Northcote Manor review
Northcote Manor was built in 1880 and was a family home for many years before opening as small hotel – just four rooms – and 50-seat restaurant in 1979. In 1984 the current part-owner Nigel Haworth took up his position as the Head Chef and main driving force in the business and since then it has gone from strength to strength.
Nigel is joint-owner with Craig Bancroft and between them the pair turned an unknown restaurant into one of the finest in the North West, with a combination of great pride in local ingredients and real skill in the kitchen.
In 1996 the kitchen was awarded a Michelin star, an accolade they have retained every year since then and the restaurant continues to thrive and grow, with ambitious building works currently underway (summer 20130 to extend and modernise the kitchen, enlarge the private dining facilities, build a dedicated teaching kitchen and add more rooms to the hotel.
Northcote Manor – the food
As said, there is a large emphasis placed on Lancashire produce and the menu is firmly British with several nods to the cuisine of the region.
As ever there are a variety of menus and we opted for the very reasonable seasonal lunch, with starters and desserts £5 and mains £15. The goat cheese mousse canapés were delicious, served alongside homemade crackers and packing just the right amount of salty tang.
My wife’s starter was something of a disappointment, a chicken and sweetcorn soup effectively with charred sweetcorn adding little to the overall flavour. I opted for the sea trout which was nicely put together with classic dill and pickled cucumber flavours but was under-seasoned.
The main was superb though. We both chose the venison, thick, meaty slabs of haunch with the sort of flavoursome, salty crust I thought you only got in Argentina. A creamy celeriac puree wasn’t overpowering whilst girolles and damsons worked magnificently with the gamey deer.
The desserts, an absolute bargain at a fiver, were also top notch, with my intensely flavoured apple going very well with wild blackberries and cream that was sweet and vanilla-laced.
The wife had organic plums with flowers, basil ice-cream and honeycomb, a medley of flavours in a “soup” that all worked superbly together – though I felt the basil leaves were a tad too strong. It was pretty too, which is more than can be said for the dining room.
One complaint that crops up frequently with Northcote is the décor and despite a recent refurbishment it still had the look, feel and, worst of all smell, of a nursing home. Perhaps an elderly crowd like this as a half-way house for when their kids dispatch them but it was far too old-fashioned for us.
Despite this we had a very enjoyable lunch, service was excellent without being fussy and the bar area is very comfortable and far more modern. We didn’t stay but the option to do so is a good one given the rural setting and certainly those taking on the gourmet or tasting menus wouldn’t want to have to forgo the impressive cellar.
Northcote offers wonderful food at a reasonable price – especially the seasonal menus – and makes for a very nice gourmet break. With options to combine a stay here with other excellent restaurants with rooms in the surrounding areas you could easily make a wonderful week of gastronomic delight…as long as the wallet is loaded!
How to find Northcote Manor:
Address: Northcote, Northcote Road, Langho, Blackburn, Lancs BB6 8BE