Dinner At The Jemond Dene House, Newcastle
Well dear reader this is the first blog from the Northumberland stage of Sticky Beaks tour, and last night we were the very lucky guests of the Jesmond Dene House team. The venue itself is a seriously imposing building from the outside set in very elegant grounds; in fact it was the setting for a wedding as well yesterday. Despite the fact that it is within a stone’s throw of Newcastle city centre you could be in a completely different world as the setting is so tranquil. When you walk inside, the interior is no less spectacular, all high ceilings, wood panelling and solid wood doors. I really liked the wire sculpture dogs that were a theme throughout the different rooms, especially the Bulldog that sat in the corner of the salon to the dining room. The dining room itself had Putty and Terracotta painted walls that imparted a lovely warmth to what is a seriously large space and the striped carpet led the eye down the length of the room so that you appreciated all the details on the ceiling and walls.
Our drinks were carried to our table on a tray as we were seated and an Amuse-bouche of Smoked Aubergine and Tomato Confit with toasted Sourdough crisp placed before us. The sweetness of the tomato cut through the deep smoky flavour of the Aubergine perfectly and the sourdough crisp added crunch to the otherwise glacier smooth texture of the dish. Our server came with a bread basket of assorted rolls and breads and I plumped for a sundried tomato and mozzarella roll and the Boy Wonder selected toasted sourdough. We decided to go for something a little different with the butter and tried the Seaweed butter; it was more my thing as I loved the salty, fishy tang it had to it; although fair play to the Man as he finished his portion and anything fishy really isn’t his bag.
For his starter the boy had the Ham Terrine with Pease Pudding and malted Sourdough and I had the Pickled Herring with Heritage Potato salad, Pickled Shallot and sourdough. The terrine was jam packed full of flavour and had a great rustic, chunky texture which was the total opposite to the velvety smooth Pease Pudding. Judging by the speed it was devoured the Man enjoyed every single beakful! My own starter was no less delicious; the Herring was sublime and the mustard seeds in the potato salad gave it a different edge and complimented the fish really nicely.
The staff are very discreet but at the top of their game because they must have been observing us eat and given the go ahead to the chef to start cooking our main courses as they arrived after only about 5 minutes of us finishing our starters, and there is no way either dish could have been prepared in that time. It will come as no surprise to know that I chose North Sea Bass with Tomato Linguine, Clams, Smoked Anchovies and Capers for my main course as I do love Fish and Seafood. Stuffed Chicken with Charred Leeks, Butter Bean and Chorizo stew was the Boy Wonder’s order, and they both looked extremely tasty as they were placed in front of us.
The chicken was stuffed with Tarragon, Truffle and Mushroom and tasted absolutely superb; it was moist and flavoursome and the stew had a fantastic flavour, nice firm textured beans and a lovely spicy hit of Chorizo to it. It was one of those dishes that was very deceptive to the eye in that it didn’t look a huge plateful but was actually a real belly buster.
My Sea bass by contrast completely dominated the plate and there was no hiding its gargantuan proportions. The seasoned skin was beautifully crisp which set off the perfectly moist creamy flesh of the fish marvellously. The accompanying tomato sauce was sublimely punchy and had a wonderful accent of pungent Anchovy and salty Caper to it, all rounded off with succulent Cockles. We were both bouncing with joy at our dish choices; they were skilfully cooked and carefully presented to please the eye. Our table water was seamlessly topped up several times without us ever being aware of it happening, such was the level of the staffs skill.
After a brief interlude our server came with an Amuse-bouche dessert of Fennel Bavarois with Apricot Espuma for us to try. Now, I don’t know about you, but Fennel and Apricot isn’t an obvious pairing in my eyes so I was intrigued to say the least and I have to say it was jolly nice, there was just a hint of the aniseedy taste of Fennel but it didn’t clash with the Apricot at all.
I chose Blackberry and Almond Tart and Vanilla Ice Cream for my pudding and it was simply divine. The zingy Blackberry was perfectly tempered by the sweet, mild Almond topping and this was completed with cool ice cream oozing against the warm tart. The Man Bird practically bounced out of his seat when his Cherry Bavarois and Dark Chocolate Ice Cream was set before him, it looked a total work of art with a disc of chocolate adorning the deep Garnet coloured Bavarois. For a moment I actually thought he was going to apologise to it for eating it! He pronounced it to be game-changingly delicious (try saying that quickly), and said that the bitter chocolate was the perfect contrast to the sweet cherries.
We rounded the evening off with a cafetiere of fresh coffee and were presented with a delightful selection of Petit Fours consisting of mini Macaroons, Creme Caramel Chocolates and White Chocolate Fudge with freeze dried Raspberries on top.
The staff were immaculately attired in black trousers with crisp white shirts and black waistcoats, and the level of their customer care was second-to-none. When nature called and a seat was vacated the napkin was meticulously folded and placed on the chair back, something that you don’t often see in restaurants now, but something I always appreciate. Check backs were done at each course to ensure satisfaction with the dishes and glasses were refreshed frequently, as I mentioned previously.
Hot Wings were definitely deserved for the dining team at Jesmond Dene House, you gave us a most enjoyable evening, and we wish you continued success. If you haven’t been before and find yourselves wondering where to go for a delicious meal I can recommend you pay a visit here, you will not be disappointed.