[Langho, Lancashire] Northcote - 2022 visit

Our first Northcote experience was in 2009, shortly after the then chef, Nigel Haworth, had appeared on the BBC’s Great British Menu. We’ve since fallen out of love with that programme but not with Northcote and we’ve been back every year, sometimes twice in the year. We’ve varied the seasons, with which the menu changes, so it’s never felt in the slightest bit samey. As with other high end restaurants we’ve eaten at in the last couple of years, Northcote has cut back on its menu offerings. Gone is the lengthy tasting menu and gone is the “a la carte”, leaving them with their fixed five course “gourmet” menu. That’s no problem for us as it’s what we’ve always ordered here. It’s always been nicely balanced. The individual portions may seem quite dainty but you go away feeling nicely fed, but not overstuffed. And the food has always had strong roots in the northwest.

There’s a couple of single bite snacks to get you started. A beef tartare taco – the softness of the meat contrasting with the crispness of the mini tortilla. And, if that doesn’t sound very northwestern, then the other one certainly did. Their take on a traditional Lancashire butter pie here refined to Michelin levels – pastry enclosing potato and onion, topped with homemade brown sauce. And there’s bread, as ever including the fab Lancashire cheese bread

For the first proper course, there’s a single scallop (not the plural “scallops” of the online menu description) perfectly cooked, so still a tad opaque, topped with roe. There’s intensely flavoured confit cherry tomatoes and a basil dressing. It’s the sort of dish that you’d happily have a larger portion of as a main course.

Next up, a roast sweetbread, crisp on the outside, soft and silky on the inside, topped with thinly sliced mushroom. A tarragon and caper dressing brings it together without being obtrusive. My companion in life has an aversion to sweetbreads so had asked if there could be an alternative. Yes, there can be. It comes from the vegetarian version of the menu and is described as a mushroom pillow – a large tortellino, filled with wild mushroom, served with the same dressing as the other dish. Both are lovely.

Cod forms the basis of a fish course. A spot-on bit of cooking which has the flesh falling apart in big flakes. A couple of mussels provide a bit of contrast. And there’s a tiny, crisp “cigar” filled with something smoky, salty and entirely delicious, even if I can’t recall what it was. A whey based broth is poured over by the server, with a spoon thoughtfully provided along with your knife and fork. You really wouldn’t want to miss any of it.

The final savoury course features guinea fowl breast. And they make a very flavoursome sausage out of the leg meat. There’s baby turnip helping your “five a day”. And a scattering of slices of very sharp fermented gooseberry, which I suspect not everyone thinks works with the mild flavour of the poultry (but I definitely do).

Dessert is perfect for high summer. Really sweet sliced strawberries contrasted with sharp yoghurt, made sharper by the citrus from yuzu and sorrel. Congratulations to the pasrty chef for getting the sweet/sour balance exactly right.

Coffee and petit fours are included in the £115 price tag and both are good.

Service has always been good at Northcote but was exemplary this time, in dealing with an issue. The party on the next table to us (two couples) were very loud. Not rowdy but all four of them just had those very loud voices, that intrude on everyone else around them, even when they were just having what, I’m sure, to them felt like a normal conversation. By our second course, it was really irritating – we couldnt properly hear each other speak – but heard every word of the other party. At one point, I actually removed my hearing aid as the noise was physically uncomfortable. We were just deciding whether or not to ask to be moved to another table or put up with it, when the sommelier came to us and asked if we were “OK here”. It was done without any fuss and, within seconds, we were reseated on the other side of the room (where you could actually still make out some of their conversation – yes, they were that loud). He, and his management colleague, were obviously aware of the noise and were alert to dealing with it. So, by their prompt action, our evening was rescued and, I suppose, there was no impact on the other table who I’m sure were completely unaware of the disruption they were causing.

It’s a rare occasion for us, even at Michelin level, to say that food was absolutely faultless. This was.


We were back last night. Not quite as good an experience as last time.

