Cheshire Life Luncheon - Carden Park Hotel

Carden Park proves it is a worthy holder of our Hotel of the Year title<br/>WORDS BY RAY KING<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Just about the same time that dashing cavalier Captain Thomas Sandford and his company of just eight Royalist musketeers captured Beeston Castle - and its Parliamentary garrison - by scaling the sheer crag on which it had stood, impregnable, for 400 years, the Roundheads were busy on the other side of Cheshire’s Peckforton Hills ransacking Carden Hall.

Unlike Beeston Castle, reduced to a ruin in 1646 by vengeful (and most likely embarrassed) Parliamentary troops, Carden Hall survived the English Civil War only to be destroyed in 1912, not by gunpowder, but by a discarded cigarette end at a party. Oops!

The centrepiece of the historic 1,000 acre estate, in which the hall once stood, is now the de Vere Carden Park Hotel - Cheshire Life’s current Hotel of the Year - and the vast landscaped grounds include two championship golf courses. Located between the Peckfortons and the Dee Valley, with the Clwydian Range providing a spectacular western horizon, it provided an idyllic setting on a glorious summer’s day for Cheshire Life’s August luncheon.

Guests were greeted by general manager Hamish Ferguson and a cavalcade of canap�s and welcoming flutes of champagne and refreshing Pimms served al fresco in the garden in front of the hotel with nary a Puritan pikeman in sight. It was the perfect start to what turned out to be a memorable afternoon in the hotel’s Redmond’s Restaurant, whose split-level dining area affords virtually every table with a panoramic view.

In Robert Price, Carden Park boasts a head chef who is passionate about top quality local produce, ideally sourced from suppliers within just a few miles of the hotel. And this most bounteous corner of West Cheshire and North Wales provided all the ingredients for a delightful summer lunch.

We started with a light mousse of smoked seabass from the Llandudno Smokery served with Cherry Orchard Farm asparagus, watercress and radish grown on the Wirral and crisp dill and horseradish crostini home made by Carden’s pastry chef Dave Quinn. The dish worked on every level with the pungency of the radish and watercress balancing beautifully with the creamy richness of the mousse; the accompanying wine, a Barossa Valley Semillon-Sauvignon from St Hallett also worked its magic, offering delicious complimentary hints of counterpointing citrus and gooseberry fruit.

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The main course was another seasonal feast. The kitchen partnered two cuts of pork, supplied by Williams of Flint from Little Manor Farm, with a delicious warm summer bean salad, pea pur�e and red wine reduction. The roasted fillet was meltingly tender and the braised belly - with a shard of crunchy crackling - was packed with flavour. Together with Welsh lamb and Welsh black beef, pork from Flint completed a trinity of carnivore’s treats.

The wine, a young and vibrant modern-style Rioja, brimming with ripe strawberry fruit made for an excellent summer lunchtime red and partnered the pork admirably.

Dessert was outstanding too, comprising summer pudding berry fruit encased in a crisp filo ‘barrel’ paired with apple terrine and a fresh, tangy green apple sorbet; the fruit, as were the vegetables, supplied by Cheshire produce from Willington Fruit Farm and Claremont Farm respectively. 

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