I never tire of enjoying the reaction of friends I take to Lumley Castle for the first time.
Who wouldn’t be super-impressed with dinner in a grand, 14th-century castle overlooking the River Wear and Durham County Cricket Ground.
I love having the posh and plush boutique hotel right on our doorstep – and it’s great being able to show it off to visitors who often don’t know what treasures we have in the North East.
My dining partner on my latest visit was from Yorkshire and had never been to Chester-le-Street or Lumley Castle.
He was blown away by everything from being escorted through the hotel by staff dressed in Elizabethan outfits to the four-poster bed in the cool, quirky tower room he had booked for the evening, which included a £30 per person dining allowance in the Black Knight restaurant.
And he was very taken with the “hidden” toilet behind a door that looked like part of the wardrobe.
A pre-dinner drink in the Library Bar gave me and my guest a chance to savour every word of the eloquently described A la Carte dishes.
It was a balmy evening so we decided on the light spring garden salad to share as a starter, which was more than sufficient with accompanying bread rolls.
Differing textures of asparagus, beetroot, avocado, Jersey Royal potatoes and artichoke gave a substantial edge to the starter with aesthetic touches of sprouting broccoli, shallots, radishes and broad beans.
The Black Knight restaurant is atmospheric and elegant and the tables are perfectly spaced, so you can’t hear other diners’ conversations and can enjoy your own privacy.
The restaurant team perfectly balance attentiveness without being overbearing and give you time to enjoy an appropriate-length break between courses.
For mains, I chose fillet of Moroccan-spiced stone bass served with chick peas and courgettes and a delicious complementing bouillabaisse.
Beautifully presented, this was a dish that engaged taste buds with delicate flavours and light consistencies.
My dinner date chose a 300g minimum 28-day aged rib-eye steak, which came with slow-roasted tomatoes, triple-cooked chips, and he chose a Calvados cream sauce, which wouldn’t have been my choice, but worked really well.
A perfectly cooked, substantial steak took precedence over the accompaniments which meant he couldn’t finish all the chips – so I obliged and lent a hand.
We decided to share a dessert of pecan pie with sweet mascarpone and praline - and I asked for some gingerbread ice cream that I’d spotted on the rhubarb and custard option, which was no trouble to the restaurant team to provide.
And now my pal has sampled a taste of what Lumley Castle has to offer, he’s all set to invite his sister for the stunning afternoon tea.
He was also amazed to hear about the Elizabethan banquets where you are invited to live like lords and ladies of a bygone age and enjoy an evening of fun, laughter and merriment, Having been to many over the years, it’s a great night out with a five-course banquet, a goblet of wine and one of Mead with entertainment by the Lords and Ladies of the Court followed by a proper old school-style disco in the must-experience dungeon.
There are banquets in September on 6th, 7th and 28th as well as other dates throughout the rest of the year.
You can book online or call 0191 389 1111 or check out firstname.lastname@example.org
A member of the No Ordinary Hotels group - this is a fitting branding as there is absolutely nothing ordinary about Lumley Castle. And if you know someone who has never been before, you’ve got to take them.