genuinely couldn’t disagree. She was spot on.
Our sweet – a tasting of chocolate, brownie, mousse and chocolate soil with frozen raspberry textures – was delicious and was without doubt the highlight of our meal at the Alnwick Treehouse.
It certainly was the perfect ending to a memorable night. Phew, that was a relief! Because the meal was my missus’ 30th birthday treat, so the occasion had to be just right. As part of that mission, I knew the choice of venue was important – a mix of romantic, intimate and unforgettable.
Now, Northumberland is blessed with a whole host of fine-dining venues, but when it comes to something that bit special, the Treehouse has to be up there as one of the best.
This quirky restaurant located in The Alnwick Garden is surely one of the most magical and unique eateries around. It’s high up in the treetops, with a roaring log fire in the centre of the room and trees growing through the floor. Walking into this incredible setting is like stepping foot inside a fairytale world, with its eye-catching wooden furniture and an enchanting sprinkling of tiny lights.
But crucially, the thrills don’t stop there, as this mesmerising place offers substance as well as style.
According to the Treehouse’s website, the food is locally-inspired, featuring local fish and seafood, meats from Northumberland’s farmlands and other regional specialities.
This is evident on the menu, with offerings such as the North Sea cod (£15.50) and the Northumbrian lamb (£16.50). As it was, my partner went for a starter of English asparagus, garden peas, slow-cooked hen’s yolk with parmesan (£6.50), while I opted for a first course of home-smoked duck breast, pickled rhubarb compote and toasted brioche (£6.95).
We both followed this up with a surf and turf (£15.95) for our main course, which comprised slow-roasted belly pork, crispy pig cheek, lime and tarragon squid, sour pineapple, fondant potato and greens.
The starters went down well, with my partner polishing off the vegetarian option in no time, while my duck was flavoursome and was complemented by the colourful compote. However, I would have liked to have had more crunch to my brioche, which was a tad soggy.
As for the mains, the generous helping of pork was succulent and moist and the squid was fresh.
But, the best was to come. The dessert! This moreish conclusion to our meal, priced £6.95, was a dream, with its crispy outer coating and an intense and indulgent chocolate centre which was rich, but not sickly. It was a conversation stopper – and all for the right reasons.
To wash the food down, we both went for the Treehouse’s quirky cocktails. Inspired by the fabled tales from The Alnwick Garden’s Poison Garden, these drinks have been created by the Duchess of Northumberland. My girlfriend went for the vodka-based Dirty Jane, while I chose Deadly Jane, featuring Alnwick Rum (dark) and white rum. They were served in quirky-looking glasses and hit the spot. I had been tempted to have The Treehouse Lager before going down the Deadly route.
The service was efficient and our waiter, local lad Dominic Schiavetta, was attentive, polite and helpful.
Knowing it was the missus’ birthday, the staff had decorated our area with balloons. They also brought out a collection of small chocolates in a glass with a candle on for the birthday girl – it was a touching gesture and a fitting finale to what proved to be a memorable birthday treat.
NUMEROUS WAYS TO ENJOY VENUE
Magical and quirky – that is Alnwick Treehouse. And it isn’t just evening diners who can enjoy this spectacular setting. A lunchtime menu runs from noon until 3pm, Monday to Saturday, and a Sunday lunch menu from noon to 8pm. For those who are wanting the dining menu (on which this review is based), this is served Thursday to Sunday, 6.30pm to 9.15pm. However, these timings can occasionally change and the Treehouse is occasionally closed. See the website for details. The Treehouse is also available for wedding ceremonies, providing room for up to 60 guests and can comfortably provide a seated meal for up to 85 people.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Smoked/cured ham hock pressed terrine, pease pudding, pickled veg, sour dough crisps......£5.95
Tomato broth, crab wantons and heirloom tomatoes......£6.50
Roast butternut squash......£6.50
Seared plaice fillets, saffron potatoes, compressed watermelon with a shellfish broth......£13.95
Sautéed wild mushroom, pan-fried herb gnocchi, rocket parmesan and truffle salad......£13.50
Roasted free-range chicken, sticky braised leg, broad beans, peas, chicken jus......£13.50
Selection of ice-creams......£6.95
RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......8
Use of local food......9
Verdict: Fine dining in the most magical of settings.
Contact: Call 01665 511350 or visit www.alnwickgarden.com
The previous Northumberland Gazette Eating Out column reviewed Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, near Seaham, Co Durham. And if you missed it, here is a link to the Gazette’s top tips of 2014.