Northcote Manor hotel, near Blackburn is a lovely surprise. Country House makes it sound posh and pretentious; it’s not. It’s a small privately run hotel in an unfashionable part of Lancashire, set in beautiful countryside.
Walk in on a cold winter’s day, just before Christmas, and you will be greeted with a brightly lit log fire, comfy sofas and armchairs, a skilfully decorated Christmas tree and people enjoying themselves. A party of older women tucking into a fabulous-looking cream tea, a trio of business suits having coffee after lunch, an elderly couple doing a crossword and a journalist and her partner gawping at everyone.
Our spacious room was furnished with a few older pieces of furniture, including an enormous wardrobe. These items are now too big for most homes, so they are put in hotel bedrooms and called antiques. The large bed was very comfortable, however and the bathroom was well appointed and filled with Molton Brown toiletries.
Dinner was exceptionally good. I eat out a great deal and find that food in hotels is often a let down, but here it is the bee’s knees. We had the five course gourmet spread which includes a half bottle of champagne. After this leisurely feast, we plonked ourselves in front of the aforementioned roaring fire to enjoy delicious home made petit fours and excellent coffee.
Breakfast is a meal often seen as either unimportant or something a less experienced chef can manage. As a result I have suffered years of truly bad breakfasts. So my expectation was perhaps just off the floor. It needn’t have been. The room itself felt a bit cold; with the curtains closed and different lighting it had a cosy feel the evening before. Hushed, library-like whispers of other guests added further to this odd ambience. But the breakfast itself was really good. My tea was fresh, the toast was warm, and my eggs were gorgeous.
The whole enterprise is master-minded by Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft. Nigel arrived as head chef in 1984 and became joint MD five years later. Lisa Allen is currently head chef. I wish they would all move down south.
Northcote Road, Billington , Blackburn, UK
Contact tel: +44 1254 240555, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost standard double room: ££££
Northcote Manor hotel, near Blackburn