Northcote’s Lisa Allen is looking forward to a Lancashire Christmas
PUBLISHED: 09:51 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 09:51 05 December 2016
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Dining decadence and festive flavours are on the menu for Lisa Goodwin-Allen this Christmas, as Emma Mayoh discovered.
Around this time of year you’d forgive most chefs for breaking into a panic as they brace themselves for the onslaught of Christmas. But at Northcote, Lancashire’s Michelin starred restaurant in Langho, not a bit of it. It’s not because it won’t be busy – quite the contrary. But they have got it down to a fine art. Its success – although she insists it’s a team effort - is down to the expert guidance of Lisa Goodwin-Allen, the restaurant and hotel’s executive head chef.
But the 35-year-old, who lives in Clitheroe with husband Steve and two-year-old Teddy-Ray, doesn’t rule the impressive Northcote kitchen with an iron rod. It’s all about fun.
‘Christmas is a crazy time of year. It’s pretty mental,’ she said. ‘It might be private dinner parties, functions, hotel guests or lunch and dinner service. The flow in the kitchen is so constant.
‘But it’s also a time where we get to show off our best producers. And we love it. If you’re in control and you’re organised, which we are, then Christmas is a great thing. I want everyone to enjoy it. I want the team to come in here with a spirit of Christmas and I want them to be feeling good about it.’
There’s now a 30-stong brigade to help Lisa deliver during the festive period. But planning starts months ahead. Experimenting with food and creating new menus, new dishes and doing taste tests with chef patron Nigel Haworth and managing director Craig Bancroft play a big part of it. While turkey takes centre stage on Christmas Day – or if requested for private dining events – the rest of the festivities in the lead up to December 25th are dedicated to seasonal flavours. The dishes push the boundaries of what you’d expect from festive food and steer away from the traditional.
‘We are trying to create something really quite special,’ said Lisa. ‘We still want to do those British classics using seasonal produce and all those fabulous festive flavours.
‘It’s about how best to use the seasonal produce and treat it with respect. It’s an exciting time for us and we want it to be an exciting experience for people who come here. There is so much produce we want to be able to create something special and something different.’
Suppliers like cauliflower and beetroot grower – and recent Lancashire Life Food & Drink award recipient - Peter Ascroft, as well as Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses and Johnson and Swarbrick in Goosnargh take centre stage. Northcote’s Christmas pudding is also made using a recipe devised by Craig Bancroft’s grandmother.
‘We are so lucky to have such brilliant producers in Lancashire who treat the food they produce with respect,’ said Lisa, who’s been in the Northcote kitchen for 14 years. ‘It would be very wrong of us not to do the same. As a young chef I was taught that respect and I pass that on to others now.
‘This is our chance to let that produce shine by being creative, inventive and by presenting our diners with something they’re not going to expect, something that’s going to have an impact when it’s set in front of them. What we always want to do is surprise people with their food. For example we do a yule log, but we do it differently. We’re always striving for that something that’s a little bit different.
‘We do turkey on Christmas Day but we’ll also have amazing cured hams, we’ll infuse foods with lots of different flavours. We do a smoked pheasant crunch which is incredible and a treacle cured salmon. It’s so much fun. I love coming up with the menu.’
After more than a month of impressing diners at Northcote, come Christmas Day, it will be son Teddy-Ray and husband Steven she’ll want to impress.
‘Teddy-Ray is a boy who likes his food,’ said Lisa. ‘He’s a good boy. In fact, I’ve always given him what we eat. He’d sit there chomping on a duck leg once he was old enough for solid food.
‘I’m really looking forward to Christmas with him. All of my family will get together to have food at some point. But we’ll definitely have a traditional Christmas dinner. It’s something I tend to save for that one occasion and we’ll really enjoy it, I’m sure.
‘Christmas is an exciting time and it’s only going to get more exciting. I can’t wait.’