A stay at Northcote hotel
Some hotel visits stay in your memory long after the trip itself, and my recent stay at the Northcote hotel Lancashire was a case in point. Not only was it a lovely luxury hotel located just outside the vibrant and friendly town of Clitheroe, with luxury bedrooms, a team of efficient and friendly staff and a stunning Michelin-starred restaurant, but it is keen to offer its guests more than just a relaxing stay within its walls.
Just ten minutes after my partner Stephen and I arrived at the Northcote, we were whisked away on a food tour of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a fun and fascinating afternoon sampling some excellent cheese, gin, beer and local delicacies as well as learning all about the history and geography of the area.
In just a few hours we felt thoroughly at home in this lovely part of Lancashire, and that was before we had even enjoyed executive chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen’s sumptuous and seasonal Gourmet Menu.
Add in some superb wine and cocktails, an afternoon discovering the delights of Clitheroe itself and a Northcote chef teddy bear to take home with me and it all added up to a memorable stay.
Northcote had been on my radar for some time, both because it is owned by the people behind the excellent The Stafford hotel in St James’s, London, and because I had featured a review of its renowned Northcote at Home boxes, created to give people a Michelin restaurant experience during lockdown.
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It is also part of the excellent PoB Hotels group, a true mark of quality (I’ve been lucky to have reviewed about 30 of the 50-strong collection) and so it was with great excitement that I finally made it to Lancashire to experience it for myself.
While the hotel is just off the busy A59, no traffic noise disturbs the tranquility of the Northcote itself, set in several acres of Lancashire countryside with a large terrace, kitchen gardens and 26 rooms and suites located in the main Manor House itself or in the separate Garden Lodge next door. Unlike larger hotels, it doesn’t have a spa or swimming pool, but here the food and exploring the local area are very much at the forefront of the whole experience.
Northcote hotel bedrooms
The modern but stylish Garden Lodge building is where the larger Junior Suites and Master Suite are located, and we were fortunate to be spending two nights in a Junior Suite, with an entrance hall, vast bathroom with roll-top bath and stand-alone shower, and enormous bedroom.
The bedroom was equipped with everything you could want from a luxury hotel, including Nespresso machine and kettle, Smart TV, free wifi, digital radio, sofa, minibar, ironing board, hairdryer, writing desk and other additions such as a warming, flame-effect fire and large balcony with views across the neighbouring fields.
There’s even a boot room and gun cabinets for those wishing to try out country sports, but we were on a different mission: to learn all about the local area through its growing foodie scene. Thus within minutes of arriving we had piled into the back of a minibus along with two other guests and were being guided around the area by the irrepressible Katie Wilson of Bowland and Bay Artisan Food Tours.
Food tour of Lancashire
Being new to the area, I’d never heard of the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but this part of Lancashire is becoming as well known for its artisan food producers just as much as its natural features. That’s partly thanks to the tireless work Kate has put in over the past few years, linking more than 100 food and drink producers from around the area into little ‘micro-adventures’ for people to go on and sample everything the area had to offer.
Ye Horns Inn
First stop was Ye Horns Inn, a recently restored historic pub in the heart of the Ribble Valley. Here we sampled Lancaster ale and some excellent venison scotch eggs with pickled walnut ketchup, and admired the mix of modern, stylish touches with the historic beams of a traditional pub.
Mrs Kirkham’s Cheese
Then it was onto Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire Cheese, an award-winning cheese producer which still uses raw cow’s milk from its herd of Holstein Friesian cows. The company has supplied its cheeses to the famous Neal’s Yard Dairy in London for the past 25 years which has in turn helped to promote its unique northern cheese, and we enjoyed sampling its range of creamy, tangy, smoked and crumbly varieties at its farm shop.
After cheese, it was time for some gin, at the tiny but popular Goosnargh distillery, which was founded by Richard and Rachel Trenchard in 2018. Its gins are distilled in small batches by hand by the couple in a shed next to their back garden, using a bespoke copper pot still named Bea and using botanicals which are either foraged, grown or ethically and sustainably sourced from organic suppliers.
We spent a lovely half an hour chatting to Rachel and sampling neat and mixed gins which the Trenchards had divided into different styles or ‘chapters’ of their journey into full-time gin production.
D Byrne wine
As darkness fell, we headed into Clitheroe and the vast D Byrne & Co wine merchants warehouse. Something of local landmark, with 4,000 wines and 2,000 spirits, the warehouse was an Aladdin’s cave of alcoholic delights.
