A Divine Dinner at The Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland
It’s been quite a while since my last review of our wonderful visit of The Lord Crewe Arms (sorry, life, holiday and turning 30 makes for a very busy Lauren!) so I’m finally following up with the full lowdown on the amazing dinner we enjoyed during our stay.
The Lord Crewe Arms is an incredible venue, we already know that, but can they live up to the hype in the kitchen?
To mark the celebration of my beloved’s birth, we decided a proper fancy-schmancy dinner was in order, and I just so happen to know that The Lord Crewe Arms is well-equipped in that area. I first tasted their delicious offerings back in July 2015, when two of my good friends had their wedding there, and we were spoiled with an array of delicious sharing starters, a proper roast dinner with all the trimmings for main course (served along with, I should mention, THE MOST DELICIOUS GRAVY I HAVE EVER TASTED!) and a trio of desserts (but far from your average trio!) to tie the lot together.
Later that evening, we enjoyed hog roast, cooked to perfection on the venue’s outdoor fire pit, alongside fresh salads and warm bread-buns, and once again I was blown away with the quality and flavour of the whole arrangement.
Almost a year later, we finally made our return and it was fair to say, I was pretty psyched for it. Menus were given to us while we enjoyed a drink downstairs in The Crypt bar, so we had a good while to ponder over it and make our selections. Granted, I was *ever-so-slightly* disappointed that we’d actually missed the Sunday lunch (my bad, not theirs – and really it’s just another excuse to go back!), but their super-super-fresh and super-super-seasonal menu was a joy to behold.
Every day, the kitchen staff create a new menu to make the most of their seasonal produce, so chances are you won’t be able to enjoy the same menu as we did on this occasion, however I’m confident (and I hope you will be after reading this!) that you’ll be blessed with an equally-scrumptious one if you make the trip to Blanchland any time in the future. Literally any time, I’m that confident in their skills.
So, after scoring a much-coveted window seat in their beautiful dining room, The Bishop’s Dining Room, we ordered some wine (crisp Sauv Blanc for me, rich Merlot for him) and deliberated over the menu. Whilst we perused, we ordered two each of the Loch Fyne oysters (£1.80 each), served as they were with lemon. Outrageously fresh and a great taste of what was to come.
To start, I opted for pan-fried Scallops with ‘scapes’ and Isle of Wight tomatoes at £8.75. Scapes are basically the flowering stem of a garlic bulb, and I thought their flavour was not too dissimilar to that of radish. Really fresh and light, but they gave the dish a welcome little kick and complemented the scallops beautifully.
And the scallops. MY GOD, THOSE SCALLOPS. Just look at those little beauties!
Firstly, needless to say, cooked to a heavenly state. Secondly, I was given a couple of cheeky extras, which will always be a sure-fire way to my heart, thirdly, they were so good I almost refused my boyfriend a try of them. Mine mine, all mine.
I reluctantly give him half a scallop, but it wasn’t with grace, let me tell you. The tomatoes were also delicious – piping hot and well seasoned, they provided a bit of moisture on the plate and a zesty kick to round the dish off.
Obviously, if courses are competitions (my boyfriend and I think they are), then I won that round hands down without even discussing what he ordered. In fairness, however, his choice was pretty delicious too.
He went for the German Pork Loaf, served with a soft-boiled egg and fresh greens, charred tender stem and those delicious little tomatoes (£6.45). The pork loaf was tender and moist with a slightly smoked flavour, and happily, there was plenty of it. He was given a thick cut, one you’d expect to be quite tough to cut through, but no toughness here whatsoever. I watched as his knife glided through it with ease.
Still though, my starter was definitely better, so if you’re into scallops and you see them on the menu at The Lord Crewe Arms, do the right thing and order them. You won’t be disappointed!
Said delicious starters had us pining for more, and the main courses were soon in front of us. I went for pan-friend Ambleton Bay hallibut (£16.75), served with a warm tartare sauce, asparagus and fries (although I asked to swap these for chunky chips).
I’m not one two order two fish courses (especially after oysters, too!) but the Sauvignon Blanc (the New Zealand variation) was crying out for fresh, light fish courses, so I was a trooper and went for the hallibut.
Cooked to absolute perfection, this zesty course tickled every tastebud and every element of the dish was well-seasoned and plentiful. The flesh of the fish fell away as soon as it was prodded with a fork, and it was everything I hoped for: light, moist and incredibly fresh.
