At Your Leisure: The Hearty Hedgehog

A Hearty Affair

Hallgarth, The Manor House, in Pittington has long been a firm favourite for happy couples tying the knot. But recently, thanks to a six-figure investment committed by its new owners, the venue is branching out. EDB editor Leanne Fawcett went along to see how the investment is being spent and to sample a two-course lunch at the new Hearty Hedgehog restaurant…
It’s 13 years since I was last at Hallgarth, The Manor House hotel, when two of my lovely friends Lucy and Ian tied the knot.

My memories of the venue, which is located in the village of Pittington nestled between Peterlee and Durham, are very happy – especially as the marriage remains as strong today as on the day they said ‘I Do’.
Needless to say, when I was invited along to sample the food at the new eatery The Hearty Hedgehog, a contemporary addition to the historic hotel which is one of many changes being made thanks to significant investment committed by new owners, I was delighted to accept.

My husband Paul joined me (it’s a tough job but someone has to do it) and being real foodies, we were both intrigued to try out the lunchtime menu (we had both checked out the menu prior to arriving so we had a good idea what to expect).

As we arrived at the grounds, we were impressed by the grandeur of the building and my mind was immediately cast back to 2009 – it’s amazing how the memories we keep stored away quickly come back when we revisit places or locations.

We were welcomed by our host for the day, Amanda, who escorted us through to the restaurant, found to the left of the hotel in what was the old bar end.
Having only opened three weeks prior to our visit, and it being a Thursday after a long bank holiday weekend, it was no surprise that the restaurant was quiet, however we rather enjoyed having some privacy as it’s not very often we get to have time just the two of us without our kids.

We ordered our drinks, mine a glass of sauvignon blanc and Paul a diet coke, then turned our attention to the menu. After much deliberation, we opted for the homemade runny scotch egg (£7.95) and the panko-breaded calamari (£8.50) for starter while for main we chose the ‘Hearty’ Caesar salad (£8.95) and crispy belly pork (£16.95).
When our first course arrived, we were not disappointed. The scotch egg was indeed ‘runny’ while the coating was deliciously crunchy and pork and black pudding filling perfectly cooked. The calamari, while not a huge portion, was super tasty – the perfect size given we were having two courses (or so we thought!).

After a nice break for our starters to settle, our mains arrived. Like with our starters, we each had a bit of both dishes and thoroughly enjoyed the contrast between the warming, more filling belly pork dish, which was served with black pudding mashed potato, brandy and apple sauce and seasonal veg, and the lighter bowl of salad, which was a mix of baby gem lettuce, sourdough croutons, anchovies, homemade Caesar dressing and parmesan shavings.

I have to say we were both very impressed with the food we’d eaten and were happy to call it quits there, however Amanda talked us into sharing a dessert, which was white chocolate cheesecake served with fresh berries and a berry coulis. I have to confess, I am a sucker for a white chocolate cheesecake and absolutely loved this version – it packed a real white chocolate punch, and the biscuit base was delicious. I would absolutely recommend it if you have room!

Alongside the lunch and evening meal options, The Hearty Hedgehog also serves afternoon and cream teas, breakfasts for guests and visitors and Sunday lunches, so there is something available whatever your palette or size of appetite.

After food we were taken on a tour of the hotel and facilities, some of which are still a ‘work in progress’. They include a new wine bar, conferencing and events facilities, private dining space and an improved outdoor space for weddings and al fresco dining (Amanda advised us they were awaiting a delivery of tables and chairs which will also create an outdoor dining space at The Hearty Hedgehog – perfect for the summer months).

There are also plans to convert a house, which is located just outside of the hotel grounds and used as a B&B during wedding season, into a spa facility, offering guests spa and treatment facilities including massages, manicures and pedicures and sauna and steam rooms.

It’s clear the new owners of Hallgarth, The Manor House, are ambitious and believe the venue can be more than just a wedding venue.
From what I’ve seen, they’re right. I really do hope people go and visit the hotel and restaurant – we’re lucky to have somewhere like this on our doorstep and I really would encourage you to give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!