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Kenny Atkinson's The Orangery @ Rockliffe Hall

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Just back from Rockliffe Hall, Hurworth-on-Tees, where Kenny Atkinson has relocated, and couldn't recommend a hotel more strongly. Absolutely beautiful setting, huge rooms - ours had space for two three seater sofas and a dining table as well as a king size bed. Enormous bathroom with separate walk-in shower and a telly screen above the bath. Staff had that balance of professionalism and friendliness that can be difficult to achieve. It's based around an 18 hole golf course and luxury spa, neither of which intrude on those not interested in them.

Some brief dining notes based on memory and copies of the menu – Anne would not have been amused if I’d been taking notes at the table!


Pre-starter: A small teacup containing pea soup with pieces of pork cheek and some wild garlic shoots on top. Lovely, light but with intense flavour.

Starters: Scallops with cannelloni of carrot and Whitby crab, golden raisins and crab jelly. I picked up some fennel notes as well. Very good cooking, the scallops were the star, everything else just adding a note here and there. Line caught mackerel with gooseberry textures. One of Atkinson’s dishes on The Great British Menu. The mackerel was rolled in a thin slice of bread, bringing an interesting element to the dish. The gooseberries added a terrific acidity to cut through the oily, sweet mackerel. Probably the dish of the weekend.

Mains: Line caught grey mullet, jersey royals, Scarborough lobster & asparagus, broad beans and morels. Not a fish often seen on menus, this was delicate and soft, but not dominated by the veg. Not sure the lobster brought much to the dish, but well-balanced all the same. Risotto of fresh peas, spring onions and mint, slow roasted tomatoes, parmesan crackling and pea shoots. This could convert me to vegetarianism. I love risotto and this was lovely, very rich but moreish, and the parmesan crisp was lovely.

Desserts; Vanilla pannacotta with rhubarb and raspberries, lemon and elderflower. Not something I’d order but Anne was very happy with it. Dark chocolate pave, gingerbread ice cram and cherry textures. Nice enough without being memorable.


Pre-starter: Another teacup with white onion soup, smoked haddock and wild garlic. Creamy, rich, bags of flavour.

Starters: Scallops again with the carrots being replaced by apple and fennel. Weirdly, this time I couldn’t pick up any fennel flavours. Still a good dish though. Yorkshire Duck – 3 hour poached duck egg, white asparagus and ratte potatoes, broad beans, morels and truffled mayonnaise. This was amazing, the duck egg yolk being rich and viscous in texture. The truffle flavour didn’t dominate the dish and the whole thing was a very clever idea.

Mains: Poached and pan roasted roe deer, cauliflower and beetroot, braised shoulder tattie pot and sage. From the GBM. The tattie pot was sticky and packed with flavour, the roe deer not as gamey as venison can sometimes be. Very good. Roast loin, confit shoulder and sautéed sweetbreads of lamb, peas and mint, young leeks and cherry tomatoes. Again, first class execution, lamb was full of flavour, but could have done with some potatoes in my opinion.

Desserts: Strawberry jelly crumble, strawberry sorbet and elderflower custard foam. Again from the GBM. Anne enjoyed it, but not my cup of tea. I thought it a little dull. Warm dark chocolate fondant, red wine poached cherries and cherry ripple ice cream. Wonderful fondant, perfectly cooked and everything else just went well with it.

One thing to bear in mind is the portion size, which is very modest. I’m not a big eater, but this did strike me. The mains were about half the size of what you would get at, say, Terry Laybourne's Café 21 in Newcastle. I think some diners might be rather surprised at this.

Overall, wonderful food, comparable to one star Michelin cooking at a London restaurant. Service was highly professional but not stiff in any way. Prices: £45 for the alc. The GBM menu is available at a pricey £70. Six courses, although one comprises a glass of champagne and the cheese option attracts a £10 supplement. Oddly, the supplement doesn’t apply to cheese on the alc.

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The place looks stunning Alan, and it sounds like Kenny is doing the business in the kitchen.

I have wanted to eat his food since seeing him on GBM last year.

I spoke to him earlier in the year to ask if he was on GBM and said we would pay him a visit.

We had best phone in advance if the portions are small, as we,re big eaters :biggrin:

"So many places, so little time"



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