Digging, digging, frantically digging – we would make our table reservation, one way or another!
With spade in hand, I shovelled away the snow which had trapped our car along a quiet country road – just a mile from Doxford Hall.
We were so close to reaching our destination, yet so far.
Eventually, the DIY clearance job paid off. The vehicle was free from the clutches of the white stuff and the Mrs and I were on our way again ... slowly!
But just minutes down the road, and edging ever closer to reaching the luxury hotel and spa, we encountered another obstacle – a stranded lorry blocking our path, having lost its battle against the Beast from the East blizzards.
Out came the shovel again! Forty minutes later, after digging, pushing – and the odd bit of swearing – the wagon was finally able to escape.
The route was clear and we prayed for no more drama.
Much to our relief, that wish came true and we reached Doxford Hall without anymore snow-related incidents.
To say it was the most dramatic journey to do a Gazette meal review would be an understatement.
But thankfully, at Doxford Hall, we found the perfect place to relax and unwind, and our stress levels were instantly reduced.
This magnificent 200-year-old mansion, with 10 acres of country estate, is impressive to say the least. You can’t help but be blown away by the grandeur of the place, with its lavish interior and tranquil surroundings.
After a chill out in the spa, it was time for dinner in the impressive George Runciman Restaurant.
Expectations were high. Not just because of the opulent setting, but also because Doxford’s website states: ‘Like the master joiner from whom it takes its name, the George Runciman Restaurant is far from ordinary. With two AA rosettes awarded for the highest standards in cuisine and service, this is more than just another hotel restaurant.’
It’s a big claim, but on the evidence of our meal, it is wholly justified.
The atmospheric restaurant oozes class, with elegant chandeliers and a feature fireplace. It’s clear to see why it doubles up as a wedding suite.
This level of sophistication is reflected in the menu and the prices you pay for each dish. But this well-presented, delicious food is worth every penny.
To start, the wife, as I affectionately call Mrs W (having only been married a few months, it’s still a novelty!), went for the mushroom velouté, featuring woodland mushrooms, mustard cream, and a truffled cobb nut crumble (£8), while the husband (that’s me!) opted for the pig-cheek croquettes, with black-pudding ketchup and apple salad (£10).
The velouté was smooth and indulgent and delightfully warming on such a cold evening, while my pig cheeks were a taste sensation.
For the mains, Mrs W went for something new, trying stone bass (£23) for the first time. This was served with roasted butternut squash, girolles, pumpkin seed and chicken jus.
Like the starter before, she polished it off, saying it was one of the most delicious main courses she’s had.
On my side of the table was lamb loin, which came with Elsdon goats’ cheese, celeriac flavours and charred spring onion (£24).
The meat was tender and nicely pink, while the buttered greens which were a side order had a fine crunch to them.
For afters, the wife had the dark-chocolate dessert, which was extremely moreish and a fine way to conclude the meal, while I went for the cheese board, which boasted a range of Northumbrian cheeses.
It epitomised the venue’s mantra of keeping it local. Where possible, it uses produce close to home – and shouts about it, flagging up local producers including Turnbull’s of Alnwick, Swallows of Seahouses and Doddington Dairy.
The Mrs and I went to Doxford for a romantic night away and the meal helped to make the stay memorable. It certainly made the stressful journey in the snow worthwhile.
That said, we got stuck on our way home, as the car battled a hill in the snow. Once again, I was on digging duty. All I can say is thank goodness for that shovel!
A VENUE FOR MANY OCCASIONS
Elegant and upmarket, Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa ticks many boxes, from its sumptuous bedrooms to its relaxing health and wellbeing facilities. There’s also plenty of choice for food, with a lunch menu, afternoon tea, a bistro lounge menu and Sunday lunches. The Beast from the East snow storms prevented us from going outside, but the tranquil grounds are just waiting to be explored, while couples have the option to tie the knot at this grand stately home in the stunning Northumberland countryside.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Duck liver and pistachio parfait, with smoked-bacon brioche......£10
Alnwick IPA cured salmon......£11
Pan-roasted chicken breast......£22
Side Orders (all £4)
Rosemary and rock salt hand-cut chips; buttered greens; minted Carroll’s heritage potatoes; green beans and sweet shallots
Doddington ice-cream and collection of sorbets ......£7
Alnwick Rum & banana pudding......£8
Cafétière of coffee and homemade petit fours......£6
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......9
Use of local food......9
Value for money......8
Access for disabled......7
Toilet for disabled......Yes
Verdict: A memorable fine-dining experience, which is worth every penny. The meals are beautifully presented and taste just as good.
Contact: 01665 589700 or www.doxfordhall.com