The Orangerie, Rockcliffe Hall, County Durham

The Orangerie

Rockcliffe Hall Hotel is a luxury hotel, spa and golf course in Hurworth. It sits right on the banks of the River Tees, where the Tees is a beautiful river passing through rolling countryside, in contrast to the wide, brown highway that serves the port of Middlesbrough and the industrial conurbation at Teesmouth and Seal Sands. There was a story going round a few years ago that a local had caught a salmon at Teesmouth [as opposed to the usual shopping trolley] but when asked for the evidence, he said he

“twatted it” and threw it back.

It’s true that the Tees has improved enormously since the days when it simply served to move cargo, some quite hazardous, to and fro from the iron, steel, coal and chemical plants that made this one of the largest chemical complexes in Europe. Shipping arriving at one of the big industrial complexes on the north bank caused all other river traffic to stop, for fear of causing a crash and then…boom.

Rockcliffe was developed by Steve Gibson, founder of Bulkhaul, transporting materials and goods around the world. Steve Gibson also owns Middlesbrough Football Club and under his chairmanship the club has achieved great things. Alas, the club just missed out on a return to the Premiership, losing to Norwich in the playoffs. Loss = £120m apparently… Still, owning a football club is no guarantee of riches, more of a hobby. Well run, strategically managed hobby.

Rockcliffe Hall has done well from a  standing start, with a series of top flight chefs aiming to make their mark. Kenny Atkinson played his part in a major refit, following a success and a Michelin Star at St Martin’s on the Isle, but moved to open his own restaurant House of Tides in 2014. So the latest chef to arrive is Richard Allen, latterly of Tissali on Jersey. Michelin Start here we come…? Edon Tours, fresh from their extensive testing on Jersey, check out Rockliffe again:

Richard Allen came to The Orangery from Tissali @ The Grand Hotel Jersey in January 2015. I have been a couple of times prior to his installation. Today the service was crisper but friendly and enthusiastic. The food just great; we had the à la carte menu which was 4 courses with 3 choices per course. I could have eaten the lot and between us on the table we did apart from a lamb dish. It was a lovely summer evening and the Orangery is a great place on a nice evening, it also had several occupied tables (not bad for a Tuesday) so there was a bit of atmosphere, something that was lacking on previous visits.

I imagine his aim and the reason for his being brought in is to bring a coveted Michelin Star to this 5 star hotel and spa. It will be interesting to see if it can be done by September, but based on this evening it wouldn’t be a surprise.

  • Amuse Bouche: Smoked Haddock and Spelt Risotto
  • Salad of Beetroot, Goats Curd and Valençay Fritter
  • Lobster, Pickled Peach, Avocado, Mozzarella, Ebéne Caviar
  • Turbot, Saffron, Broccoli, Quinoa, Squid Ink Cracker.
  • Pre Dessert: Dandelion and Burdock Granita, Lemon Créme
  • Strawberry – Brillat Saverin – Cheesecake – Yoghurt – Mint
  • Coffee and Petit Fours

Restaurant The Orangerie at Rockcliffe Hall

There’s also a pub serving good food in Hurworth, the Bay Horse, about which more later – good reports up to our last visit in 2013, but more reports needed.

The Tees at Hurworth...

The Tees at Hurworth…

The Tees at Teesmouth...

The Tees at Teesmouth…

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