Head Chef Gareth Rayner shares his vision for The Coach House Restaurant...
During my stay, I had the pleasure of meeting Head Chef, Gareth Rayner, who brings with him 16 years of experience, including his previous role as Sous Chef at the 3 AA Rosette restaurant at Wynard Hall. Rayner's expertise and his passion for fresh, locally sourced ingredients has received accolades from everyone who has had the pleasure of dining at The Coach House Restaurant in the last 6 weeks since it has opened.
Born in the local area, Gareth believes supporting local farmers and butchers. The meat and eggs are provided by Cockburns in nearby Beadle, the fish heralds from Hodgsons in Hartlepoole, the best fishmonger in the area and the game is from Yorkshire Game. The vegetables are currently being sourced from national supplier Wellocks, however, from Winter/Spring 2016, the restaurant hopes to have a fully functioning garden, which will provide all of the fresh produce for the restaurant to complete their 'Estate to Plate' dream.
So what makes the restaurant at Middleton Lodge special? Rayner believes it’s their casual approach to dining which has strong focus on providing high quality food at a decent price - without alienating the customer.
While many of the items on the menu may appear to be simple, it’s the clever use of ingredients that sets the food apart. Rayner said, “Behind the scenes there is magic. Many chefs throw lots of things on the plate and forget about flavour. Here we break the ingredients down to 3 or 4 parts. People now expect a certain standard when they dine out as it's part of the experience.”
Despite opening only 7 weeks ago, the restaurant is already busy, seeing about 90-130 covers on Friday or Saturday evenings, an amazing feat to have achieved in such a short amount of time, which can be challenging given they only have 4 restaurant staff.
Future plans for the restaurant include wine pairing experiences in the private dining room where guests will be able to enjoy a 5-course menu with wines perfectly matched by their sommelier and cookery courses.
For guests of Middleton Lodge, breakfast is included in the cost of the stay. The simple, fuss-free breakfast options of Full English, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royale, Blueberry Pancakes with Honey, and assorted cereals and toast, is all pretty standard fare, but perfectly executed. Add to that the seriously chic décor, friendly service and laidback ambiance, and you’ll find it hard to leave. In fact, I sat reading my paper for nearly an hour afterwards, without even realising how much time had passed!
During our stay, we had the full English breakfast and the Eggs Benedict. First the full English. Greasy fry up this is not. Fluffy scrambled eggs and a highly stylised placement of the food on the plate made it feel like a special affair. The tomato was carefully balanced atop a generous slab of black pudding, while whole button mushrooms and locally sourced sausage provided the perfect accompaniment.
In the evenings, the dining room is buzzing with diners who've all made an extra effort to look smart. Diners include a mixture of local couples on sophisticated dates and lodgers from The Coach House.
For dinner, we opted for the steak with skinny fries and Béarnaise sauce, and the duck breast on a bed of winter vegetables - both of which were sublime. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the fillet steak was one of the tastiest steaks I’ve ever eaten – hands down. Thick, juicy and perfectly chargrilled, it was bursting with flavour in every bite.
My husband who had the equally scrumptious and tender duck, actually went silent (apart from an appreciative groan every now and again) as he slowly devoured the duck, only stopping to insist that I try it to share in his nearly orgasmic dining experience.
Dessert was an orange and gingerbread cheesecake, which had the perfect consistency and balanced sweet and citrus flavours, which prevented it from being to saccharinely sweet.
All in all, The Coach House Restaurant is the place to go for top food that's perfect in every way.
Bookings are recommend if you want to secure a table on weekend evenings, which are unsurprisingly, very popular.