Secluded at the bottom of a long curving driveway on the edge of Jesmond Dene (a narrow wooded valley on the outskirts of Newcastle), Jesmond Dene House feels more like a country hotel than one which is a short hop away from the city centre.
The always-busy restaurant offers all-day dining with brunch, set lunch and dinner menus, as well as a blowout multi-course tasting menu. You’ll need to book ahead in the restaurant, although anyone can eat in the bar area without booking if there is room available. There are two rooms: the relaxed, warm music room and the light and airy garden room whose glass windows open out onto the terrace in good weather.
We arrived for a late lunch on a Saturday and the restaurant was full and buzzy. It’s obviously a place that people book for special occasions – one large table looked like they were celebrating a landmark birthday and there was a very dressed-up group enjoying the afternoon tea that starts at 2pm. Other tables were filled with couples and families enjoying an informal lunch. It’s one of Jesmond Dene House’s strengths that they are able to accommodate all of this with a warm and relaxed service style, which is never overbearing or fussy – it may look like a posh country house hotel but the vibe is very friendly and inclusive.
The great-value set lunch menu (£22 for 2 courses, £25 for 3) showcases some great cooking, with bold seasonal flavours given a very delicate touch. Starters include melt-in the mouth North Sea monkfish cheeks in a cute little bowl of parsley spelt risotto and roasted spiced chunks of butternut squash with light-as-air whipped ricotta and crisp sage leaves. Mains of confit duck and hake in a creamy but light seafood broth were both perfectly put together. Puddings are not an afterthought either – the apple tarte fin with vanilla cream and cider sorbet was a lovely combination of sweet and tart. We didn’t try the cheese trolley (too full!) but watched longingly as it was wheeled past us to the next table – a really impressive selection which was being expertly explained by the waiter. The wine list is pretty extensive and there is also a great selection of wines by the glass or carafe (wines start at a very reasonable £21 a bottle).
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