A sneak peak of Northcote’s multi-million pound makeover
PUBLISHED: 09:24 15 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:17 19 January 2016
A multi-million pound investment has tranformed Lancashire’s Michelin-starred hotel and restaurant, writes Roger Borrell
Most chefs pick up a few souvenirs during their careers but there aren’t many that can boast a bent fork in a picture frame. It hangs on the wall of Lisa Allen’s office at Northcote, where she is head chef of the Michelin-starred restaurant.
For Lisa, who appeared before millions on BBC’s Great British Menu, it represents the start of a new chapter at Northcote.
The former Lancashire Life Chef of the Year explains that the fork was an important tool in the old kitchen at Northcote. Each day it was jammed into the side of a piece of culinary kit to help it splutter into life. It’s a reminder of a happy past in the kitchen where Nigel Haworth achieved great things and where Lisa continues to lead the way in fine dining excellence.
‘It was a robust, hard kitchen that paid its dues,’ she said, a little wistfully. ‘It got battered and bashed but it never let us down.’ Its replacement is big and bold. It gleams like the kitchen on a luxury liner and there’s no disguising the pride in her face when Lisa gives you the grand tour.
There are many bells and whistles - it even has its own chocolate room for keeping confectionary in prime condition.
It’s a testament to Lisa and the 17-strong kitchen team that they never missed a beat when they were banished to a makeshift kitchen in the car-park for five months while the massive refit took place.
It is now back to being the beating heart of Northcote, but the refurbishment of Lancashire’s most high-profile hotel has gone far beyond the kitchen. It has been extensive and expensive, running into millions.
The cramped old bar area has been replaced with an upmarket cocktail lounge with 20 different brands of gin and a dozen vodkas.
It’s smart and sophisticated and the colour scheme – there’s a liberal splash of fuchsia – took a few by surprise. But what has really delighted is its sudden popularity. It has been a real hit with customers.
The Arts & Crafts style of Northcote has been retained but this is now a country house hotel with a contemporary edge.
It isn’t going to frighten the regulars - some of them have been eating here every week for 30 years - but it might well entice a new generation of food-lovers across the ornate threshhold.
There’s a new Chef’s Table with big glass partitions into the kitchen allowing groups to watch the theatre of creating Michelin-star meals. During the daytime this section doubles up as Northcote’s new cookery school.
They’ve also built the Louis Roederer Private Dining Rooms which have their own entrance with wrought iron railings in the shape of champagne bottles and a garden area for al fresco entertaining. This new wing can be sectioned off or opened up to provide 60 places for special occasions.
Northcote’s main restaurant has also changed although they’ve resisted the temptation of packing tables into this light-filled room.
Instead, they’ve created a relaxed, stylish and comfortable room. At its centre is a striking chandelier of steel and glass icicles, the seating includes deep banquettes and the wallcoverings are muted shades in silk.
Upstairs, four new bedrooms have been added to the 14 and a further eight will be ready early next year.
These are luxury suites with designer fittings and furnishing in distinctive colours. The bathrooms have rain showers and quality granite tops.
But it’s not just the guests who have top class facilities. Northcote recognises that a rural-based business has to work hard to retain quality staff.
They’ve gone to extraordinary lengths to achieve this, creating a modern staff lounge, a dining room, bedrooms and a study area with computers where the team can spend time developing their knowledge.
Craig Bancroft is co-founder and a partner to Nigel Haworth in a business which has diversified into the Ribble Valley Inns chain. It has now expanded into Cheshire and the business has the backing of former Blackburn Rovers director Richard Matthewman.
Craig said the brief for the Northcote renovation and expansion had been to create an ‘oasis of food and wine excellence’ with genuine service and hospitality. ‘Genuine is important,’ he said. ‘We don’t want it forced or contrived.’
He describes Nigel as a culinary ‘grand master’ who has not abandoned the kitchen. ‘He is still cooking,’ he stressed.
‘My personal goal is to get that second Michelin star and I won’t rest until we have it. I personally believe it’s an injustice that Nigel hasn’t got a second already.
‘We want to keep showing the world that a sleepy part of Lancashire is still punching well above its weight.’