You know when you have one of those evenings that’s just gorgeous and special and full of so many unique moments that you don’t want it to end? And then you look back on that evening and think to yourself “That was something truly special.” Well, the 4 hours I spent enjoying Hidden Harewood, an interactive and experiential dining experience in the grounds of Harewood House, were just like that and I’m about to tell you all about it.
You’ve heard me mention before that the Leeds’ food scene is getting better and better every year. Well, this was a perfect example of just how extraordinary it actually is and what incredible creative minds this city is home to.
To give you a bit of background, Hidden Harewood is an immersive event cooked up by the Harewood Food and Drink Project who wanted to create a supper club with a difference. They wanted to create a menu from the food that can be found on the Harewood Estate. That might be limiting to some, but Ox Club’s Josh Whitehead created the most exquisite menu that heavily featured venison from Harewood’s grounds.
The experience also took everyone in the sitting around the hidden spots of Harewood, places the public don’t usually get to access and I think the event is worth it just to do that.
I was lucky enough to go to the very first sitting of Hidden Harewood with Kate and I think from the moment we arrived, we knew we were in for a pretty magical evening.
A queue of cars stood just inside the entrance of Harewood House and we were only allowed in when given the go ahead. Once we were all parked up though, we were greeted at All Saints Church with an extremely strong gin – which unfortunately I couldn’t drink because a) it was SO strong and b) I was driving. BOO. However, there were some incredibly unique appetisers on offer in the form of and Chicken Pate Toast and Young Coconut, and Venison Tartar, Wild Rice, Tumeric and Green Shiso. I had the gluten free version but I already knew I was in for an absolute treat of an evening. Any person that can cook cake, that looks like bright green moss, in a microwave already has a thumbs up from me.
Then it was time to board the party wagon. I’d joked earlier in the evening that the giant shed-on-wheels style vehicle that had passed us while we were waiting in my car, was our transport for the evening. Little did I know that this shed-on-wheels style vehicle was indeed going to be carting us around the bumpy lanes of Harewood from venue to venue. What I was originally, and light-heartedly mocked, started to be called the party bus and it was actually a pretty fun ride.
After a pleasant journey down the old driveway to the house – which went through the old gardens and viewpoints of the house that were designed to wow and impress back in the day and still do hundreds of years later – we stopped off at our first dining place.
The Garden Lodge was originally where people used to shoot from on the estate. This doesn’t happen anymore but the building is still used as a functional space for businesses around Harewood. I was too giddy from spotting Highland Cattle and black sheep in the field to pay attention to the décor of the building but when I did, oh man I was blown away.
The tables were decorated exquisitely with white chairs sitting along tables that were dressed simply with the cutlery, wine glasses and a heavy green napkin. Antlers and greenery gave the room the finishing touch and provided a simple area from which we enjoyed sourdough bread, with toasted peanut oil and burnt butter with grated venison heart. This was followed by a venison dumpling with woodland broth poured on top. It was a powerfully rich dish that was almost impossible not to devour but by savouring it, it meant the flavours came out of the dish even more.
Once the dumpling had settled and we’d all finished admiring the sunset, it was time for the second venue of the evening, The Hovels. We got driven off in a different party bus – hauled along by a tractor this time – to what can only be described as an ideal venue for a country party.
The Hovels looked out onto open fields, the courtyard was cobbled, had a rustic feel to it and was lined with fairy-lights. Once inside though, that’s where the magical atmosphere of the evening came to life. Candles lit up the table, and the light and airy feel to the room was given a country touch with the dark beams in the roof. Photos were taken, seats were sat in and we all waited patiently for our main course of the evening.
Harewood venison was served with lawar, perkedel and sambal matah followed by the much anticipated, rather intriguing dessert which was simply labelled “Harewood Mulberry Tree” on the menu.
It turns out this rather delicious dish was an ice-cream made from the bark of a 100-year-old mulberry tree that grows on the estate. I never in my life thought I would eat something like that but I’m almost sure I’ll never get that opportunity again. What I do know though is that it was delicious and I wish it was sold by the tub. That would probably mean the deformation of several mulberry trees though and no-one wants that.
Just as I thought the evening was over, the group were yet again taken to another secret location. Everyone jumped off the wagon and in the dark, under some dim purple lights, we could see a herd of deer that roam the estate during the day. Seeing them just topped off the evening perfectly and set the magical feeling that was experienced as we walked up a white light lit pathway to an area called The Seven Eggs. This 4th and final stop of the evening looked like it could have been the scene for someone’s outdoor autumnal wedding it was that gorgeous. There were outdoor fires, a canopy covering deck chairs and sofas with cushions, and a pop up bar which served gin espresso martinis while pear marshmallows, banana and turmeric cake, and chocolate and tamarind truffles – definitely my favourite – were brought round as a little treat to end the evening.
And what an evening it was. Something I feel so lucky to have experienced and it’s made me even more grateful to live in a city that’s full of so much passion and creativity.
Thank you, Hidden Harewood for a lovely evening and hopefully, I’ll be able to experience something like this again very soon!
Would you do an evening like Hidden Harewood? Did you go to Hidden Harewood yourself? Let me know if you enjoyed this blog post!