Every time we return to Middlesbrough to visit Will's family, we stay at the Judges Country House at Kirklevington in Yarm, a sweet country town just minutes from the big city. We love their awesome breakfasts (local smoked salmon & scrambled eggs and full English or whatever) and superb dinner in the elegant country house dining rooms or on the glass-enclosed porch overlooking the beautiful gardens.
We took our friends, Sue & Steve, here for our final dinner before heading to Ireland and it was all superb. We started with drinks in the bar and canapés were sent out as we perused the menus: Fried Cheese Balls, Saffron Crackers with Spiced Cod Puree and Ginger Ale & Rocket (the British term for Arugula) Shooters which were fun and tasted like a fizzy health drink with a slight bitter herb flavor on the tongue at the end.
Since the sun doesn't set until very late, the gardens were bright and we all took a little walk outside and then sat down to a bottle of Baron d'Arignac Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs which was brut, but neither totally dry, but then not sweet or demi-sec either; decent, but I would not order it (it was a generous gift from the hotel management). We moved on to a superb Beaune 2011 1er Cru aux Coucherais from Marchand de Gramont which was a superb light red that went perfectly with our pretty heavy fish dishes and the pork.
Starters were an aromatic Summer Truffle Salad of fine beans, baby artichokes and Cabernet Sauvignon Vinaigrette and I adored the Norfolk Quail with grilled charred Sweet Corn and a Girolles Puree and quail jus, perhaps one of the best quails ever with little baby onions and yummy pork cracklings.
Samuel gobbled up his huge main of Courgette (Zucchini) Risotto with parmesan, tomato (sundried as well) and magnificent chanterelles (he actually ate most of these) sprinkled generously on top.
Most of us had the magnificent Monkfish with Smoked Sausage, broccoli, creamed Spinach (which came in a small fried dough ball with goat cheese!!) and several vegetable purees. One Pork Ribeye with Savoy cabbage, turnip and Passionfruit got raves.
Samuel left us to head to the room while the four of us shared desserts:
"Michel Cluizel" Chocolate Delice with pralines, espresso ice cream and hazelnuts reminded me very much of our own Michel Richard's chocolate bar dessert.
Macerated Strawberries said it came with caramelized cream, which we discovered was the local term for crème brulee as well as strawberry sorbet, honeycomb and tarragon--most refreshing.
White Peach with elderflower and cream was an even better fruit dessert full of flavor, cold and tasty.
The cheese plate was superb dotted with jellies, chutneys (one was a cauliflower/mustard seed!), seeded lavosh, housemade walnut bread, celery and so many condiments, but the cheese starred here with four kinds: Collingwood Mounts Cheddar, Monk's Folly from Fountain's Gold, Barkham's Blue from Two Hoops and an amazing runny cheese called Mayhill Green covered with chopped nettles. They were all divine, but I doubt I will ever find these truly local treats again unless we return to Yarm for a meal, which I know we will do for sure.