14 Jan

Following our meal at The Vineyard Mark has suddenly become more enthusiastic about repeat visits to restaurants. From someone who used to balk at the idea of eating at the same restaurant more than once when there are hundreds of other places to try, I am not sure why his second visit to The Vineyard has inspired him thus.

Though I suppose during a visit to his parents’ up North, it is only natural that we dine at Northcote. Whenever I show people the area that I grow up I feel I have to take them to every single local restaurant or cafe that I have once enjoyed, or at least walk them round a long route just to point them out. I am not sure what this achieves but I do it anyway. So I can understand Mark’s enthusiasm, especially when a cheap lunch menu is on offer.

I did have a bit of a strop when I was guilt tripped into agreeing to order from the lunch menu after drooling over the a la carte. Why would I want chicken when I could order a dish (I can’t remember what the main component was) that came with fondue on the side? Well, precisely. But apparently I cannot spend what does not exist, that being the money in my bank account.

Like charm itself I sulked during the entire car journey and I sluggishly sat on the sofa in the living room at Northcote Manor, staring mournfully into the crackling fire. Our menus were handed to us along with some crackers and dip and within moments my mood spun 180 degrees into joy – the lunch menu and a la carte courses were interchangeable and for just a few extra pounds I wouldn’t have to endure the chicken. What made the menu even more attractive was that it gave wine recommendations alongside certain courses or particular meats and by the glass at not ridiculous prices. I didn’t have to play the game of yes the second cheapest wine looks good, I just picked the wine that went well with hare, my a la carte substitute.

I chose my starter based on the side that came with it. I am a sucker for potato skins, though my main experience of them tends to be on the yellow and pink rubber side (also known as ‘bacon and cheese’). The fact they came with leek and potato soup was irrelevant.

With few exceptions soup generally sends me into a state of depression. The only way I can describe this dislike is that it is just soooouuuuup. This one was not just soooouuuuup, but it was not Mark’s Potato Wrapped Wild Rabbit, Lentils and Bacon Foam.

Potato skins aside (which were very tasty topped with a goats cheese mousse, if not a little burnt), I was never going to win on this one. The potato was shredded, wrapped around the rabbit and fried in what I imagine was quite a lot of fat. Lentils are lentils, but the bacon foam was pretty good too.

I definitely upped the stakes with my main course of Loin of Hare, Potato Wrapped Homemade Black Pudding, Girolles, Celeriac Puree and Cherries.

I had tried hare once before at Launceston Place, it was braised and had a delicious pistachio crust. It was wonderful but did nothing to prepare me for the intensity of flavour of this particular loin. It had a strong iron taste almost like liver but with more depth and an almost disolvable texture that only needed a couple of chomps to disintegrate. I had the added joy of the black pudding that was treated like Mark’s rabbit. The girolles were delicate and silky on the tongue and the cherries cut through the richness and creaminess of it adding a welcome fruity tang.

Mark decided to splash out as well and ordered the Grouse Wellington, Sweet and Sour Turnip Puree, Roast Pear and Grouse Parfait.

That is what I copied from the website, but I have a feeling there was some apple on the plate, I just can’t remember so please forgive me. From August 12th Mark had been obsessed with trying grouse for the first time. He went through a phase of searching through menus to find the bird and alerting me to the restaurant and how much they charged for it whenever he hit the jackpot. I thought he may have built up his expectations until they were more than a little unrealistic but I needn’t have worried, he loved it. It really was very good. It came with crunchy balls of potato which were a welcome and moreish addition. Despite the success of this dish, I personally believe I won this round.

I was happy to revert back to the lunch menu for desert as it included the magic words ‘Rice Pudding’. I liked it very much because I love rice pudding and there is no such thing as bad rice pudding. It was sprinkled with yellow raisins which I like the taste of but the feel of one between my molars sends shivers down my spine much like the sound of nails on a blackboard may do to others. It came with roast pear and sorbet which did make it stand out from your average tin of ambrosia and made up somewhat for the unwelcome texture of the dreaded sultana.

I persuaded Mark to go for the Organic Apple Trifle, Sorbet and Crisps because I wanted it. Mark wasn’t so keen on the dense layer of apple jelly but I was happy to chomp on it. It came with a mini choc ice which made me say ‘oh yes I think so’ when I tried it.

The pudding round was a draw which meant that we both won. Mark may have argued otherwise but this is not his blog (this is, in case you are interested) so there. We returned to the living room for tea and coffee and I gazed into the crackling fire with contentment and slight discomfort from the pressure in my belly. I also had the delight of filling in a feedback card, a personal pleasure for me, with witty comments such as ‘free food next time please’ as well as plenty of high praise. If Northcote was local to me, I too would include this on my tour of must-eats.


2 Responses to “Northcote”

  1. Brenda January 16, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    A brilliant review, they owe you Naomi, you always get it just right x


  1. Nigel Haworth Lancashire Hotpot for Morrison’s M Kitchen | Michelin Microwave - January 31, 2012

    […] I’ve ever tasted, I went again a couple of months ago with Naomi (you can read about that here if you like) and had grouse for the first time – the place is wonderful. Unfortunately I […]

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