FORGE: GROWING, GATHERING, GOURMET

The Kitchen Garden on his doorstep inspires chef Gareth Rayner to get creative with his menus at the new Forge restaurant at Middleton Lodge. Kathryn Armstrong takes a bite...
FORGE: GROWING, GATHERING, GOURMET

Gareth Rayner manages to take a stem of broccoli and make some magic. Charring the green vegetable on an open flame, pairing it with an earthy Jerusalem artichoke puree then letting aged parmesan sprinkle over like snow.

It’s a little bit of art, suitably laid out on the canvas of a rough-hewn artisan plate. And it typifies what dining at Gareth’s newest restaurant, Forge, is all about.

This is the newest addition to the Middleton Lodge Estate just a short hop from the A1 near Scotch Corner.

This little corner of cool has expanded rapidly in the past three years with The Coach House, spa treatment rooms, The Fig House and kitchen garden all offering up stylish places to dine, stay and do stylish things – from crafts to yoga, outdoor cinema to weddings.

Forge offers a fine dining tasting menu, which is inspired and dictated by whatever’s growing in the abundant kitchen garden. This is serious food. They clearly hope to find themselves on the Michelin inspector’s radar.

No doubt about it, dishes will impress. We delved into a menu which has attention to detail at every turn and luscious flavours for surprises and swoons!

A chunk of hake, gentle and buttery, teamed with sweet raisins and punchy cauliflower.   

Yorkshire duck was deftly cooked to stay pink with a moreish sweet crust of fat. This accompanied by beetroot, grilled cabbage and elderberry vinegar.   

Duck egg custard pooled around caramelised apple and brown butter ice cream for a dreamy dessert.

Much of the food is cooked on open fires making the most of unusual flavours and ingredients. Some ingredients are foraged from surrounding woodlands and sourced from the local farming community.

Suppliers name-checked include Paul Allison, Low Harperley farm, for lleyn rare breed lamb. Will Raw, Moulton, for game birds and roe deer and Peter and Jill Hodgson, Hartlepool, fish suppliers.

Seasonal produce will be picked from the estate the same morning as served and menus will change on a daily basis, dependent on ingredients available from the estate and local farmers.

“It’s fantastic to finally open the doors to Forge, which has been a year in the making. The kitchen team and the estate’s gardeners are so excited to let the guests take their first bite. The fires have been lit and we can’t wait for service to begin.”

The Middleton Lodge Estate has also worked closely with local and national wine merchants to create a detailed wine list, to sit alongside the two menus. The Forge sommelier will pair each dish with a different wine from the list, this will also change daily, dependent on which produce is making its way to the menu that evening.

James Allison, owner of the Middleton Lodge Estate comments: “At Forge we really wanted create an experience like no other, full of memorable moments from the minute a guest steps foot in the restaurant to their last mouthful of Gareth’s innovative dishes.

“It’s been a fascinating process to watch our team of chefs work with the estate’s gardeners and local farming community in such a collaborative way, so we’re looking forward to our guests finally getting to taste this new chapter of the Middleton Lodge Estate.”

Forge is open every Wednesday to Saturday for evening reservations only. The nine-course tasting menu is priced at a guide of £70 per person and the optional wine pairing is £45 per person.


middletonlodge.co.uk/the-forge-restaurant 

Seaham Hall

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