The Northumberland Music Festival takes place this month in a number of stunning venues around the county. As Katharine Capocci discovers, food is far from second fiddle.
IF music be the food of love, play on…’ And where better to bring together fantastic music and fine food in historic country house settings than the Northumberland Music Festival.
The festival, featuring national and international performers, will be played out over 10 days and be accompanied by some of the finest cuisine the region has to offer.
The musical extravaganza, featuring a range of musical genres including opera, classical, brass, Gilbert & Sullivan and traditional, takes place from November 9 (opening with an Opera North performance) to November 18 at Eshott Hall, Guyzance Hall and Doxford Hall, all in Northumberland.
The festival, now in its second year, was started by Robert Parker, who owns all three venues.
All of the performances include food as an integral part of the evening. Concert tickets, which range in price from £25 to £65, all include dinner or supper.
And the food, like many of the performers, will be both home-grown and highly acclaimed.
With fish from North Shields, smoked delicacies from Seahouses, Northumbrian lamb, Durham pork and locally-produced fruit and vegetables from the hotels’ gardens, the chefs are truly spoilt for choice.
The menus have been specifically devised by the hotels’ head chefs.
Doxford Hall’s head chef Paul Blakey is one of the founding members of staff at the venue. Paul began working with the hotel prior to its opening in 2008, after initially training at Monkwearmouth College before progressing through the ranks at Gosforth Park Hotel and Linden Hall kitchens.
At 42 years old, Paul has stayed true to the North East throughout his career. He is passionate about using local and seasonal produce, even listing suppliers’ names on the menu to showcase support for the local economy.
Every ingredient is fresh and every dish is cooked to order, with the overall menu having a contemporary yet traditional feel.
Menus have been devised specifically to accompany each of the concerts and Doxford Hall’s music festival menus include roast saddle of venison followed by an Alnwick Rum and nutmeg pannacotta; roast tenderloin of Crane Row pork with a sage and roasted shallot mash followed by hot sticky toffee pudding; or perhaps you might fancy seared duck breast with a white onion soubisé.
It is the very best of music accompanied by the very best of English cuisine.
Eshott Hall’s head chef Chris Wood has been with the hotel since it opened in May 2012, and under his direction it has earned a prestigious AA Rosette.
At 29 years old, Chris has already served as head chef at Alnwick Castle’s Sanctuary Restaurant as well as working at Restaurant 24 in London, a Roux fine dining restaurant. He trained at Colchester Institute, one of the leading chef training colleges in the country.
He loves to take advantage of the region's best produce. “The Northumberland larder is one of the best in the country,” he says, citing Swallows of Seahouses fishmongers and traditional smokehouse as his favourite regional food destination.
Chris describes the food at Eshott Hall as “simple, classic flavours with a twist, perfectly presented” and believes the culinary tide has turned in the direction of produce sourcing, with diners “increasingly enjoying the trend of local food”.
For more information on the festival, tel: 01668 283100, or visit www.nmfestival.com.