'Poetry on a plate' - what we thought of the new Dining Room restaurant at Seaham Hall
In a hotel that was once the home of Lord Byron, it seems fitting to be served poetry on a plate.
The restaurant at the landmark Seaham Hall, arguably one of the region’s finest hotels, once doffed its feathered cap to the great romantic poet in its name.
But the former Byron’s restaurant has undergone a change of prose of late to become The Dining Room. Lord Byron still watches over diners in a grand portrait of the revolutionary figure, but the decor has been pared down to provide a less formal dining affair.
Gone are the crushed velvet seating and white marble tables from my last visit to be replaced with tweeds, huge bark plant pots and wooden seating that creates a more earthy feel. It’s a new feel reflected in the staff’s uniform of jeans and tweed waistcoat.
I have to admit to liking the luxury of its former guise, but this re-brand does help to make the restaurant more accessible and not just a one-off place for a special occasion. It still manages to retain its grandeur too, however, from the sparkling 14carat gold chandeliers to the Georgian windows overlooking the hotel’s much-photographed Vortex water feature.
The natural-style decor is also in keeping with the menu, which places huge importance on regional, seasonal ingredients, many of which are foraged from Seaham Hall’s perfectly-manicured 37-acre grounds.
Proud British flavours flow through head chef Damian Broom’s menu with the à la carte version featuring options such as starters of parmesan, spenwood and onion tart with pickled elderberries (£8) and slow grilled glazed Galloway ox tongue with beetroot, buttermilk and horseradish (£9).
Ingredients for the mains are also carefully-sourced on the ever evolving menu, with options including the likes of day boat fish with Sparl Brae mussels and Wye Vale asparagus with cucumber and dill (£25), an attention to detail which has helped the restaurant earn two AA Rosettes and a place in the 2019 Good Food Guide.
We chose the six course tasting menu (£55 available on request), an offering which changes according to the produce available that morning. Service was attentive and informative as we were talked through an imaginative collection of dishes and paired wines.
After a round of home-made bread and warmed butter, proceedings began with a salt baked smoked celeriac with mushroom, hazelnut and lovage. It was a rich medley of flavours, the smokiness complemented perfectly by the hint of nut. The smokiness was further balanced with an acidic and crisp Sauvignon Blanc from the hotel’s wine cellar. (Make sure to ask if you can see it after dinner, it has to be one of the best, and most atmospheric in the region).
From the dark brown hues of our first dish we moved on to a vibrant grilled red mullet and marinated Isle of Wight tomatoes, a masterclass in using good ingredients to great effect.
As you’d expect from a hotel that’s a stone’s throw from the sea, fish informs much of the menu and our next dish of day boat cod with summer vegetables and herbs was perhaps my favourite course – the fish flaking into submission with the lightest of pokes from my fork. The wine, for this dish a Louis Jadot Chardonnay, was again well thought-out, its buttery hint working in tandem with the melt-in-the-mouth fish.
We moved onto mutton for round four and a full bodied Pinot Noir. Beautifully tender and a buttery pink, the rich roasted Masham Mutton saddle was balanced well with the lighter nuances of peas, mint, courgettes and girolles.
I could barely make room for dessert, but ones this good are just begging to be devoured. In the first of two sweet treats, we tucked into Bruce Farm strawberry tart and sorbet with vanilla crema and aromatic herbs, which proved a refreshing palate cleanser – paired with a Taittinger Nocturne from the hotel’s extensive Champagne collection, a slightly sweeter brut Champagne which makes it an ideal dessert wine.
Last up, we enjoyed a sinfully good salted, caramel custard tart with raspberries, almonds and cultured cream. If I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life I’d be happy if it was this. It was a perfectly-executed finish to this kaleidoscope of flavours.
*Note: the Dining Room is available for both hotel residents and non-residents.
The opulent Georgian architecture of Seaham Hall lends itself perfectly to huge hotel suites with high ceilings and period-style windows that offer everything from vistas of the grounds to sea views. Each of the 21 rooms are individually styled and are teeming with character, from a suite inspired by Ada Lovelace, pioneering mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron, to a garden suite that comes complete with its own hot tub. Our junior suite featured a huge bed, big enough to fit six pillows in fact, and a vibrant colour scheme that gives it a unique, boutique feel you just don’t find in most hotels.
*Junior suites doubles cost from £195 (two sharing), including breakfast and full use of the spa from noon on the day of arrival to noon on the day of departure. More here.
Relaxing at Serenity Spa
Most well-known for its award-winning spa, Seaham Hall is a reliable go-to for ultimate relaxation. Make sure to check out some new additions including a new Zen Garden, tucked away behind the outdoor jacuzzis, which makes great use of the hotel’s sprawling grounds. Unwind on loungers around the infinity hydrotherapy pool which is the perfect place to forget about the 9-5. If all that flitting between the salt sauna, Indian steam room with amethyst crystal and hammam has worked up an appetite pop into the Ozone restaurant. An excellent restaurant in its own right, it offers grand Far Eastern-style surroundings and pan-Asian cuisine such as bao buns, pad Thai and steak teriyaki.