I well and truly fell off the dry January wagon the other night, when Horton Grange kindly invited us to their Wine Tasting Evening (prosecco, canapés, 5 courses & 5 wines for £39.50). Who am I to say no to an offer like that?
Pulling up at the country house hotel outside Ponteland we didn’t quite know what to expect, having received a last minute invite to photograph the evening (well, the Mr had – I was just along for the ride!)
We did know that the Head Chef had recently come across from Wynyard Hall and was meant to be excellent so we were very excited to see what he could do.
Kicking things off with prosecco and canapés, we tried a smoked salmon, caviar and cream cheese cones and a mushroom risotto ball. They were delicious and a great sign of what was to come…
We were seated with a group of friends who had come to one of these events before and they immediately made us feel like part of the gang. We probably the youngest people in the room but everyone was so friendly that we felt very welcome.
The first course was served after a introduction by Jonathan from Bibendum, who had paired all the wines. A beautifully smooth duck liver pate with a thin layer of blood orange jelly on top was paired with a Pinot Noir Rose. I’m not normally the biggest fan of liver but the pate was so moreish and the crisp rose went with it perfectly.
We were lucky enough to have a tour of the kitchen and chat to the chefs as they were preparing our meal due to the fact that Mr Toon Lunch Club was photographing behind the scenes. It was fascinating to get a sneak peak at what was coming and speak to the Head Chef about the dishes.
The next wine was an Austrian white, which almost fizzed on the tongue and left your mouth watering. Jonathan talked us through the back story of each wine which was a great intro to each course. It was served with Scallops, smoked bacon and celeriac. Pairing Scallops with pork is always a winner, and this dish was cooked to perfection. The celeriac puree added a lovely extra dimension to the dish and although there wasn’t a lot of it, each mouthful was perfection.
The main course came next, a Venison Duo with red cabbage, horseradish and bitter chocolate. I’d seen the prep for this in the kitchen which involved a spiralizer and lots of potatoes. Chef had told me they were slow cooking venison, wrapping it in a pancake and the potato ‘noodles’ before deep frying them – the result was spectacular. Like a cross between a beef wellington and a duck spring roll (but with venison). Add the bitter chocolate sauce and red cabbage puree and you’ve got a recipe for success. The other half of the duo was simple cooked Venison, pink in the middle, succulent and served on the creamiest mash imaginable.
To top it off the main course was paired with a Chilean red wine which was exquisite, in fact I had a top up as I liked it so much. The wine bottles were all passed around and you were welcome to have more if you wanted, which was greatly appreciated (and not just myself!)
By now the room of about 50 guests was getting a little louder and Jonathan was great at getting our attention and keeping it, asking for everyone’s opinions and matching the mood. No mean feat when the wine is flowing….
The dessert was Forced rhubarb jelly with ginger panna cotta and spiced granola. It came with an Italian Carmenere dessert wine, which was just a little sweeter than the pudding, apparently that’s the done thing in wine pairing – check me out, I’m an expert now 😉
While panna cotta and jelly wouldn’t have been my first choice (I’m always a sucker for more indulgent puddings) it was really nice, with a creamy, spicy and crunchy combo.
Lastly we were served a port-like Baccadoro wine with our coffee and petit fours, which finished the whole meal off perfectly. Once the meal was over the kitchen came out to a round of applause and we all posed for a group photo. Someone had discovered that it was Mo, who ran the event’s birthday so we all sang happy birthday to him.
I can see why people come back to Horton Grange for their Wine Tasting evenings. For £39.50 you get an exceptional meal and lots of very good quality wine, as well as a fun evening with a friendly bunch of people. We will certainly be back!
Horton Grange is located at Berwick Hill, Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE13 6BU
We’d like to thank Mo and the team at Horton Grange for inviting us to be a part of their evening, we had a fantastic time! Also big shout to Andy Hudson Photography for taking the photos.