No Ordinary Afternoon NovelTEA at Lumley Castle

Everyone loves a bit of luxury in their lives right? especially if it comes with an affordable price and that’s exactly what’s on offer at Lumley Castle Hotel in the form of their recently launched No Ordinary NOVELTEA – a delightful Afternoon Tea with a difference!

Afternoon tea has been one of the most popular dining experiences of the past few years and doesn’t appear to be losing it’s popularity, as even the most humble of cafes now seem to offer a version of this traditional British fayre. However, I love the decadence of taking afternoon tea in a sumptuous setting and they don’t come much more inviting than the grand rooms of Lumley Castle Hotel, where a few years ago I enjoyed the what I’d describe as my favourite afternoon tea experience, and I’ve sampled a fair few! So imagine how delighted I was to be invited to preview their latest afternoon tea experience – No Ordinary NOVELTEA – which sees the traditional sweet and savoury treats served up with alcoholic tea!…yes, you did read that right, alcoholic tea!

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Lumley Castle have teamed up with the founders of NOVELTEA, an alcoholic tea product, to offer a new afternoon tea experience to their customers. As explained by Claire Mitchell, Sales Director at Lumley Castle ‘afternoon tea has always been very popular here at the castle and as soon as we tried the NOVELTEA products we knew our customers would love them’.

Lumley Castle boasts an enviable elevated position over looking the Durham countyside whilst being easily accessed thanks to its proximity to good transport links including the A1 motorway and rail links of nearby Chester-le-Street. Approaching the imposing 600 year old Castle by car is always a thrill as it appears from the dappled cover of the tree lined driveway and the interior is even more impressive. It really is a step back in time and even after visiting the hotel several times, including a stay in one of the beautiful castle rooms, I’m always enthralled by it’s historic grandeur and it’s easy to understand why they brand themselves a No Ordinary Hotel.

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Afternoon tea was being served in the Garter state room. Described on the hotel website as ‘the largest and most ornate of our State rooms’ it was very grand but with a serene air. I attended the event with my Husband Ron and we were met with a glass of chilled prosecco or soft drink on arrival and invited to sit at any of the large circular tables, which were simply decorated in white with ornate candelabras as a focal point. The soft glow of real candles, which is a rarity these days, was lovely.

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As the tables filled up with guests we were given an over view of the partnership between Lumley Castle and the founders of NOVELTEA from both Claire Mitchell, Sales Director at Lumley Castle and NOVELTEA creators Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passia.

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Claire Mitchell, Sales Director at Lumley raising a glass with NOVELTEA founders Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passia

These two ‘Geordies by Choice’ are Newcastle University graduates who hail from Cologne in Germany. Having now settled in the North East, their observations of popular culture gave them the idea of combining the Brits love of tea and craft spirits to create Noveltea. The pair have infused selected teas and popular spirits to brilliant effect to create two very appealing drinks: ‘The Tale of Tangier’ inspired by the ceremonial tea culture of Tangier and ‘The Tale of Earl Grey’ which celebrates Earl Charles Grey and the history of this famous tea blend. These drinks with a difference have come to the attendtion of trendy bars and 5 Star establishments and can be found in many Artisan Food Halls including Fenwicks department store in Newcastle.

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NOVELTEA founders Vincent Efferoth and Lukas Passia

It was now time for the main event of No Ordinary NOVELTEA and I must admit to being a bit disappointed to find that for this event it was presented buffet style, instead of being served at the table in the traditional way. I can understand that it may not have been the most practical way for the organisers to deliver this event considering the number of guests however, I felt it would have been better to experience the afternoon tea as it will be served to customers.

That observation aside, the selection of fayre on offer looked delicious and consisted of the following treats:

Assorted Finger Sandwiches Ham & Dijon Mustard; Poached Salmon, Cream Cheese & Cucumber; Cheese Savoury with Vine Tomato; Roast Beef & Rocket with Red Onion Marmalade

Scones Fruit Scone served with Butter, Fruit Jam and local Clotted Cream

Cake Selection Nutmeg Egg Custard Tart; Chocolate Caramel Cupcake; Blueberry & Lemon Cake with Lemon Icing; Rhubarb, Raspberry & White Chocolate Fool; Strawberry Macaroon with White Chocolate Ganache

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Taking our seats to enjoy our selection, whilst listening to the lovely voice of live singer and musician Jessica Avison, it was time to sample our Novetea tipples!