As we browsed the shelves, trying not to feel too overwhelmed by choice, Kate produced a bottle of Benedictine and a thermos of hot water, and mixed us all a ‘Bene’n’ot’ drink beloved by local football supporters, warming us both inside and out.
There was little time to linger though – it was back to the Northcote hotel for the highlight of our stay, the five course seasonal Gourmet menu.
Northcote Gourmet Menu
As culinary highlights, go, our meal from executive chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen was a delight. In appearance, taste, ingenuity and entertainment it ticked every box, and was served with charm and efficiency by the huge team of staff which made for the perfect evening.
We started off with a couple of excellent cocktails served in the cosy lounge and were then led into the beautifully-decorated restaurant.
While the Northcote does have an a la carte menu (of which more later), most guests staying just one night opt for the five-course Gourmet Menu which showcases the best of each season.
As always with the best meals, there were little extra dishes scattered throughout the menu, so we started off with crusty sourdough, Lancashire cheese loaf and a couple of amuse bouche, a mini potato pie with brown sauce and a lovely light contrasting salmon mousse.
This mixture of local and traditional ingredients with a twist bode well for the rest of the menu and so it turned out – we were certainly in good hands.
The first item on the menu – Aged Dairy Cow – sounded more intriguing than appetising, but had some fascinating tastes and textures, while the Slow Cooked Cacklebean Egg introduced us to vinegar dust and a soft, gloopy egg yolk.
Next up was Wild Red Prawn which was fresh and zingy with a tang of lime, with a playful prawn tempura lollipop.
The ‘main’ course among these delights was Scottish Venison, done to perfection and accompanied with apple crisps and puree and a whisky maple celeriac, and then we finished off with a deconstructed tiramisu, with calamansi (lime from the Philippines – a new favourite ingredient) adding to the classic dessert.
Being the Northcote, we didn’t finish there though, and tucked into cheese from the superb cheese board with the Hebden Goat cheese being the stand-out in a great selection.
Replete, we finished off with a couple of glasses of top quality port back at the bar and counted our blessings that we didn’t have too far to stagger home.
Northcote hotel breakfast
After such a feast it was a minor miracle that we were able to tuck into a hearty breakfast the following morning, but the food was so good at the Northcote that it seemed a unthinkable not to.
The coffee, orange juice and Greek yoghurt were all excellent and promptly served, and the freshly cooked options covered all bases, from a full English breakfast with local produce to smoked salmon, haddock, Eggs Benedict, smashed avocado and the novel options of a Lancashire cheese soufflé or baked beans on sourdough topped with Lancashire cheese.
We opted for the mini-mountain of avocado and the perfectly cooked Finnian haddock with poached egg, both hiding beneath a layer of light milk foam.
A relaxing morning exploring the hotel was the perfect way to spend our middle day at the Northcote, so we had a lovely tour of the hotel including watching students at the Northcote Cookery School, which is located in a room just off the vast kitchen, separated by glass sliding doors.
The Northcote runs many courses throughout the year, for total beginners or confident cooks, and all offer a practical, hands-on learning experience with expert chefs. And you get to enjoy your creations at the end!
In fact, I was surprised how much goes on at the Northcote aside from ‘just’ the hotel experience. Not only are there the many gourmet experiences and the food tour on offer, but the Northcote hosts its annual Obsession food festival which takes place over 17 nights and involves a number of exciting and emerging chefs, as well as some of the world’s most established, coming from all corners of the UK, France and Portugal, to cook their unique Obsession menus for ticketed guests.
Guests are positively encouraged to leave the warm embrace of the Northcote and exploring the surrounding countryside such as the Forest of Bowland AONB and the Ribble Valley, and the hotel has a large number of maps and guides detailing local walking, cycling and driving routes to show off the area as its best. Having had a brief glimpse of Clitheroe the previous day however, Stephen and I were keen to explore the town further and spent a very happy afternoon there discovering such a vast array of local gems that, if work and family had permitted, we would have been tempted to move there for good the very next day. Some particular highlights were:
Some particular highlights were to be found in Holmes Mill, the former textiles mill which has been lovingly converted into a unique celebration of Lancashire food, drink and entertainment. With a beer hall, hotel, food hall, cinema, bowling alley and lots of outdoor space for the summer time, this was a great place to indulge in some serious shopping and a drink or two.
Bowland Food Hall at Holmes Mill
Best described as part farm shop, part deli, part juice bar and part gourmet paradise, Bowland Mill Food Hill in Holmes Mill is a showcase of the finest, the tastiest, and the healthiest food and drink from producers, farmers and growers from Bowland, from Lancashire and beyond. I tried to resist buying most of the shop and got away with just the one bag of goodies, but it would be seriously tempting if I lived here full-time.
