The Brasserie at Rockliffe Hall: High life

Rockliffe rocks. This 5-star hotel in north Yorkshire is well worth a visit, dining being one of the many reasons to do so. While the Orangery is the venue’s culinary high-point (see a more extensive review here), the Brasserie will not leave visitors disappointed. As with the modern architecture across most of the venue, the design of this restaurant is thoughtful, south-facing with an elevated perspective from which to admire the beautiful grounds.

There is a feeling when sitting here of both light and space, and the ability to sit outside on a sheltered terrace is an added bonus. Aaron Craig is the chef in charge here and similar to Richard Allen in the Orangery, there is a strong thrust on local and seasonal, with the team using ingredients grown not just on-site but also from artisan producers in the nearby north east of the country. Diners can choose from around a dozen starters and a similar number of mains. Pricing (at £10-15 for the former and £20-35 for the latter) reflects the quality of the experience.

What we liked is that the menu combines the decidedly conventional (fish and chips) with the much-more boundary pushing (such as a Malayan monkfish and prawn curry). I began with a Whitby crab vol-au-vent plus avocado and crab bisque, while my comrade opted for the parmesan truffle soufflé. The latter was a deliciously decadent dish – like those old ‘naughty but nice’ adverts – although the pastry in my vol-au-vent was somewhat sub-standard and the avocado unfortunately slightly discordant with the crab. For the mains, however, there was absolutely no faulting either my turbot or my comrade’s ravioli. Both (as with the starters) were masterpieces of presentation and I loved the inventiveness with which my dish was constructed – a piece of perfect turbot with a deliciously crispy skin combined artfully with lentils, fresh asparagus and strawberries.

As in the Orangery, clear thought has been put into the wine list – which did not overlap. We enjoyed a rich and zesty Sauvignon Blanc from Spain, and noted some other delightful choices on the list including Charles Smith’s ‘Kung-Fu Girl.’ Sit back, take in the view and enjoy some generally impressive modern British cooking.