We first came to Northcote in 2009 and have been back, once or twice a year since then. And we’ve kept coming back in spite of small niggles in the past few visits. They say that first impressions are lasting impressions and it’d be the case that it’s the initial service in the bar that lets down your actual restaurant experience. In the past, we’ve felt it has taken overly long to order drinks, or overly long for drinks then to arrive. This time, it was about menus. They ask you to arrive 30 minutes before the time you reserved your table, so that drinks and food orders can be sorted. So we did and ordered drinks which arrived quickly. Now, you’d expect a menu to be offered at that point but, no, nothing happened for 30 minutes, by which point drinks had been drunk and we had to ask for the menu. It was then still a little while before it was brought. Now, it’s not as though they were short of staff in the bar. They weren’t. There were several folk there who were not busy and were clustered round the bar area chatting amongst themselves.

So, to the restaurant where service is always markedly more on the ball than the bar. And where they now serve a couple of snacks instead of serving them in the bar with your drinks. There’s a single bite beef tartare taco which was a clever idea. And, keeping to the restaurant’s firm Lancashire heritage, a single bite butter pie – lovely crisp pastry encasing potato. Bread is now served – their signature Lancashire cheese bread and an absolutely cracking sourdough.

And then the first of the five course “Seasonal Gourmet Menu”. There’s a celeriac custard, topped with a brown liquid which, I think, was flavoured with apple. Scattered on that were horseradish “pearls” – delicious in themselves but somewhat overpowering the rest of the dish.

Then a perfectly roasted veal sweetbread – crisp coating and meltingly soft on the inside. There’s a mushroom and tarragon puree which worked so well. And a scattering of mixed mushrooms. My partner has an aversion to sweetbreads, so hers was replaced with more mushrooms – in this case, some lovely hen of the woods, which is the version of the dish from the vegetarian menu.

The fish course featured wild turbot and you really can’t go wrong with turbot. It’s perfectly cooked and you’d really love to have a “proper” main course portion – but this is tasting menu portions and it’s only a couple of forkfuls. It’s sitting on a very savoury sauce that I think was flavoured with smoked bacon. And it’s topped with a tiny crisp “cigar, filled with a powerful smoked bacon mayo. And almond cream is drizzled around the plate by the server. My partner’s favourite dish of the evening.

Herdwick mutton is probably as northwestern as it gets with meat. There’s a thick slice of loin, topped with a mutton mousse with it all held together by an outer layer of an aspic like jelly. There’s onions which reminded me that, in the winter, my mother always made onion sauce to go with lamb, not switching to mint sauce till Easter. . There’s a lamb sauce and a drizzle of whey. It’s a dish that divided us. I found it really clever and enjoyable; my partner wasn’t so keen at all.

Dessert was a deconstructed Black Forest gateau. Deconstructed dishes have long been a feature of Northcote meals and they invariably work well. Here they’ve taken the elements of the 1970s classic Berni Inns dessert and reworked them. There’s a cherry cream encased in a crisp coating, to look like an actual cherry. There’s a dab of crème fraiche to represent the cream. And a chocolate tuile and, I think I recall, chocolate ice cream. It had the benefit of being sweet, but not overly so. These were all good individual flavours but even better when you’d mushed everything together a bit, so you got different elements on your spoon at the same time. Unusually for me, dessert was my favourite dish.

So, a nice if not perfect meal. It’s an hour’s drive for us and, of course, it’s not cheap at this level of restaurant, so niggles (or lack of niggles) are important. Will we be back? Yes, we will. But would we recommend Northcote to friends for, say, a special occasion. Well, I’m not sure we’d have the confidence that all would be well to do that.


That sounds like a lovely meal! I do know what you mean about first impressions though. There is quite a nice restaurant near where I stay in the summer where I have never had less than an excellent meal but they are so bizarrely bad at the greeting and seating routine - whether or not I have reservations and whether I am with friends or solo - that I just don’t eat there very often.


