Northcote – Lancashire’s Lone Star Lunch
Northcote, (formally Northcote Manor), surrounding by sodden pastures and grey skies, is home to Lancashire’s only Michelin star, fuelled by the formidable Nigel Haworth and Lisa Allen. I thought what better way to congratulate Jesus on rising from the dead, then sniffing out posh Sunday lunch in his honour?
Despite not being particularly stretched, a sense of Northern and Michelin hospitality was undermined by walking both in and out of Northcote without acknowledgement of any kind. It was quite obviously pissing down, yet neither my coat nor dripping umbrella was offered to be removed.
Inside, the lounge area was comfortable and the bar was well-stocked, if not cluttered. Despite Northcote fairly recently having a makeover, I’m not sure the grey, pink, and orange upholstery worked with the period wood panelling. After waiting around for some time, the abrupt host was permanently set on rapid fire: “Have you decided – what would you like – what can I get you?” This unsettling briefing, was contrasted by a sedate dining room. Once seated, the smartly-presented young Northcote team were very cordial and well-organised, but without a sense of occasion. The views of the pretty kitchen-garden in the foreground and rolling hills in the background provide a pleasant back drop, so window seats are recommended.
The amuse bouche had the bittersweet honour of being Northcote’s highlight. Melting magenta shells fleetingly fizzled, birthing a tart, sizzling beetroot flavour, that slapped my taste buds ’round the chops in no uncertain terms.There was no choice but to accept the
Dinner Jacket Potato Soup, which was more butter than jacket. The trendy foraged herbs added freshness, although someone’s hair added the opposite. Although this was swiftly dealt with, I doubt a Michelin inspector would have forgave.
The beetroot starter was one the prettiest plate I’d ever seen: vibrant hues and floral shapes, elegantly intertwined in an act of vegetarian poetry. The sweet and acidic elements energetically danced but lacked a focal point. The alien looking Duck was heavily entombed but worked affably alongside the uplifting sorrel, even if it did look like Cousin It.
For mains, the salmon proudly commanded the plate, yet unselfishly yielded to the fork’s graze. The boldly-seasoned fish and convivially sweet roe double teamed the earthy mushrooms, creating a bravely balanced dish which spoke of land and sea in matrimony. The little pops of orange added a touch of vibrancy. While the Japanese influence of soy, shitake and ikura (roe) worked charmingly. The thoughtfully composed lamb was quality dead baby sheep, locally sauced from Bowland, but lacked a je ne sais quoi. It was so rare it walked through the Northcote kitchen. In the two seconds it spent cooking, it was however properly seared and heartily seasoned. The mash was superlatively silky and the scorched and pickled onions added textures and talking points.
Regarding desserts, the trio of British cheeses were delicious, especially a terrified looking puddle of something Brie related. More crackers and less bread I’d suggest though. Northcote’s cleverly crafted cream egg was an enchanting nod to the season, providing deftly constructed contrasting textures, although anything white chocolate and hazelnut is a winner for me.
Atmosphere 5 Cost 7 Quality 9 Service 8