Review of Fern at Jesmond Dene House, where an autumn feast awaits
The crunch of leaves as you approach through the Dene. A stately facade festooned in rusty red ivy. And a new menu of hearty portions.
There can be few places that offer a more gloriously autumnal dining experience than Jesmond Dene House.
As the name of its restaurant, Fern, would suggest this boutique hotel is perennially popular, but it’s an experience that’s all the more atmospheric with the turning leaves of autumn.
Welcomes are warm at this secluded hotel, which although feeling special isn’t stuffily so, with its Arts and Crafts panelling, low lighting and period fireplaces evoking a homely feel.
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It’s an informality which flows through to its restaurant which has reopened since lockdown with a new name, Fern, and a menu aimed at appealing to a broad range of palates.
Forget your foams and tweezers, this is a menu that’s plating up wholesome, hearty meals.
Fern was born in lockdown and, as we all appreciate what’s on our doorsteps more, it’s a new venture aimed at being a neighbourhood eatery to try and slough off the impression that this may be a restaurant just for the independent hotel’s guests.
Named after the lush greenery of the surrounding Dene, Fern showcases fine British produce in its menu which changes with the seasons.
At the helm of the kitchen is Danny Parker, of Masterchef the Professionals and Great British Menu fame, who’s passionate about making good food accessible.
Ours was an autumn feast, rich in flavour and red and orange hues, perfect comfort food as the leaves begin to fall.
To start I had the Salt Aged Beef Fillet Carpaccio with Carrot Salad & Bitter Leaves (£16). Beautifully presented and a good size portion, it featured moreish slivers of beef from R&J, the long-established Yorkshire-based butchers who supply to some of the region’s best restaurants.
Other starters for autumn include options such as Terrine of Yorkshire Game (£12.50), Salmon & Cod Fish Cake with Curry Mayonnaise (£10.50) and half a kilo of Shetland Mussels (£12.50).
Mains, meanwhile, feature some real classics such as Herb Fed Chicken Schnitzel (£26), Beetroot Tart with Ricotta (£22.50) and Braised Feather Blade of Beef with Triple Cooked Chips (£26).
I had the Pan Fried Gigha Halibut, Café De Paris Butter, Brown Shrimps & Samphire, which is one of the pricier mains at £32.50.
It was perfectly executed: a huge slab of lean halibut whose lightness was complemented with a rich butter sauce punctuated with plenty of shrimp and samphire which added an extra layer of texture.
Make sure to order the side of triple cooked chips, huge satisfyingly crisp chunks with a fluffy centre (£5).
If you have room, all desserts are £10 and ours was an ideal autumnal palate cleanser – a velvety Stem Ginger Crème Brûlée, Candied Orange Cantucinni – which we shared, but I could have easily devoured solo.
Special menu to the wine and cocktail list, which has to be one of the best in the area, featuring a who’s who of wines.
Make sure to pop downstairs and see the cavernous wine cellars too at this impressive former home which has the atmosphere of a plush country pile – while still being only a short walk from Ilford Road Metro Station.
The history of the Grade II-listed building is as colourful as the artworks it regularly changes on its walls, and stretches back to the early nineteenth century. Since then, it’s been everything from a grand Georgian home to a school before, in 2005, becoming a 40-bed hotel and restaurant.
*Fern at Jesmond Dene House is open Wednesday – Saturday, 6pm – 9.30pm. Its House Menu is available Sunday from 3pm, Monday & Tuesday from 2pm for resident dining.