Lunch at Headlam Hall
Updated: May 14, 2022
Making use of a very generous gift voucher, Mrs B and I took ourselves off to the outskirts of Darlington for a relaxed, belated anniversary lunch.
Headlam Hall, built at the turn of the 17th Century by Henry Birkbeck after marrying Anne Brackenbury of Selaby, is a perfect example of how buildings evolve over time. The original hall has had a string of notable owners; Lawrence Beckett, Regus Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, Lord and Lady Gainford (of the Pease family), the Stobarts (tho not sure if they link to the famous hauliers) and now the Robinsons who have farmed the land for 4 generations.
An elaborate oak fireplace in the main hall (with the Birkbeck coat of arms displayed in the centre) dates from the original building, the library is stocked floor to ceiling with old tomes and the mature gardens reflect the splendour of many generations of care and attention. Much of the hall remains in its intended use, however the area that is the kitchen today was actually a garage and home to an old Rolls Royce that was used to take guests on tours of the area!
Now it is a luxury spa hotel with golf course, recently refurbished (2016), and resplendent in traditional features melded with modern expectations.
Lunch was served in the Orangery, light and airy with space for many but feeling very intimate at the same time. As we walked from the large front door, through the bar and to the restaurant we were met by at least 5 members of staff, all of whom were very attentive and welcoming, a great initial impression that just continued to grow.
The newly revised lunchtime menu has choices for starter, main course and dessert, all with locally sourced ingredients who are named on the inside of the menu. Head Chef Austen Shaw clearly has a passion for celebrating the richness of local producers; fish from Hodgson's in Hartlepool, meat and poultry from Country Valley Foods, dairy from Acorn Organics and cheese from Teesdale Cheesemakers to name but a few.
I chose to start with pressed ham terrine (although the goats cheese salad or the smoked mackerel pate were equally appealing). Deliciously moist with the smack of capers and gherkins to punch through the richness, this was a great way to warm up the taste buds.
For our mains, Mrs B chose roast loin of pork, opting to replace the tomato and olive risotto with some seasonal fries. I plumped for the lamb burger which was amazing; too often lamb burgers are overly seasoned or flavoured with mint or spices, not this one - it tasted like the best Sunday roast lamb, sweet and unctuous. Mrs B's pork was butter knife tender and served on a bed of green beans and samphire, which gave a salty tang perfectly complimenting the richness of the pork.
Dessert was just for the lady; crepes suzette in a rich orange sauce and accompanied by some of Acorn Organics' wonderful vanilla ice cream.
Drink options are extensive; local cask ales, a comprehensive gin menu and a well appointed wine cellar.
The staff are ever attentive without being intrusive; we didn't have to wait long to have our orders taken, plates cleared, offers of water, bread or condiments yet never felt rushed.
Most certainly recommended for a special lunch; the 2 course is £19.50pp, the 3 course £24.50pp.
More details, including dinner menu and booking can be found here - https://www.headlamhall.co.uk/restaurant/