The asparagus was a little al dente, my favourite, and the warm tartare sauce was chunky and packed with flavour. I could have eaten this over and over, and after ploughing through and barely speaking during the course, it was gone before I knew it.
My boyfriend went for the Flat Iron steak (what else?!) with pepper sauce, fries and onion rings at £15.75, and I’ve got to say – as delightful as my course was, he won this round. As you can see, they delivered a beauty! Tender steak that was griddled exactly how he asked for it, a rich pepper sauce packed with fresh herbs and whole green peppercorns, hand-battered onion rings (one of which I fully nicked because they were so fresh and SO good!) and a massive bowl of fries.
What more could a birthday boy want, seriously?! When you also consider the price to quality AND quantity ratio on this dish, it’s pretty phenomenal value for money.
Another two courses down and again, a resounding success. The baked potato I just had for tea seems like a peasant’s dinner in comparison to the feast we enjoyed at The Lord Crewe Arms, and ever since, I’ve been raving about it to anyone and everyone who’ll listen. A few friends have visited since following my rave reviews and I can attest from them also, this place is the real deal and you won’t get a bad plate of food. Bold claims that I would only make for a place like this.
Frequent readers will know, I’m not a dessert person, but I figured tonight I would make an exception, as did Tom. He went for the boozy nut tart, served with ice cream and packed with a whole load of nuts. This was so rich and decadent, and a real nut-lover would go crazy for it I’m sure.
The booziness wasn’t overpowering, and the consistency was rocky, smooth and crisp all at the same time, thanks to the array of textures and nuts within it. He mentioned it was quite sickly for him, but I must reiterate: we are not dessert people, so this is no surprise. Given our time there again, I imagine we’d opt for a cheese board to round off the night, because sweet things just don’t really tick our boxes.
I was a little more adventurous with my dessert choice, opting for the Sea Buckthorn Posset with orange jelly. The posset was one of the strangest things I’ve ever tasted, a really difficult taste to describe and a wax-like consistency. I was warned by our waitress that I’d either love it or hate it, and I’ve got to say, I was in the latter camp.
I’m a big fan of posset AND jelly, but the flavour of Buckthorn was not one that sat well with me. Obviously, based on everything else we’d had, this wasn’t the end of the world – if I’m honest, I was too full for dessert anyway!
By the time we’d finished dessert and our wine, the dining room was incredibly quiet, so we paid up and parked ourselves downstairs on the outdoor terrace to enjoy the rest of the night by the cosy outdoor fire. It’s so wonderfully quiet in Blanchland anyway, but the crackling of the fire and the night closing in was a romantic and enchanting setting.
As I’ve mentioned in my stay-over review of the Lord Crewe Arms, the service is impeccable, and the restaurant was no exception. The staff couldn’t have done enough to make our experience as wonderful as possible and they were consistently professional and chatty throughout. The bar staff in the Crypt were also super-canny, allowing us to sample some of their home-infused gins/vodkas behind the bar. Free digestifs are always a winner, let’s face it!
Since our visit, The Lord Crewe Arms has made it into the prestigious Sunday Times top 10, as well as being highly-lauded by The Telegraph, The Independent, The Chronicle and The Secret Diner. They’ve also made it into The Good Hotel Guide 2017, which is no surprise! The kitchen, headed up by talented Australian chef Simon Hicks (previously of Hix in Soho) is creating unique, seasonal dishes that don’t cost the earth to enjoy, so really anyone can enjoy a slice of The Lord Crewe Arms, providing they’re happy to make the trip to pretty Blanchland.
Now the review is written, all that’s left to do on my agenda is plan our next visit. I’m thinking cosy Sunday Lunch and wine by the magnificent open fire, and at only £18 for two courses, what more could you want!? Get yourself there, ASAP.
Huge thanks to all of the wonderful staff at The Lord Crewe Arms for the amazing dinner and our overall stay. There’s not one bad thing I could say about the place, and it’s fantastic that they’re getting the credit they deserve across the media! Food was complimentary for the purpose of this review, drinks paid for by ourselves, and all comments in this review are true to experience. To find out more about what’s on at The Lord Crewe Arms, check out their Facebook page, or their snazzy new website!