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Jessica Avison

Now I’ll admit I’m not really a ‘traditional’ tea drinker with my preference being coffee or a glass of something sparking to accompany my afternoon teas, so I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised! These two alcoholic teas were both tasty and refreshing, we tried ours served over ice, though you can have them served hot too which I think would be equally delicious, especially if enjoyed in front of the open fire in the Library bar!

The Tale of Tangier

A blend of Moroccan green mint tea and rum which when sipped reveals hints of exotic fruit and citrus flavours.

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The Tale of Earl Grey

A bergamot infused black tea and gin delivering a smooth, distinctive drink, thanks to it’s infusion of hand selected botanicals.

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Personally The Tale of Tangier was my favourite but being a rum drinker that wasn’t a surprise!

The drinks service to our table was quietly efficient but it would have been nice to experience the full service a customer would receive. With that in mind I can only reflect on my previous experience when I can honestly say the service, setting (Library bar) and afternoon tea itself was faultless and I’d like to think that remains the same.

Claire and the team at Lumley Castle certainly seem to have their finger on the pulse of what their customers will enjoy which goes a long way to explain why Lumley Castle has remained a popular venue for many years. They offer a wide range of entertainment options from the immensly popular Elizabethan Banquets (we enjoyed this for Ron’s 40th Birthday) to hosting special celebrations to weddings. Lumley Castle is certainly a spectacular setting for a wedding and offers Wedding Packages starting from only £2500!

If you’d like to experience the luxury of a No Ordinary NOVELTEA in the fabulous setting of he Library Room or Black Knight Restaurant* the afternoon tea will be priced at £23.95 per person, based on 2 people sharing and will be served with a small bottle of either the Tale of Earl Grey or Tale of Tangier.

Have you enjoyed the No Ordinary NOVELTEA or another of the afternoon teas at Lumley Castle? I’d love the hear about your experience. Or perhaps reading this has tempted you to try it, let me know about your plans to visit! if you’ve tried the NOVELTEA drinks, tell me your favourite!

Thanks for reading and bye for now

June xx

*On busier occasions this may also be served in one of the State Rooms.

**I recieved food and drinks as described for me and a guest in exchange for an honest review.

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Warden Hill Circular Walk, Northumberland

In the beautiful Northumberland National Park

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Trying to keep my balance in the wind atop Warden Hill

I always knew I was lucky to grow up in Northumberland, hailing from a mining town near the beautiful coast. What I didn’t realise in my younger years was just how much there was to discover in this beautiful county, especially in the countryside and that is how, in my 5th decade, I’m still finding new and delightful areas to explore.

Last year I was lucky enough to enjoy a tour of Northumberland National Park with my local Travel Massive group (a group of like minded travel enthusiasts) and it reignited my love for my home county. I now return to explore more regularly, especially on foot, making a point to visit previously unseen areas as I did today.

My walking partner was or rather, always is, my husband Ron and our destination on this occasion was the village of Warden near Hexham. I’d read a lovely write up about this area and a quick internet search brought up this 6km/3.5 mile circular walk. As luck has it, the walk actually started from the delightful Boatside Inn which we had visited and enjoyed before. This obviously was meant to be so and we decided to book for Sunday Lunch at the end of the walk! and off we set.

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As we’d made reservations for Sunday Lunch we parked at the Boatside Inn and set off on the walk described in the literature as ‘This pleasant walk involves a steady climb up to Warden Hill where you will get a panoramic view of south-west Northumberland’ with a walking time of approx. 2 hours.

This sign posted track began about 70m from the Inn where we walked parallel to the Newcastle to Carlisle railway line for a short while. Luck was on our side this day and with the sun shining we were able to appreciate the landscape unfolding before our eyes. The wind didn’t bother us too much either as we we’re sheltered by the trees, although a few low swaying tree branches relieved me of my hat on three occasions!

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The walk is straighforward to navigate with several finger posts and waymarks. I used a photosnap of the map and directions on my mobile phone as opposed to a printed map. The walk comprises tracks, pasture and tarmac roads. The tracks were fairly muddy in part but that can be expected this time of year as the ground hasn’t had time to dry out. You’d need to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for this walk.

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The Newcastle to Carlisle railway line winds through the landscape toward Fourstones

You are taken on a steady climb with views across to the village of Fourstones and the river Tyne. At every turn another lovely scene opened up including a couple of rainbows, even though it hadn’t rained! We mused about how the landscape must have looked to those who lived here in centuries gone by. Small worked flints have been found along one of the tracks which date back around 10,000 years!

