Stoke Rochford Hall, Stoke Rochford
Caroline Bingham enjoyed the elegant surroundings and traditional English cuisine of Stoke Rochford Hall for Sunday lunch.
The view of Stoke Rochford Hall is breathtaking when you turn the last corner of the drive and its magnificent frontage, chimneys and clock face you. This Victorian country mansion offers one of the most impressive surroundings in the county in which to dine and the interior, fully restored after the fire of 2005, is just as grand as the exterior.
We were given a very warm welcome and shown to the bar where there was already a buzz of conversation from other diners gathering for lunch. There were several small groups and also a large party who had come for a family celebration. Stoke Rochford Hall is an ideal venue for such events. There is ample parking, your guests cannot help but admire the setting and there is never the feeling that you are crowded or hurried as you move from bar to dining room and finally to the Grand Hall for coffee.
The Sunday luncheon menu is a fixed price, three course meal and we looked through the menu as we sipped our drinks in the bar. The choice of starters included cream of leek and potato soup, Yorkshire pudding topped with melted Stilton cheese served with rich red wine and onion gravy and smoked salmon and prawn terrine but we both decided to opt for the selection of hors d’oeuvres from the trolley which was wheeled to our table in the library. I love selecting from trolleys – hors d’oeuvres, breads, desserts, roasts, cheeses or flambé at your table; I have lost count of the courses I have had served this way over the years but it always reminds me of being taken out for special celebration meals when I was younger. I enjoy this bit of restaurant theatre and building a plate of food of your own composition. The elegant mahogany trolley offered eight different choices. I chose duo of melon, minted chicken, prawns and smoked salmon while my companion limited herself to the melon and smoked salmon. All were a very delicious and light start to our meal.
For our main course my fellow diner chose traditional roast beef while I looked forward to darne of salmon served with a rich lobster and shellfish bisque, garnished with steamed mussels. Other roasts that day were pork or lamb or I could have chosen pan fried breast of chicken wrapped in smoked bacon or a goat’s cheese and Mediterranean vegetable tartlet. A large dish of seasonal fresh vegetables and potatoes were served alongside. This was a grand way to spend a Sunday lunchtime and wintery sunshine beamed down on us through the elegant, tall windows of the library as we ate. The gardens had yet to show any sign of spring but they are inviting for a walk around any time of the year, before or after your meal.
Neither of us could resist a dessert and while the cheese would be served from a trolley, our desserts were plated. More difficult choices had to be made. Would it be the carrot cake, fruit salad, sherry trifle, baked vanilla cheesecake or hot chocolate orange brioche bread and butter pudding? All very delicious I am sure but we both finally chose strawberry shortcake which was beautifully presented and rounded off a very satisfactory lunch. We retired to the Grand Hall where I enjoyed a cup of coffee and chocolate mints.
I must mention the staff who looked after us during our visit. Everyone was so welcoming and attentive. Senior managers supervise quite a young team of waiters and bar staff but they demonstrate a great level of skill and service, especially while plating our hors d’oeuvres from the trolley, while being friendly yet professional as well.
I can understand why Stoke Rochford Hall is a popular wedding and conference venue and it is a hidden gem for Sunday lunch. Situated immediately off the A1 just north of Colsterworth, the Hall is not named except for a sign to Stoke Rochford village itself but it is well worth the discovering. Priced at £18.95 per person, the three courses offer not only excellent value for a traditional Sunday lunch but also the chance to enjoy magnificent surroundings and service; enough to make us believe we had been to the manor born for at least a Sunday afternoon.