Post Updated June 2019
Having had a lovely experience at The Brasserie at Dunston Hall in 2013, Lucy and The Chap make a return visit to find out what’s changed and road test the Sunday lunch menu
It was one of those rare, scorching-hot summer days when we pulled up at Dunston Hall and the grounds were crawling with classic car enthusiasts. While they compared notes on their vintage Moggies, we pulled into a small overflow car park and complained about the heat. Thankfully there was lots of space and not too much further too walk!
Ambling up the drive to Dunston Hall’s entrance, I was reminded how large and imposing it is. The mock Gothic, red-brick exterior is grand and not a little ornate. It’s easy to see why so many people choose to get married here!
Inside, little has changed since my last visit. The dark panelled walls and soft carpet remain the same as ever, dulling the noise from outside. In fact, in spite of how busy it was outside, we didn’t see a single soul as we made our way from reception to The Brasserie.
Once through the doors, I was transported back to 2013.
The Brasserie is a vast, modern extension to Dunston Hall and is used to serve breakfast to hotel guests. The décor, which has a distinct 1990’s vibe, has remained unchanged in the six years since my last visit, which was a little surprising.
Again, apart from the pop music over the sound system, it was disturbingly quiet in The Brasserie. There were only three tables occupied when we arrived, which felt odd for a Sunday afternoon.
We were shown to a small table near an open door, so we could feel the benefit of a breeze and were left to explore the menu.
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The Brasserie Menu
As before, The Brasserie menu remains a limited affair. While I often find this reassuring, as a recent convert to vegetarianism, this wasn’t one of those times.
If I didn’t eat fish, my choices would have been limited to one dish on the starter menu and one dish on the mains.
I opted for the roasted red pepper to start, with figs, pine nuts and rocket. And again, I found myself disappointed.
The main problem was that the peppers appeared to be unroasted. The dish was made up of sliced, cold, crisp bell pepper.
The dish was also very sweet. There was nothing to balance the sweetness of the figs, peppers and balsamic glaze. It could have done with some shavings of Parmesan to provide a counter-point to the main flavours.
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The Chap’s fishcake wasn’t much better. Presented ungarnished, it looked underwhelming. And when he sliced into it, we discovered that it was mostly mashed potato, with very little fish. The tartare sauce was also lacking any zing to brighten the dish.
I’m pleased to say that my pan-fried salmon was much better than my starter. In fact, the fish was cooked perfectly. The flakes were moist and fresh, while the skin was crispy and well seasoned.
Alas, The Chap’s roast beef was disappointing. The slices were thin and fatty, making them difficult to chew. Plus, it appeared to have been sitting in gravy for a while.
The sides weren’t much better. The roast potatoes were hard in the middle while the cabbage was overcooked and soggy. Thankfully the cauliflower cheese was on good form and we made up for it with that.
To be honest, two courses was enough for me, but The Chap ordered a treacle tart to sate his sweet tooth.
But what came out wasn’t like any treacle tart we have ever eaten. It appeared to be topped with stewed apple and tasted tart, rather than sweet. The texture was more like custard than treacle too.
Even the waiting staff seemed confused and didn’t know what it was. It was all very odd.
The Brasserie at Dunston Hall: In summary
Ultimately, this experience at The Brasserie wasn’t as positive as the last one.
The food wasn’t great and the atmosphere was lacking. However, I will say that the meal was well paced and the staff were very pleasant, even if they weren’t sure what the dessert was.
There was plenty of parking and it’s easily accessible, which are great benefits.