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View toward Fourstones and the river Tyne

It really is such a pleasure to walk in this area. It’s so beautiful and peaceful. I would think it is normally quiet but the wind was whipping up quite a bit as we got higher. We only passed one other person along the way and there were no livestock in the fields we crossed until we reached Warden Hill which was dotted with sheep.

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Rainbow without the rain! viewed from Warden Hill
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Stunning blue skies and panoraminc views from Warden Hill (an Iron age Hill Fort)

The views that met us when we reached Warden Hill made the walk totally worthwhile. The term ‘Big Sky’ really applies here as you slowly turn 360 degrees to take in the stunning views…Wow! and as the countryside of south east Northumberland stretched out for miles I was acutely aware of the history beneath my feet as I was standing on the site of an Iron Age hill fort. Coming back downhill we spotted something more ‘gruesomely’ recent in the form of an animal skull and bone, possibly a sheep, which had us wondering about its demise!

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From Warden Hill the walk took us through the quaint village of High Warden with it’s handful of stone houses and random beds of snowdrops. A tarmac road meandered downward, ultimately leading us back to the Boatside Inn and the promise of a hearty meal. To that end we weren’t disappointed and we both enjoyed a roast beef dinner with probably the biggest yorkshire pudding I’ve ever seen!  So although this isn’t a review of the Inn I would still recommend it as a great place to eat.

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Ron and I found this walk to be really enjoyable despite the muddy tracks being tricky to negotiate in parts, we just had to take a bit more time and care…and hold onto a few branches at times!

I hope our experience has inspired you to enjoy walks in Northumberland and the National Park area. I’ve only shared a snap shot of this walk in photos as I don’t want to spoil it for you! I love reading your comments so if you’ve already tried this walk or have a favourite walk in this area I’d like to hear about it.

You can view the map and information for this walk here and read the highlights of my tour of Northumberland National Park here.

Thanks for reading. Bye for now, June xx

 

 

 

Vallum Farm – Festive Fridays Menu Review

Yes…at last! I finally made it to Vallum Farm in Northumberland, after a planned visit was foiled by me leaving my back pack in one of the visitor centres along Hadrian’s Wall. A one hour around trip to retrieve it meant Ron and I, sadly, ran out of time.

Vallum Farm Tearoom and Restaurant had been on my radar for a while due to all the good reports I’d heard, oh and did I mention I LOVE Christmas too! so you can imagine how thrilled I was to be invited along to preview their new Festive Fridays Menu in the surroundings of the fabulous new Chefs Room.

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Although known by many as Vallum Farm, the impressive facilities on offer have grown so much over the last 12 years that the venue is now known simply as Vallum – The Foodie Gateway to Hadrian’s Wall. Owners Peter and Vicky Moffitt bring you a welcoming, award winning Tea Room and first floor Restaurant with expansive countryside views, a Patisserie & Deli, an Ice Cream Parlour and a of course the Chefs Room, our venue to experience the delights of the Festive Fridays Menu…and my goodness, what a delight it was!

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I was one of a group of bloggers invited along and on my arrival, I was met with a friendly welcome by Nick Smith, Vallum’s Restaurant and Events manager, before being escorted into the wonderful setting of the Chefs Room and what a perfect setting it was! The room is beautifully rustic and befitting of the Christmas fayre to be sampled, it was decorated in a cosy, festive style.

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As I took the opportunity to take some photographs my fellow bloggers started to arrive and it was evident from the broad smiles, oohs and ahhs, that they were as impressed with the Chef’s Room as me.

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We were asked if we’d like to try one of the two new cocktails created to compliment the Festive Friday’s menu: Blackberry Bramble – a blend of gin, Chambord, blackberry juice and ginger ale with a blackberry and mint garnish; and Winter Crumble – a blend of martini bianco, apple juice, ginger ale and Mama Buci honey. Being a Martini Bianco fan I opted for the latter and I found it refreshingly tasty, so much so, that I’ve since bought some ginger ale to recreate my own!

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Nick then joined us to give an overview of the Restaurant and Chefs Room. Here, the ethos is to provide visitors with exceptional heart-warming dishes using only the finest ingredients from their own site including seasonal produce from the kitchen garden, or sourced from local artisans. For example, their fresh eggs come from Ian, just up the road from Vallum. The Chefs Room aims to provide an informal, relaxed atmosphere, with many dishes served on sharing boards. The room is available for casual dining and can also be hired for events, special occasions and weddings. The head chef and team are also happy to create a bespoke menu for your event.

