Return to the Manor
An elite brigade of chefs ‘returned to the manor’ for a night of celebration, excellent food and unrivalled memories, writes Northcote’s Craig Bancroft
Great milestones have been achieved over our 30 years and none more important to Nigel and myself than the development and growth of young talent that has become great in its own right – it is in the DNA of Northcote in so many ways. Seeing ‘Return to the Manor’ back on our calendar, after a number of years of absence, was something we were all anticipating with great enthusiasm.
The atmosphere in the house the day before captured that special bond this team of chefs had. While not all had actually worked here at the same time as each other, everyone knew of each other and the achievements they had delivered over the years. The common thread of unity and sense of family was extraordinary.
Dinner the night before hosted by Nigel and I, was a trip down memory lane that showed how far these great guys had come and what stories they had to tell of that superb grounding – sometimes tough, sometimes challenging, always enlightening, and most of all, standards that were driven in at a young age and never forgotten – Northcote is very much part of them today.
The length of service spans a total of 33 years, a wealth of experience behind them – all to deliver a superb menu.
Canapés from the influences of The Yorke Arms from Michael Ward was delivered with aplomb, a challenge for Jason ‘Bruno’ Birkbeck with his reinvention of his dish that put fear into many a young commis – ‘Lancashire Delicacies’. It was a great idea, but one he was beginning to regret after making the 95th individual pie, just to please the audience with those old flavours, but it certainly hit the spot.
For the team there was much banter of how they all had fallen foul of those intricate tasks in a busy service when they were youngsters in a brigade working under a feisty Chef Haworth way back then.
Classical Brendan Fyldes with a foie gras that now is little used, reminding us of those deep classical roots, then simplicity itself from the older statesman Billy Reid whose scallops just typified the man – great ingredients just delivered for flavour, texture and the pleasure of the eat – they were top drawer!
‘Chrissy’ Simpson stepped up with a need for togetherness in the kitchen as Lisa drove through the service with an atmosphere that was very special – all comrades in arms from years past. Like an elected force picked to deliver this delicate dish, the depth and richness and the pure simplicity of Nathan Outlaw’s Head Chef just delivered.
Mark Birchall, who recently stepped down as Head Chef at L’Enclume to start his own venture in 2016, picked the most local of ingredients for which he has been flying that flag for years – Reggie’s ducks piling through the Northcote doors, homage to the great man of Goosnargh, such wonderful flavours and textures.
Kirk Haworth with the most years under his belt – eight in all – gave us that special cleansing dish of apple and blackberry, just on point, so seasonal, so refreshing and skilful – it was a triumph!
So to the finale, Dessert Opera, with gold leaf, rich and perfectly executed with the skills we would all expect to see from the talented Warwick Dodds – it brought a stunning evening to a close.
Finally Chef Haworth took to the stage to thank all those who had given us a great night. There was emotion in the air as he read out each dish, each special in its own way, and the memories of years’ past that they imparted to a very proud man. Nigel spoke of the great achievements of all of them, the superb dinner and the thanks to Lisa for organising and driving them to get a great service done.
They are an elite band of people with a common thread that gave us all a superb evening of entertainment. Please let’s not leave it too long to organise another so we can select another team of talented people from the Northcote family.
A Selection of 3 Canapés
Jason (Bruno) Birkbeck
Northcote’s Lancashire Delicacies
Cured Duck Liver, Spiced Pear Chutney
West Coast Scallops Vierge, Extra Virgin
Olive Oil, Coriander & Heirloom Tomatoes
Gurnard & Porthilly Sauce
Reg’s Duck Breast & Leg with Elderberry
Vinegar, Beetroot & Sweetcorn
Yoghurt Mousse, Blackberry & Apple
Opera, Gold Leaf, Pistachio Ice Cream