Lancashire Life Luncheon - Bartle Hall Country Hotel and Restaurant

Vanilla Panna Cotta, Scorched Watermelon, Lime, Chilli & Pineapple Salsa and Poppy Seed Tuille

Vanilla Panna Cotta, Scorched Watermelon, Lime, Chilli & Pineapple Salsa and Poppy Seed Tuille - Credit: Archant

The newly renovated Nest restaurant at Bartle Hall was the location for the latest Lancashire Life lunch. Rebekka O’Grady samples their fresh new menu

Bartle Hall's Head Chef, Rowan Simmons (standing) and Ian Vevers, the Director of Food

Bartle Hall's Head Chef, Rowan Simmons (standing) and Ian Vevers, the Director of Food - Credit: Archant

I was told before sitting down for lunch that I may spot a deer or pheasant wandering through the grounds. Obviously this was no cause for alarm, as I was dining at Bartle Hall, a country hotel, near Preston, set within 16 acres of beautiful Lancashire countryside.

The 16th century hall, originally named Sammy Field House, and from 1745 until 1853 called Leach Hall, is part of which forms the core of the present building. It’s a grand building with 14 luxury bedrooms and is regularly used as a premier wedding venue. However, all eyes today were firmly places on the newly refurbished Nest restaurant as it hosted the Lancashire Life luncheon.

Formerly the Garden Room, the restaurant re-opened as Nest in February after a major redesign. Director of Food, Ian Vevers, says they wanted a restaurant and menu that reflected the grounds that it looks out on.

‘This first menu from the new Nest concept offers a modern British relaxed dining experience,’ said Ian, who started at Bartle Hall in 1995 as a second chef. He became Director of Food ten years ago. ‘We’ve spent a lot of time working on dishes in advance to see what works and played with different ideas.’

Ian compiled the seasonal menu with Head Chef, Rowan Simmons, who like Ian, is classically French trained. The chef grew up with parents who loved cooking and his passion for food stemmed from there. ‘I enjoy using local produce and keeping dishes simple,’ he said. ‘It’s great to utilise a less popular cut of meat and create a dish that really brings out the best of it.’

That’s where the inspiration for our main course stemmed from. After delicious canapés in the bar, including beetroot marinated salmon on rye bread and mackerel wellington with rhubarb and blood orange, we took a seat in the beautiful Nest restaurant for our first course: pork belly and slow braised cheek with popcorn crackling, apple, celeriac and a cider jus.

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The intimate restaurant is crisp and bright, with light from the garden flooding in through the large glass windows. French doors open on the back wall, and lucky for us, the sun was shining anticipating the summer months ahead.

It was unanimous - the pork dish was a hit among diners. Even those who were apprehensive of trying the cheek succumbed to its soft, juicy texture, which just fell apart at the touch of a fork. The crackling popcorn added a slight saltiness to balance out the sweetness of the apple and cider.

To finish, a vanilla panna cotta was served was served with scorched watermelon, raspberries, a poppyseed tuille and topped with a chilli, lime and pineapple salsa. The presentation of the dish was beautiful, and I think everyone picked up the spoon shaped tuille to scoop the first bite of the light Italian dessert before giving in and eating the savoury wafer too. However, if I am honest, I was a little envious of the vegetarians in the room as their menu included sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce - my favourite.

Andrew Haworth, who owns Bartle Hall with his wife Nicola, hopes that the new and improved restaurant and fresh menu will attract diners outside the traditional weekends.

‘We decided to renovate the restaurant as we wanted somewhere guests could dine at as well as attracting customers throughout the week,’ explained Andrew, who has been at Bartle Hall since 1991.

‘We specialise in functions at the weekend, so with Nest, we can now have the best of both worlds. So far it has been well received, guests are really impressed.’ w

Bartle Hall Country Hotel and Restaurant,

Lea Lane, Bartle, near Preston, PR4 0HA.

01772 690506.

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