Hidden Harewood: The supper club for the adventurous

The Harewood Food & Drink Project is a business which celebrates Harewood-produced food by telling the story of its origins and journey with the mission to provide people with a closer connection to the food they eat for a more authentic dining experience.

Harewood House is set in 1,000 acres and is located between Leeds and Harrogate in West Yorkshire in the village of the same name. The house was built between 1759 and 1771 for the Lascelles family and the landscape was designed by Lancelot "Capability" Brown. If you are from outside of the village you will most likely hear the first part of the name pronounced 'Hare' like the animal. But, if you speak to residents of the village or the family from Harewood House, it is spoken as 'Har'.

Harwood Estate farms sheep and highland cattle, grows fruit and veg, distils gin and brews craft ales. As well as selling their produce outside of the estate, The Harewood Food & Drink Project also welcomes people onto the estate to experience fine dining in a unique way. Hidden Harwood is an immersive, pop-up dining experience set in hidden corners of the Harewood grounds not normally open to the public.

Dave and I had attended the second instalment of Hidden Harewood in December last year which was named ‘Winter in the Woods’ (which obviously had me instantly intrigued). The menu and the food on the night was created by chef Josh Whitehead from the Ox Club in Leeds and is past contestant on MasterChef: The Professionals 2016.

The grand entrance to Harewood House from the village of the same name is where thousands of people from all over the UK pass through to enter the grand grounds and visit the house. But, we weren’t going through the grand entrance on this evening. The invitation directed us to an entrance normally only used by residents living in the cottages on the estate. The signs guided us to The Hovels; the first destination of the evening. The old stable building has been converted to an intimate reception space adorned with impressively large mounted skulls of several beasts, a wood burning stove and low lighting, creating a romantic and intimate atmosphere.  Outside, braziers crackled and festoon lights casted a warm glowing light over the paved courtyard.

The seats around the fireplace were taken by other guests, so we found a space at the side of the room. A waiter approached us and offered a warm cocktail of Harewood gin with orange.  Since I was the dedicated driver for the evening, I requested a soft drink. Enviously, I looked on at Dave as he sipped his alcoholic drink, complete with a sprig of rosemary and slice of orange.

Our concierge for the evening welcomed the guests and ushered us to our chariot outside; a John Deer tractor pulling a trailer with benches as seating furnished with cushions and fleece throws. We sat down on one of the benches and covered our laps with the fleeces. The reception at the Hovels relaxed us, but the move to the tractor had us intrigued. Where was the tractor going to take us?

The tractor started up and we set off on our night ride through the estate. Everyone peered through the trailer windows to catch a glimpse of the red deer lying among the trees. Everyone ‘cooed’ in unison as the deer appeared from the darkness.

Throughout the ride, we were told facts and ghost stories about the buildings and features as we passed them. Along the route, some of the impressive and unique trees were illuminated with up lights.

On arrival, we stepped down from the trailer and followed a path of festoon lights and candles to the door of the Gamekeeper’s Cottage, reminiscent of the house in the old Hansel and Gretel tale, hidden away in the woods.  It was the perfect setting to get into the Christmas spirit.

We entered the cottage and were shown to one of the dining room where we took our seats.  Now that we were sitting down, it was easier to strike up a conversation with other guests and everyone started to chatter to the people next to them. The atmosphere became a more relaxed, even more so when we were welcomed by Josh with his thick Yorkshire accent and playful attitude.

Josh was supported by a team of 3 student sous-chefs from Leeds City College who were chosen for the event as part of the collaboration between the Harewood Food & Drink Project and the college to provide students with the opportunity to gain knowledge and learn skills.

Each of the three courses served looked incredible- just as we imagined they would.

For starter, we were served a posh Harewood rabbit sausage roll with peanut dartois drizzled with cauliflower sauce.

The main course was a highland sirloin and offal curry from cattle raised on the Estate. It is probably the strangest combination I have tasted, yet very moreish.

For desert, we had a chocolate and turmeric cremeux- a sort of ice cream- served with pine needles from the Estate.

The food was unique and intriguing; exactly what I was hoping for. I loved the confusion of tastes I experienced throughout each course; not fully understanding what I was tasting yet delighted by the surprise flavours.

With bursting bellies, we were led back to our tractor-driven carriage. The return trip to The Hovels was somewhat rowdier than our outbound journey; must have been the quality tipple!  It felt like we should have been heading to a house party to carry on the merriness rather than preparing to head home. Maybe it was just us; we do love a good party! What we actually did was enjoy a cuppa with some bit-sized baked goods in the company of the Hidden Harewood team (a pretty good compromise to a party). We both really liked the fact that the owners mingled with the guests and made sure they spent time with each. I enjoyed learning more of the Harewood Food & Drink Project ideas for the future and hearing first-hand the enthusiasm and passion the team clearly possess.

If you enjoy trying new foods and you are not afraid of tasting something you may not like, then this supper club will be right up your street. If you are a fussy eater and typically claim to not like something, even if you haven’t ever tasted it, then you may want to avoid this sort of event or just get over your silly complex and jump straight in the deep end at a Hidden Harewood supper club event.

Harewood Food & Drink Project have a handful of Hidden Harewood supper club events each year and they book up FAST. You can check out their upcoming events on their website and on their Facebook Page.

By Jenni Tulip

I'm a bright-haired, hill walking, magpie whispering, skull collecting, tree hugging, money saving, bird watching, happy campervanning, ferret fanatic, woodland dweller sharing my stories and passion for the outdoors to inspire you to immerse yourself in nature.