Chef Martin Sweeney’s other life is in edgy Shoreditch, where his restaurant’s talking point is Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde ‘Cock n Bull’ artwork.
Tramshed is all about tiles and styles; urban, communal and, as that artwork suggests, offering up a menu that’s all about beef and chicken on the plate.
The sleepy, historic surroundings of blissful Blanchland in County Durham couldn’t be more different.
So it was the perfect retreat for Martin to showcase a little of the Tramshed touch at the newly opened Gatehouse, part of the Lord Crewe Arms Hotel.
The connection between Tramshed and Lord Crewe is all about well-known chef Mark Hix.
Lord Crewe’s head chef Simon worked at Hix Soho as Sous Chef and then as Head Chef where he worked closely with both Kevin Gratton and Mark Hix.
While still at Hix Soho, Simon and his wife were seeking an escape from city life and so moved to Corbridge in Northumberland where his sister was based.
For a while he was able to commute between the north and his job in London. “Nevertheless, I was ideally seeking a great pub/restaurant nearer to home that would showcase British food done simply and beautifully,” explains Simon. “It really was a dream come true when I heard of plans for The Lord Crewe Arms and I promptly put my name forward for the role of head chef.”
Three years under his belt as head chef at the Crewe and his menus have evolved embracing the local landscape to deliver popular classics alongside inventive artistry.
He’d worked alongside Martin Sweeney as part of the Hix clan and invited him to host a cookery demo and supperclub as part of launch events for the hotel’s newest project, The Gatehouse.
This is a gem of a place. The restored former gatehouse in this historic and unspoilt village, it is a gourmet retreat with a demonstration kitchen, dining room and drinks area.
The Gatehouse was formerly linked to the original monastic buildings across the road (now the hotel).
In this new venue, Simon – and invited chefs – will display their talents and sense fun demonstrating expertise for diners to enjoy dinner party style.
“It’s all about creating new “dining out adventures” in quirky surroundings”, says Simon.
Luxe joined Martin Sweeney as he served up a series of dishes from his Tramshed repertoire.
In the demo area, he and Simon whisked up whipped, chicken livers where were served with Yorkshire puddings to scoop them up – a dreamy combo if ever there was one.
Diners, with champagne in hand, were able to chat up-close with the chefs as they made and served up a series of small tasters – among them whipped cauliflower with hazelnuts and – demonstrating more than a little dexterity – quails egg ‘shooters’ with chopped bacon.
“We love what Mark Hix does so we wanted to showcase some Hix-y stuff”, added Simon.
Diners moved to the table for a selection of inspiring dishes based on seasonal ingredients – delicious flavour-packed fillet of lamb with sea kale and capers and a plate of pungent beetroot with Wigmore, a soft curd cheese.
A Tramshed treat arrived in the form of BBQ beef cheek.
“Said Martin: “I brought this up from London – it’s a dish I cooked as part of a chefs’ challenge and was judged the best of the day by Jay Rayner – out of 40 dishes.
“This is something I feel really proud of – it is beef cured in three different types of sugar for two weeks. “
The taste – a sensation – and the colour? Bright and unexpectedly beetrooty-pink, fall-apart soft and with a rich, sweet taste with a little barbecue edge – unlike anything any of us had eaten before.
Martin followed this with a dessert; “this is my take on retro – leave your reservations at the door and get stuck in!”
Doughnuts. We’re talking doughnuts! Little puffs of sweet pleasure, teamed with homemade marshmallows and then salted caramel for dipping.
If this is urban-meets ancient, we love!
The Gatehouse and more…
Food workshops and demos will include showcases from well-known chefs as well as one-offs such as including dads and kids cooking together, seasonal food and wine pairings, bread making and more. A maximum of eighteen guests can be accommodated at each of these events.
A series of other events is taking place for guests staying at the Lord Crewe Arms and visitors to the village. These include cinema nights with tasty snacks, fireside lectures including lunch with authors, floristry and wreath-making classes.
As a small wedding or celebration venue for up to eighteen guests, the appeal of The Gatehouse is unique.
For more details on forthcoming events at the Gatehouse visit: lordcrewearmsblanchland.co.uk/gatehouse