Review of Wynyard Hall's Glass House restaurant as new chef takes over
With its sprawling kitchen garden informing much of the dishes on its Glass House restaurant menu, it’s more like food metres.
Plot to plate dining is the key ethos of the 70-cover restaurant, which is now the estate’s main eatery after the main house and Wellington’s restaurant closed for all but exclusive hire only.
Whereas Wellington’s was imposing and opulent, with its grand piano and portraits looming large, its successor at the other end of this 120-acre estate, within the walled garden, is a lighter, brighter more informal affair.
The heritage of this Victorian glasshouse, one of the UK’s largest in fact, inspires its new chapter with a botanical theme flowing throughout the large restaurant and bar area, with walls lined with lush green plants, raffia light shades and heritage striped pattern seating.
The building was restored in 2016 and while this area was previously used for cooking classes and as a shop, the restaurant, which opened last year, is a more fitting use, giving diners the chance to look out onto the garden and its kaleidoscope of ingredients which have gone into their meals.
Recently, the restaurant also welcomed a new head chef, Gareth Rayner, who oversees the restaurant as well as the menu for the private-estate’s many functions and weddings.
The Teesside-born chef has plenty of experience under his belt with 22-years in the industry, with the latter few years at the much-respected Middleton Lodge near Darlington.
Donning his whites in the Glass House kitchen, he’s aiming to stamp the site on the culinary map. The restaurant has already built up a firm following with the residents of the neighbouring Wynyard estate, many of whom pop in with their dogs, who are welcome in the lounge area, or for a glass of wine from the extensive list, which includes some fantastic English wine options you’ll struggle to find elsewhere in the area.
Now, they’re hoping to reel in diners from around the region, which shouldn’t be difficult with such a solid menu and setting.
We took our seats on a sunny Friday night, the natural light pouring through the glass house, making for a truly peaceful setting – despite only being a short drive off the A19.
The menu is a great read of small plates and large plates designed for grazing over, with plenty of dishes filled with garden produce, such as marinated feta with rhubarb salad (£4.50), cauliflower, cumin and spinach fritters with minted yoghurt (£7) and Harissa-roasted carrot with Greek yoghurt, honey and toasted seeds (£6.50).
Those ingredients that can’t be grown or reared on site are sought from the most local suppliers possible, within 25 miles or so of the estate.
We ordered a main dish of Korean fried chicken (£13) as well as small plates of padron peppers (£5), marinated feta salad (£4.50), smoked ham croquettes (£4) and fresh baked focaccia (£3.50).
The chicken was beautifully executed, with a light batter complemented by a punchy harissa mayonnaise, pickled cucumber and spring onion, a great blend of textures and tastes – with portion of fries for good measure.
The padron peppers were moreishly plump, a simple dish, but a great addition to any menu for picking at in between bigger morsels.
Meanwhile, the croquettes were satisfyingly chunky, thick with meaty flavour.
With the sun shining, the feta salad was a refreshing addition to the table, great quality cheese, its natural flavour lifted by the accompanying zingy rhubarb, toasted Za'atar spice and sesame seeds.
Enjoying the laid back vibe of the setting, we didn’t want to leave so shoehorned in another round of drinks and a gloriously sweet sticky toffee pudding to share (£7).
There’s obviously hints of global foods on the menu, but they’re dishes which, with such local produce flowing throughout, feel heartily British.
Service was swift and slick and servers were knowledgeable of the menu.
For the quality, setting and size of the portions, the food is more than reasonably priced and it feels like a special meal, without the special price tag.
:: Glass House restaurant, Wynyard Hall, is open Wednesdays to Saturdays, serving lunches from noon and dinner from 6.30pm, as well as Sunday lunches.
The site also features a next door farm shop and cafe at the walled garden which is open daily from 10am to 4pm for light bites and snacks.
For those missing Wellingtons, it’s open for afternoon teas for special calendar dates so keep an eye on the Wynyard Hall social channels for updates.