On one perfect Saturday evening in May I headed to A Feast For Spring, the latest in a series of pop-up dining events from the Harewood Food and Drink Project.
The Harewood Food and Drink Project seeks to showcase the best produce from the Yorkshire estate. From meat to fruit and vegetables HF&DP offers sustainable products grown and foraged across the sprawling estate. You can also drink the best of the estate with seasonal ales and Greystone Gin, a London dry gin and personal favourite of mine, made with mulberries and elderberries in collaboration with Whittaker’s Gin.
Hidden Harewood is the series of immersive pop-up dining events from the Harewood Food and Drink Project. The team pair up with award winning chef and 2016 Masterchef: The Professionals contestant Josh Whitehead, to create an innovative menu for each season, allowing guests to ‘dine with a difference’. The spring edition – A Feast for Spring, was a real opportunity to promote fresh and flavoursome produce as a wealth of ingredients came into season. The events also allow diners exclusive to access parts of the estate which are not usually open to the public, adding an extra element of mystery to events.
A Feast for Spring kicked off on the cricket green just inside the estate, with welcome drinks and a canape of seasonal radishes, served with the most divine lamb butter. From there we took a tractor ride through the estate, being treated to views of rolling hills and green fields along the way. We also managed to spot some of the wildlife on the estate including deer, cows and game birds. Then came the most beautiful walk through a tranquil wood, carpeted with delicate bluebells, before moving on to to enjoy our meal.
At the end of our walk we were welcomed into the most stunning barn, which had been styled by The Plant Room. Running the length of the building were two communal dining tables, atop which striking stag’s horns had been intertwined with mosses, lavender sprays and bluebells. Cosy blankets had also been provided which added a homely feel. The whole setting was very beautiful (dare I say romantic even), and the perfect location to showcase the best of the estate and of Josh’s cooking. If only I had stag’s horns on my dinner table every night!
The next portion of our meal started off with what can only be described as the most divine savoury take on a Paris Brest. Instead of praline flavoured cream, we were fed a smooth lamb’s liver filling, which was very rich and paired well with the choux pastry. In quick succession then came bread for the table, made with the Harewood Autumn Ale and a watercress potage. The potage was very light and spring like, showcasing seasonal produce such asparagus, watercress and garlic. Added in was a splash of yuzu kosho, a strong condiment, symbolising Josh’s recent travels around Asia.
The main dish of the meal was Harewood Hebridean Lamb. Raised on the estate, the lamb was showcased to perfection by Josh. Done a little pink, it had been brined and cooked and glazed until sweet and sticky. Tender and juicy the lamb was heaven to taste. A rich sauce of lamb stock, blood and vegetables heightened the taste and complexity of the dish.
To accompany the dish we were served with a rhubarb fricassee with spring peas and smoked eel fillets and a Yorkshire pudding. Now at this point some might question the inclusion of a Yorkshire pudding in such a meal, but not me. I welcome this Yorkshire pudding with open arms (and a hungry belly). There is no point being pompous about the use of a Yorkshire pudding with the lamb, after all if the meal is to promote the best of Harewood and Yorkshire, then why ever not?
Dessert came in the form of two courses (which is always a bonus) the first being a Yorkshire blue cheese. I’m not a fan of blue cheese, which I know to some would mean my palate is unsophisticated, but it’s just Not My Thing. I resolved to at least give it a try and found myself pleasantly surprised by how delicious it was. The cheese had been whipped into a light, creamy mousse and was accompanied by caramelised oats, fermented celery and grapes that had been picked in elderflower vinegar.
The second dish was a sweet parfait of frozen elderflower yoghurt, served with a whipped tea mousse. Elderflower has to be one of my favourite seasonal ingredients, so the parfait was an instant hit. Unfortunately tea is also Not My Thing (I’m really sorry), but it wasn’t at all overpowering and had been balanced very well against the delicate elderflower. The parfait was drizzled with elderflower jelly and the mousse served with honeycomb and crunchy yoghurt pieces for added crunch. It was the ideal way to finish that stage of our experience, being light and a good palate cleanser.
After our meal we were invited to the nearby house to enjoy petit fours beside open fire pits including the most exquisite take on whitby goth. As well as getting to know our fellow diners better, we also were able to meet and speak with some of the kitchen team. This included young and aspiring chefs training at Leeds City College which was a really nice touch. Our incredible experience came to a close with slow a tractor ride back to the entrance of the estate, in the wee hours.
Throughout the evening we were looked after by an amazing, and incredibly attentive team from Ancilla. All the staff on hand had a superb knowledge of the dishes we were eating, the ingredients, their sources and the tipple we were drinking too. Some of the team had also been at the HF&DP Winter in the Woods event back in December, so it was nice to see them again. Special thanks must also go to Sofia Rebelo for looking after us all so magnificently.
Tickets to Hidden Harewood cost £75 each, which for this event included ten courses and a welcome drink. This is the second time that I’ve been to a Hidden Harewood event and is now a firm favourite. A Feast for Spring was a beautifully executed from start to finish, a testament to the values and hard work of Eddy & Sophie Lascelles, Josh, Sofia and the team. Hidden Harewood is by nature such a unique event, and something rare come by. The first event Winter in the Woods took my breath away and I thought it was incomparable and unbeatable that was, until A Feast for Spring. This is a must for any foodie, Leeds, Yorkshire and beyond.
You can find out more information about the Harewood Food and Drink Project online, including the chance to see photos from previous events. Hidden Harewood occurs about three times a year, and the next one will take place at the end of Summer.