This may be my last Northcote review (see final para)

On our several previous visits to Northcote, over the years, we’ve always ordered the fixed five course “seasonal gourmet menu” – a mini tasting menu , for want of a better explanation. It’s always been a good bet but, this time, we decided to order from the “a la carte” menu, for a change. It’s much more substantial offering – a “proper” three course dinner. Or three and a half courses, as we shared a cheese selection.

They used to serve canapes in the bar area, along with aperitifs, but there’s now no nibbles with your drink. Instead, they are served in the dining room as a couple of snacks at the beginning of the meal. A two bite hash brown, made with beef fat, topped with beef tartare and a sprinkling of caviar, was one of the best things I put in my mouth all evening. The other was a delicately thin tart, filled with mushroom with a cheese topping. Then there’s the bread – always good here. Lovely crusty sourdough and their signature Lancashire cheese bread (and they brought a second serving after we’d wolfed down the first).

Veal sweetbreads were a star starter. Crisp coating, soft and unctuous inside. Alongside, a mushroom puree and a fermented shitake mushroom, introducing a bit of tang to the plate. A plate of beetroot – red, yellow and candied – was bang on for early autumn. The earthy sweetness of the veg enhanced with a kick from its traditional pairing with horseradish and pickled shallots.

The kitchen takes steak and chips and elevates it to Michelin level. Flavoursome fillet, accurately cooked as requested. Triple cooked chips were an object lesson for any aspiring chip fryer – crisp on the outside, fluffy inside. There’s a little mixed salad and a peppercorn sauce. Classic or what? For me, there’s a grouse “pie” (the quotes are in their menu description). It’s actually the puff pastry round pie that the French call a pithiver. Delicious puff pastry filled with grouse breast and, I think, a mousse made from its other bits… Also on the plate, a celeriac puree and a potato & turnip gratin, both working well. These a trickle of sauce and it could have done with more. It’s a substantial affair and I was glad I’d brought an appetite with me, as I enjoyed every mouthful.

Had we known how generous the servings were going to be, we might have passed on sharing a cheese course but we were glad we hadn’t. There’s an old school cheese trolley, with the server telling us what she had and helping with the selection. You get the option of five or seven cheeses – that’ll be the seven, of course, for us to share. We picked Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire, from just up the road in Goosnargh, Sparkenhoe Red Leicester, Old Winchester, Baron Bigod (perfectly ripe and runny), St James (a tangy ewe’s milk cheese, also from the northwest) and a couple of others I’ve forgotten. They come with crackers and bread. It’s a serving which just one of us might have struggled to finish.

Desserts were the least successful course. A blackcurrant crumble soufflé was lifted by crème fraiche ice cream but just needed a lot more fruit. The other plate was a delicate affair of dark and white chocolate, tangy blackcurrant sauce and a thin piece of rather plascticky liquorice draped across anything. Not a scrap was left but it wasn’t a dish to be in love with. We finished with good espresso and a couple of nice chocolates.

On our last couple or so visits, we’ve had niggles over the service. In the past, it’s been in the bar area – overly long waits for drinks, or menus to be offered. No problems there this time. But the service in the restaurant was slow, with the crockery from finished courses not being removed for ages, then further waits for the next course. We’d arrived at 7.15 for a 7.30 table and didn’t leave till 11. That really is a long time for dinner, even a nice relaxed one (especially when you also have an hour’s drive to get to/from Northcote)… It’s really not what you expect at this level of restaurant and, with continuing service issues, sadly I think we’ll have to reflect over a return visit


Shame about the service. Collecting crockery really is page 1 of the good service manual. Nearly 4 hours for a la carte! That’s long on a 10 course tasting menu. The food sounds good but great service and hospitality go a long way to make up for mediocre food. I have a lot harder time going back to a place where it’s the other way round.

Yeah, it’s a shame. The actual servers are always really pleasant and engaging - and Northcote has a strong policy of recruiting local young people and putting them through formal apprenticeships. NVQs and everything. It’s not as though the restaurant was overly busy and the crew were stretched. I reckon there’s something amiss in supervision.


It really is a shame because the food sounded wonderful.