The Orangery, Rockliffe Hall, County Durham – Restaurant Review
The Orangery, Rockliffe Hall
by Emma White
I was recently fortunate to accompany my Beauty Editor (and unsurprisingly glamorous) friend Julia on a rather sumptuous spa break. The destination was Rockcliffe Hall, County Durham, and the striking 18th century red brick mansion makes an exciting first impression as we sweep up the drive. We head swiftly around the turning circle out front and park (our not so glamorous car) in the away from the other fancy cars directly outside.
We check in and enjoy a delicious unhurried lunch in the brasserie where the service is discrete and friendly and the food simple in a ‘yummy but not too much for lunch’, sort of a way. The banter flows as we enjoy a relaxing change from our usual ‘mums on the run’ style picnics in the park and we even manage to complete whole sentences without toddler interruptions. Heaven.
We check out our room, which is well appointed and well equipped, and supplied with particularly fluffy dressing gowns to wear down to the spa. While Jules goes for a treatment I take a dip in the first of three pools. The juice bar at the poolside and complementary nibbly bits are a nice touch. The 20m pool is large enough for a proper swim and there are plenty of beds to chill out on at the side of the pool.
“A real treat awaits”
The best part for me, though, is the spa garden. This is separate from the main spa and is housed in a sort of ‘giant luxury round garden room’, complete with a fire pit, lots of seating, warm snuggly blankets and a huge glass wall to appreciate the views. There is a bar serving freshly blended juices and bubbly. Perfect!
Numbers in this part of the spa are limited and you are allocated a time slot. I would strongly recommend you use it. We absolutely love the infinity pool outside which is very warm and welcoming after a bracing semi jog from the fancy garden room. Looking out over the countryside, whilst drinking our delicious smoothies is heavenly. It’s a fairly chilly day but I can imagine that in summer the experience would be different again, with beds outside and huge glass doors to open out from the spa garden building into the great outdoors.
That evening though, another real treat awaits us.
“Do not even think about coming here without taking full advantage”
The food in The Orangery at Rockcliffe Hall is really very, very good. I like good food. My husband is a food photographer and I like all sorts of good food. It doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact fancy sometimes misses the mark – simple is often better.
Well, here at Rockcliffe, it is fancy. It looks like something from Masterchef. There is also a sophisticated and intelligent understanding of food and flavour to complement the look. This is the real deal. Each plate is considered and perfectly executed. Everything we are presented with looks like a work of art and has the sophisticated flavours to match. Frankly, it is utterly delicious. Rockcliffe’s much celebrated chef Richard Allen has put together a stunning menu at Rockcliffe – and do not even think about coming here without taking full advantage.
I also want to mention the fantastic attention to detail from the sommelier, Daniel Jonberger. We order the flight of wines to accompany our meal and he brings us some fantastic and occasionally surprisingly titled wines, like the bouncy JiJiJi (a 2014 Malbec-Pinot noir from Argentina) that I’ve never heard of and that I would never have chosen.
“Delicious, enjoyable and educational”
The pairings with the food are perfect. It is delicious, enjoyable and educational all in one. His knowledge of the wines is impressive and hopefully we don’t scare him too much when we swap dishes halfway through courses to taste as much as possible! We do swap our wines too Daniel, I promise!
We roll back to our room after a faultless experience in The Orangery and sleep the sleep of relaxed and well fed women whose small children are very far away with their dads. After a good night’s sleep and smashing breakfast, we even stop by the spa again for a sneaky little facial before heading home. It is a great end to a great stay. Thanks Rockliffe, I’ll be back soon.
The Orangery is Rockliffe Hall’s flagship restaurant. No visit to the resort is complete without experiencing the 4AA rosette restaurant, set in Rockliffe’s charming 19th century Old Hall.
Rockliffe Hall, Hurworth on Tees, Darlington, DL2 2DU
Recently named in The Sunday Times’ Top 100 Restaurants, The Orangery is headed by executive chef Richard Allen, who has a passion for premium ingredients that look good, taste good and are good for you. This passion is demonstrated across his acclaimed a la carte and tasting menus, showcasing varying textures, temperatures and tastes.
Opening Hours – Open to the public, and residents, Tuesday to Saturday – 6:30pm to 9:30pm
Dress Code – No trainers or sportswear