Doxford Hall is in the far north of the North East region, beyond Alnwick. Unlike the heavy Gothic of Rockliffe Hall or Matfen Hall, this is an elegant building, fit for any wedding.
It took a while to find the dining room: despite several requests, nobody wanted to guide us and noone took our coats. But the room – the drawing room – was attractive; by comparison, the regular restaurant, out of service for a function, was sombre.
Sure, the cooking was neither particularly imaginative nor cheap, at £40 for three courses without vegetables, but it was reliably executed by Paul Blakey, who used to be at Linden Hall.
Not everything worked. After an amuse-bouche of calves liver and an interesting choice of rustic bread rolls, we tried mackerel with mussels, chorizo and tomato (unsubtle but substantial), cauliflower soup (too much potato and pepper, with a pointless tiny scallop floating about) and asparagus with pea mousse (uninspiring but fresh).
But the main courses of lamb (a trio of rack, fillet and shoulder), beef (perfectly rare fillet), pork (succulent loin, and an excellent shoulder with black pudding), and black bream served on a very good smoked haddock risotto, all showed how it should be done.
Desserts were best avoided: mostly variations on a theme of mousse.