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I was enjoying a lovely chat with the other guests when, what can be only be described as a procession of tasty treats began to appear from the kitchen, all beautifully presented on rustic wooden platters. This was the taster board from the menu which included shots of Vallum Kitchen garden celeriac soup; House smoked salmon blini’s; Ingoe scotch egg with black pudding and plum ketchup and crispy rabbit rillette with Anne’s apple chutney. I can honestly say I enjoyed each bite sized morsel of loveliness, with the scotch eggs being as far from the shop bought type that you could imagine…absolutely melt in the mouth yummy! and the celeriac soup far exceeded my taste expectations. I know for sure that Ron would have loved the rabbit rillettes which were oh so moreish.

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During our tasting we were joined by Vicky who was happy to answer any questions about the menu. Her enthusiasm and passion for delivering great food and a fantastic experience for visitors is evident and it was a pleasure listening to her explaining how Vallum has developed, local suppliers, the kitchen garden and plans for the future including making their own ice cream (once Rose the cow is joined by her soon to be born calf in December). She also explained about Vallum’s latest collaboration with Mama Buci honey, a project, endorsed by ambassador Bear Grylls,  which helps to improve the quality of life of communities in Zambia through beekeeping. To find out more about this inspirational project, click in the link above. The honey is available to purchase in the Deli.

Just as we were all exchanging nods of agreement with each tasty mouthful the kitchen doors opened again and the tables were filled with the main offering of Braised Beef, mashed potato and horseradish dumplings. At this point we all sat down and it all began to feel even more like a big family Christmas dinner. A harvest of fresh from the kitchen garden vegetables accompanied our meal and included carrots and kale.

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Even though braised beef isn’t always my first choice, I can honestly say this was melt in your mouth tasty as was the gravy and probably the best I’ve had the pleasure of tasting in a long time. The vegetables were ever so tasty too, which reflected the fact they are home grown. At this point I was starting to feel full when even more festive fayre was bestowed upon us in the form of platters filled with turkey, ham, pigs in blankets (mini sausages wrapped in bacon), stuffing, bread sauce and roast potatoes. Well, as I said, I was just ‘starting’ to feel full, so I managed to find room for one of my all-time favourites, roast potatoes, which I’m delighted to say didn’t disappoint and I managed to enjoy a little try of the other moreish morsels.

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There are also vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu and of those, I sampled the delicious homemade sunflower loaf and roast potatoes.

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Now came the only time I was disappointed in the whole day – disappointed as I had to leave early (pre-arranged grandkids school run) and miss the rest of this wonderful Vallum experience!

As Vallum had so far provided me with a wonderful array of irresistible dishes, of which I had enjoyed everything, I, and my waistline, was starting to think it was probably just as well that I wasn’t going to be around for dessert! (a moment on the lips…as the saying goes) But oh no, Vallum’s wonderful hospitality was not going to see me leave empty handed and within minutes I was offered a ‘doggy bag’ (well, box) containing Christmas Pudding and Brandy Sauce (another favourite), Chocolate Delice and Poached pear with Stem Ginger Ice Cream!! so you can guess what I had for my supper. Well, I had to share it with Ron, but that just meant double thumbs up for the Festive Fridays desserts too!

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Vallum’s Christmas Pudding (image courtesy of Mandy Charlton Photography)
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Vallum’s Chocolate Delice (image courtesy of Mandy Charlton Photography)

I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Vallum and although I didn’t get to stay and meet Rose the dairy cow (who is expecting a calf in December) or view the event Marquee, it means I have another reason apart from the fabulous food, to return soon. The quality of food, great hospitality and friendliness of the team at Vallum make for a great combination. They delivered an exceptional experience that I feel makes them deserving of the tagline ‘the foodie gateway to Hadrian’s Wall’

Vallum’s position on the Military Road, East Wallhouses means it is well placed not only for visitors to Hadrian’s Wall but those visiting Northumberland National Park, the Metro Centre, travelling through Northumberland or just seeking a venue that serves fantastic food.

The Festive Friday Menu is available in the Restaurant and Chefs Room during December on 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd 6pm – 9pm. I’d advise booking early to avoid disappointment. You can also enjoy Sunday Lunch in the restaurant between 12pm – 4pm.

I travelled to Vallum by car and from Sunderland. My journey at midday took only 35 minutes and just slightly longer on my return mid-afternoon, not far to experience food at its home produced best.

Have you visited Vallum? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading and bye for now.

June xx

*My meal and drinks were complimentary in exchange for an honest review.