THE ORANGERY, ROCKCLIFFE HALL

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Special occasions sometimes call for a special celebration. For me it’s almost always food-centric and this meal I looked forward to for a very, very long time. It didn’t disappoint.

To celebrate my graduation earlier this summer my parents treated me in a big way. I was over the moon, really and truly. We spent a night at Rockcliffe Hall.

Five star in every way, this resort in County Durham boasts a stunning façade, championship golf course, luxury spa and a knockout restaurant. The Orangery offers culinary delights galore; you would hardly expect less with a Michelin-starred chef at the helm. I was bubbling over the edge of my seat, and torn for choice presented with the menu.

I plumped for an indulgent glass of pinot noir to accompany my scallop starter and steak main. It always bodes well when you’re delivered a delicious amuse bouche and the butternut squash velouté was heavenly; creamy yet light. Noone has raved more about five little spoonfuls of soup than I raved about this

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Scallops with peas, pancetta and apple never fails to put a smile on my face. It’s a classic combination for a reason and was cooked to a T. My dad ordered the liver paté (my second choice). Since it was my special day, I got a mouthful of that too!

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Oddly you’d think steak was a safe bet but it was the most underwhelming course by a clear mile. Nothing standout, if a little overcooked and chewy. No matter, any quibbles I had were blown out of the water by dessert; apple tarte tatin with custard and caramel sauce. Forgive the less than artistic photo, the warm tart was already working it’s magic on the fabulous ice-cream by the time I had got around to snapping. The tart was outstanding and the accompaniments equally so. If you’re ever there, order it, order it, order it!

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Then order coffee… to get the cute petit fours!

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A word about the rooms and the general hotel. The standard of accommodation is excellent and varied. We stayed in an apartment in the grounds which was spotless and stylish. The staff are, without exception, very attentive. I would have given an arm and a leg to stay longer.

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