Forge at Middleton Lodge review | A fine dining experience like no other
Forge at Middleton Lodge Review by Lucinda Hurst
Innovation and dedication, the new sustainable dining experience at Middleton Lodge Estate
On the edge of the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales lies Middleton Lodge, a privately-owned estate which has been brought back to life by the Allison family. The complete restoration of this Georgian beauty has been carefully thought through, detail by detail, creating a rural escape where residents can eat, gather and pause.
In February, the estate opened its second restaurant, Forge, which offers a fine dining tasting experience like no other.
From ‘Estate to Plate’
Forge at Middleton Lodge brings a new dining experience to the estate, who already has a noted Coach House restaurant. Both restaurants are similar in their efforts towards sustainability, with an estate-to-plate ethos; taking inspiration from the produce that grows with the seasons in the estate’s 2-acre walled kitchen garden and those ingredients sourced by local farmers and artisan makers. Unlike Forge, the Coach House is open seven days a week, serving hearty plates that are robust and ever-changing. Ross Forder is the head chef here and uses his creativity and passion to develop recipes rooted in the land. It’s a place to gather and feast, somewhere you can spend the day.
Bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge, Jake Jones is the head chef at Forge. Having worked at some of the most noted Michelin-star restaurants in the UK he began working on the estate over a year ago. Since he’s studied the estate’s environment through the seasons, discovering inspiration and planning the intricate and detailed courses of the nine-course Forge tasting experience. Head pastry chef Antony Johnson works alongside Jake and the Kitchen team.
A large firepit outside the restaurant sets the scene and creates a warm and inviting atmosphere before guests enter the restaurant. When you arrive at the door, you are greeted and shown to the bar, where we were served a glass of Bollinger and the most delicious, glazed, homemade vegetable crisps.
The restaurant has a unique and inviting feel, with low lighting to evoke the senses and ensure all focus is on the story of the food. Original stone walls, period stonework and exposed warm wood beams add to the ambience. Greenery adorns the artfully curated open bookcases, which cleverly create pockets of intimacy without breaking up the space, and a large open fire at the top of the restaurant is the finishing touch to the atmosphere they have so cleverly created here.
We were seated by one of the arched bay windows, looking out onto the cosy courtyard and a roaring firepit.
Forge at Middleton Lodge: Tasting Experience
As the snack course arrives, it’s a first glimpse into the new pastry chef’s talents, with an impeccable and perfectly-cased ‘Thumbelina Carrot Tartlet’ and ‘English Mushroom Biscuit’
The biscuit is a marvel with its Mascarpone, umami-packed bite. It’s generous with truffle and delicate with detail.
Next, the Chalk Stream Trout is served, raw, with a sprinkle of Maldon salt. The Quinoa cracker brings bite to the dish, and I find myself digging around for more of that glorious smoked creme fraiche, balancing out the tart, sweet blackcurrant. N25 caviar completes this composition beautifully.
What follows is the best bread course I’ve ever experienced, a sentiment echoed by my dining partner. And we’ve experienced plenty.
Forge at Middleton Lodge: The best-ever bread course
It’s a triumph. The Jorvik Blonde Bread, alongside a glass of Jorvik Blonde Beer which narrates the story of this course so tangibly, is served with two kinds of butter; wholesome roast chicken, and punchy fermented fennel.
The attention to detail is ever-present, with Norse-inspired knives laid out and a hand-potted pint glass. The Old Winchester custard served alongside it is topped with a layer of beer vinegar and shiitake mushrooms, adding layers of flavour and textures which pair beautifully together. This course brings together so many wonders of the estate through the senses and it’s one to be cherished.
Arriving next is an education in how to cook fish. The Cornish cod is perfectly opaque and flakes to the touch, swimming in a bubbling foam made with English Sparkling wine. Breaking the surface reveals treasures below, with meaty mussels and tender leeks coated in rich, buttery bone marrow.
Followed by the latest addition to the tasting experience, tying in symphony with the Spring Dry Aged Hogget. At its heart sits fine marbled hogget, tender and rich in flavour. It’s certainly a course to celebrate the seasons.
Not your usual cheese plate
Onto the cheese course, Baron Bigod, and it’s a showstopper. We’ve come to expect the unexpected by this point, and we’re well rewarded. I won’t spoil the surprise, but the chefs experiment with much more than just flavour and texture here. It’s paired with a dessert wine that’s not overly sweet, so suits my tastes to a tee. There’s a minerality to it, drawn from the limestone that sits beneath the vineyard just outside of Alsace.
We return to that crisp, ultra-thin pastry as the dessert courses begin to appear, starting with the Caramelised Apple Tart. And tart it is, with each miniature round of sour, yet sweet, apple topped with individual leaves of Lemon Thyme.
Forge at Middleton Lodge: Edible art in the form of dessert
No Yorkshire menu is truly complete without rhubarb in the spring. At Forge, Forced Rhubarb is served with a velvety, light cream, topped with flowers of both the real and the baked biscuit variety, and finished with a drizzle of the Estate’s own honey.
Even the classic flavour combinations have a twist here, with Carrot Cake Ice Cream Sandwiches styled as vibrant tacos, bursting with colour and topped with decadent cream cheese frosting.
We finish the evening with a work of art in chocolate form, Coffee Chocolate filled with a coffee and parsnip centre. It summarises the creativity and brilliance of this menu in just one bite.
Every single dish has been clearly added with purpose and meaning, narrating the story of the estate over the centuries in thoughtful, innovative sense-evoking courses.
There are no filler courses. No half-baked afterthoughts. And the menu is almost like a museum of food from the estate. Not for the sake of originality, but to surprise and delight your palate with every last morsel.
Food cooked with a love for the landscape
Forge at Middleton Lodge Estate’s nine-course tasting menu is priced at £125 per person and the wine pairing created in collaboration with Barrique Fine wines is an additional £75pp.
Middleton Lodge has mastered the skill of wonderful service. You’re most certainly looked after with the luxuries you need, but also feel at ease and at home.
My advice? Book your table while you can. It won’t be long before Michelin comes calling and bookings become like gold dust.
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