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Lisa Goodwin-Allen: a new era at Northcote

Lisa Goodwin-Allen: a new era at Northcote

by Pete Dreyer 12 September 2018

With Nigel Haworth stepping into an ambassadorial role at Northcote after over thirty years at the helm, Lisa Goodwin-Allen is taking the reins at the celebrated Lancashire restaurant, and leading Northcote into an exciting new future.

‘It does feel a bit more like my kitchen now, but I think it’s business as usual for the most part!’ says Lisa, as we chat on the phone. I’ve caught her just before lunch service at Northcote, as evidenced by the busy chatter of prep work in the background. ‘I was doing a lot of the food development and the menus anyway,’ she continues, ‘but now I have a lot more responsibility.’

Late last year, Nigel Haworth decided to step away from the kitchen at Northcote for good, leaving his role as chef-patron to become an ambassador for the Northcote Group. He will continue to be involved with Obsession – Northcote’s annual food festival – but he will no longer be involved in the kitchen or day-to-day running of the business. It’s the first time Nigel has not been at the helm of Northcote since he became head chef at the restaurant in 1984, but in Lisa Goodwin-Allen, he has a protégé that has blossomed into one of the best chefs in Britain.

Lisa joined Northcote in 2001, after brief stints at Holbeck Ghyll in Cumbria and with David Everitt-Matthias at Le Champignon Sauvage in Gloucestershire. As a twenty-year-old demi chef de partie, she had no idea that the country manor would become her home for the next seventeen-plus years. ‘To be honest, I was going to come and work here for a year,’ she says. ‘Like every young person I wanted to travel and see other things, but when I got here, there were so many opportunities and doors that kept opening. I’m a very hungry and ambitious person, and I like to see myself achieving as well as the people around me. Every time I achieved something at Northcote, there was something else there to reach for.’

As new challenges presented themselves, Lisa passed each with flying colours. By the time she was twenty-three, Lisa was head chef at Northcote – one of the youngest Michelin-starred head chefs in the country. ‘It was a massive learning curve for me,’ she says. ‘I was running a team of eight at the time, doing the stock takes, learning how to manage people in the correct way. It made me who I am really.’

Northcote has changed drastically over the years, though only for the better – the restaurant has maintained its place in the Michelin guide, but improved on all other fronts. The kitchen saw a complete overhaul some five years ago, and the expansion has allowed the brigade to jump from eight to nearly thirty today. Included in that kitchen update was a brand new cookery school, more private dining rooms, and brand new equipment, which helps Lisa and her team push the food at Northcote to new heights.

Lisa’s seasonal tasting menus are a perfect display of where Northcote is heading under her stewardship. Her style has always been delicate and playful – Lisa loves taking much-loved, well-known dishes and flipping them on their head, giving you the flavours of something you know but in a clever new form. Anyone who saw Lisa on Great British Menu some years ago will remember her clever take on Kendal mint cake – where she made the famous Lancashire confectionery into an icy snow and paired it with strawberries and meringue. That playfulness is on display again in her menus at Northcote – there’s a smart play on a Caesar salad with confit chicken thigh, lettuce sauce and a roasted anchovy dressing, a phenomenal Scarlet prawn with garlic butter, parsley and yuzu, and a strawberry dessert with jelly, sorbet, white chocolate, verbena custard and sponge that provides all the joy of a summer trifle.

Scarlet prawn, parsley and garlic butter sauce and yuzu
Yorkshire Dales lamb, 'white curry', summer pods and sweet cicely
Multiple species of strawberries are grown in the Northcote gardens, which go into the delicious strawberry trifle dish on the summer tasting menu
The Northcote gardens have a biodynamic certification, meaning that everything is grown without the use of chemicals, pesticides or artificial additives

Even more impressive is that much of the produce that goes into Lisa’s tasting menus comes from just outside, in the hotel grounds. Northcote’s gardens are run biodynamically, which means a total absence of fertilisers, chemicals and pesticides. This makes the gardens ‘a little on the wild side’, as managing director Craig Bancroft puts it, but it also means that everything grown at Northcote is grown properly, and that comes through in the flavour. Just take that strawberry trifle dessert, which uses Royal Sovereign and Buddy strawberries, both grown in Northcote’s biodynamic gardens. ‘The garden is getting better better each year,’ says Lisa. ‘It’s doubled in size since we started, and we work really closely with Phil our gardener to get the most out of it. We’re getting our chefs more involved in the garden as well, which is massively important for them.’

For some, it will be difficult to imagine Northcote without Nigel Haworth at the helm, but it’s equally hard to imagine where the restaurant would be without Lisa – her influence is just as clear to see at the iconic hotel. I ask if she ever thinks about where she’d be had she never come to Northcote, and she laughs. ‘I do think about it sometimes, but I have no idea where I would have ended up! I never expect to be where I am or to do what I’ve done, but again, I was very determined and hard working and willing to learn, and I was pushed hard along the way.’ Though the changes may be subtle on the surface, there’s no doubt that Northcote is in safe hands and behind the scenes, Lisa Goodwin-Allen is leading Northcote into a bright future.

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