For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Bubbly saga falls flat
Peter Barron goes in pursuit of happy memories and nourishment at one of County Durham’s most picturesque hotels
WE HAVE very happy memories of Redworth Hall Hotel. It was a favourite haunt when the children were small: a 15- minute drive from our home near Darlington, afternoon tea on the lawns in front of the magnificent building, with the original 17th Century features of a Jacobean manor house, was a real treat.
After we tucked into the tiers of cakes and scones, the children would play hide and seek amongst the beautifully-kept hedges or squeal with delight in the “secret” adventure playground hidden in the trees.
Set in 150 acres of parkland on the way to Bishop Auckland, Redworth Hall can justifiably boast one of the most enticing settings of any hotel in the North-East.
With the children all but grown-up, we hadn’t been back for years, but a recent speaking engagement at the hotel, in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance, inspired me to book a table for my wife Heather and I in Restaurant 1744.
After the Friday night blizzards, the thaw was in full flow by Saturday evening and the snow was coming off the trees surrounding the secret adventure playground with a satisfying “swish”.
The white marble lions at the hotel entrance could easily have been ice sculptures and, despite the inclement weather, Redworth Hall was clearly as popular as ever, with hardly a space to be found in the car park.
We made our way through the sumptuous lounges to the modern but cosy restaurant – and that’s where the disappointment began.
For starters, I plumped for chicken and bacon roulade, with sweet pepper coulis, and my wife chose glazed goats cheese terrine, with watercress, apple and beetroot. It seemed the word “terrine” had been included to add a touch of interest because, in truth, it was just a piece of goat’s cheese. It was a toss-up which of the starters was more bland.
And then there was the saga of the Prosecco.
While my apple juice arrived promptly, along with the bottled water for my wife, the glass of bubbly she’d ordered had clearly been forgotten.
The starter had long since been cleared and there was still no sign of the Prosecco so I reminded a waitress. More time passed until, suddenly, a young waiter emerged from the bar area with a fluted glass on a tray and proceeded to take it on tour around the restaurant, asking various other waiters and waitresses for guidance on the way.
Now, my wife is very fond of Prosecco and it was torture for her, watching it travelling aimlessly around the room.
Finally, the waiter headed in our direction and got tantalisingly close – so close that my poor wife could almost taste her much-anticipated sparkling libation – but he sailed past us at the last second.
The elusive drink did eventually arrive, no longer chilled and missing a bit of its fizz, after the waiter was directed towards our table by the waitress I’d had to remind when it hadn’t been delivered first time round.
“Champagne?” he asked.
“Prosecco?” my wife replied, thirstily.
“Er, yes,” he said, apparently relieved that his wanderings were over.
We hoped things would improve with the main dishes: butternut squash and sage risotto, with parmesan and pea shoots for my wife; pan-friend darn of salmon, with wilted spinach, tartare sauce and hand-cut chips for me.
Sadly, the disappointment continued. The risotto was completely tasteless, far inferior to the version my wife knocks up at home, and there wasn’t much to excite about my choice either.
The salmon was piping hot and nicelycooked, but it needed more than a dollop of tartare sauce and a heap of soggy spinach to pep it up.
On the table opposite, a large family gathering had been seated, and when we heard one of them suggest out loud that she might have the butternut squash risotto, my wife instinctively reponded: “No! Don’t do it!”, though not quite loud enough for them to hear.
Seconds later, we thought a speech was forthcoming from the aforementioned family table when a clinking sound began. When the clinking went on, and on, and on, and on, we saw it was a bored toddler banging a spoon against his glass. This wasn’t the hotel’s fault, of course, but the fact that we’d been unlucky enough to sit near grown-ups who didn’t see the need to take the spoon away, was the last straw.
We didn’t bother with desserts: “I don’t want to be disappointed again,” said my wife, and it just about summed up the night. The bill came to £58.40 – poor value for money for an uninspired meal.
We’ll always have happy memories of Redworth Hall – but I’m sorry to say our evening in Restaurant 1744 won’t be one of them.
Redworth Hall Hotel, Redworth,
County Durham, DL5 6NL.
Telephone: 01388 770600
Value for money: 2/5