The Beer Hall at Holmes Mill
One of the most original pubs I’ve been to for some time, The Beer Hall is a beer-lover paradise, with 42 beers on tap and a minimum of 24 cask beers on at any one time (several from the local Bowland Brewery). There’s also tonnes of keg beers, lagers, ciders, bottled beer and decent pub grub, plus a unique layout: a vast circular bar, communal tables in the main room and smaller tables in the Engine Room – which boasts an original engine from the old works. Staff were friendly, the beer kept on coming and the place even does a Beercation deal for a romantic, beery night away – what’s not to like?
The Beer Shack
As if one excellent pub wasn’t enough, we found another one at the other end of town, and on a completely different scale. The Beer Shack is much smaller than the Beer Hall but what it lacks in size it makes up in friendliness and its passion for beer. Selling 16 draught beers, four of which are cask-conditioned ales served from traditional hand pumps, as well as hot pies, wines and spirits, the Beer Shack was a welcome haven for us from a sudden downpour of rain.
Within a minute of arriving we were settled in with pints of IPA and in deep conversation with some regular drinkers at the Beer Shack (who were delighted to find that some Southerners were capable of talking to total strangers). Two hours later we emerged into the night and vowed to return the moment we were next back in this lovely and welcoming town.
Cowmans Famous Sausage Shop
This shop in Castle Street under the looming presence of Clitheroe Castle has been a butchers for over 120 years and is currently run by the fifth generation of the Cowburn family, who handmade around 70 varieties of sausages from prime cuts of meat from neighbouring farms. From the traditional plain pork or beef sausage to the more unusual – pork and black stick blue cheese, anyone? – this shop is proof that the British sausage can be a quality product – and its enduring popularity is proof of that.
D Byrne wine shop
We were heading to the massive warehouse of wine that we’d visited the previous day that we discovered that the original home of D Byrne & Co on King Street was open, having been closed during Covid times due to space and social distancing. The shop, like the warehouse, manages to pack a vast amount of wine in, and also a fair amount of spirits too.
There were several available to sample, and the lady behind the counter seemed more than happy to keep the spirits flowing, so we spent a happy half an hour trying what seemed like most of the available selection, before coming away very happy with our purchase. Definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for a special present for a serious wine or whisky drinker.
A la carte dining at Northcote hotel
As we were fortunate enough to be staying two nights at the Northcote, we were given the choice of the Gourmet Menu again on our second night, or venturing into the a la carte menu – a lovely choice to have.
Not wanting to miss anything out, we went for the a la carte option and found it to be as equally good – sometimes surpassing – the five-course delight from the night before. After a couple of appetite-whetting salmon roe tartlets, I dove into the salmon gravlax – fresh and fabulous – while Stephen tentatively chose the roasted veal sweetbread.
The roasted sweetbreads, with white mushroom, tarragon and bourguignon sauce turned out to be the dish of the destination and I’ve never seen anyone quite so delighted with what they were eating as watching Stephen enjoy this memorable dish.
The salt aged beef fillet with crushed marrowbone, mushroom bourguignon and triple-cooked chips which we both had to follow, was perfect in every way, and it was with delight and a feeling of being enormously lucky that we tucked once again into the excellent cheeseboard.
Judging by the reaction from the other diners, the food was being as warmly received as it had been the night before, and it seems like the Northcote is onto a winner, with the restaurant full on both nights and both lunchtimes as well, not an easy task in this current climate, and several private events and lunches also taking place elsewhere in the hotel, which didn’t impinge at all on the quiet and cosy ambiance of the hotel. We shall most certainly come back to the area when time and money permit: Clitheroe, the Forest of Bowland and the Ribble Valley were undiscovered delights to us and the Northcote rightly takes centre stage in this very exciting and fast-evolving foodie destination.
Hotel information and how to book the Northcote hotel Lancashire
Northcote, Northcote Road, Langho, Lancashire, England, BB6 8BE
If you like reviews of hotels with Michelin-starred restaurants, then check out 9 great hotels with Michelin-starred restaurants which I’ve also personally reviewed.
Northcote is a member of the prestigious PoB Hotels group. Others hotels in that group reviewed on ALadyofLeisure.com include: Feversham Arms, North Yorkshire; Dormy House, Cotswolds; Bovey Castle, Devon; Park House hotel, West Sussex; Hartwell House, Buckinghamshire and many others (search ALadyofLeisure.com for PoB Hotels or click the red tag at the end of this post to find them all)
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