A Downton Abbey Experience in the Country
Caroline Frost discovers Hidden Harewood
If the recent return to Downton Abbey has got you hankering after a taste of fine English fare, you can sneak yourself a taste of the real thing with this stunning offering in the Yorkshire countryside, Hidden Harewood.
Harewood House is already celebrated in these parts – a fine, square-cornered, enormous but elegant English country pile noted as one of the foremost historic homes in this country. The land covers 4,000 acres and, divertingly for soap fans, plays host to the village of Emmerdale. Scenes for the TV series ‘Victoria’ were shot here, and it was a location for the film version of ‘Downton Abbey’. All in all, it’s pretty special.
Now, the Lascelles family who have lived here ever since it was built 250 years ago, have teamed up with an award-winning local chef to put on a unique evening for guests, serving up very special food and wine in different locations around the estate, transporting them between venues on rustic farm transport. Turn off your phone and you really could be in long-gone high-society England.
Eddy Lascelles tells me: “We as a family have always been avid foodies and attended all sorts of pop-ups around London and Yorkshire. Some of these have been really inspiring as they were totally unlike any other dining experience we’d ever had. This is what gave us the idea of doing something along these lines at Harewood. Why don’t we have a multi-course, multi-location meal, made using produce sourced from the estate, taking in some of Harewood’s hidden corners?”
Is it truly ‘Hidden’? Indeed, because once we followed instructions to meet for pre-dinner drinks at the cricket pavilion in front of the main house, we really were in the hands of the owners and their staff – and they took us into the tiniest, often unvisited parts of the vast estate, something of particular fun for Eddy:
“We’ve use of all sorts of buildings and al fresco locations, such as old hunting lodges, converted stable blocks, follies, ancient woodland, old cottages, arch barns, bluebell woods, tunnels. We love using outdoor settings as we’re blessed with some stunning scenery here. It also connects people to the land that much of the produce they eat comes from.”
To be sure, once we left the cricket pavilion, I couldn’t tell you what part of the estate we were on, only that our first course was served up in an intimate garden lodge, before we were transported for the main course of the evening in… what they call a Pleasure Ground, but for me felt more like a Bedouin tent that had appeared magically in the middle of the woods, with a trail of lights leading to it like the romantic path in ‘The English Patient’. Absolutely beautiful!
The food is all prepared under the watchful eye of Josh Whitehead, Masterchef finalist no less, but more importantly a local lad with a culinary vision and determined that we feast from the land around us.
Eddy explains: “I feel extremely fortunate to have such a fantastic and talented young chef in Josh working here. When we first had the idea of Hidden Harewood, I spoke to several chefs about the idea, most of them thought I was mad and said that we’d never be able to pull it off.
“I first met Josh at the media launch party for Leeds Indie Food Festival, he was doing a pop-up as part of the festival and I remember seeing him on stage talking about serving a tobacco ice cream served on no smoking signs for a pop-up in a working men’s club in North Leeds. I loved his ideas and his knowledge and passion for food was incredible.”
Josh’s vision has created a menu that ranges from Aged Rabbit and Pork Pie with mustard to Yorkshire Chorizo. The starter speciality on our evening was Pane Carasau with Artichoke and Walnut Bagna Cauda. Our main course under the tent’s twinkle of candlelight included Red Deer, Shoulder, Lavage and Juniper Crema, followed by Pineapple, Smoked Cream and the surprising Burnt Lemon. Veggie options were also on offer, all washed down with a huge Gin Sour, or whatever else tickled your fancy.
Apart from the delicious food, one of the delights of the evening was the mixture of company around the table – couples and families of different ages from around this beautiful part of the country. For anyone coming from further afield – we were that evening’s drifters up from London – there is the option of adding an overnight stay in one of Harewood’s holiday cottages, original workers’ homes kitted out in spotless simplicity, with the smells of locally-sourced toiletries.
The highlight of the night for me was settling down by the fire pit afterwards, shooting the breeze with mellow strangers and finding one tiny space for a Mulberry Wood Ice Cream, plus one tiny Mulberry S’more (okay, two). With so much thought and attention put into creating such a perfect evening, even Downton’s Countess Dowager would have found plenty to keep her happy.
For more information, contact www.harewoodfoodanddrink.com