All made up for a special occasion

PUBLISHED: 20:07 17 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:37 20 February 2013

Elaine Riley, Headlam Hall Spa treatment manager, and Ariane Poole

Elaine Riley, Headlam Hall Spa treatment manager, and Ariane Poole

A sellout attendance of 50 readers enjoy the first North East Life Lunch at Headlam Hall Hotel in County Durham. PHOTOGRAPHS BY KEITH BLUNDY

It was a day for handbags and gladrags as North East Life staged its first Reader Lunch at the Headlam Hall Hotel, County Durham, in September. Perhaps the theme of the after-lunch presentation influenced the attendance list.

Or maybe it's just the case that the North East's newest regional magazine is particularly well received by ladies who enjoy a good lunch.Whatever the reason, we were delighted to welcome an all-female attendance at our first, hugely-enjoyable foray into lunchtime entertaining.

True, the odd man was in evidence - odd is in rare rather than character - but they were working. Andrew Smith assisted his co-editor Sue Campbell as hosts of the event, photographer Keith Blundy recorded the pre-lunch socialising, Steve Toon attended with his wife Ann to discuss their work as accomplished wildlife photographers and writers at home and abroad recording some of nature's most beautiful creatures and hotel manager Andrew Glendenning maintained his customary, flamboyant supervision of the proceedings.

They apart, the lunch attracted ladies all the way. After a leisurely champagne reception in the hotel's Drawing Room on arrival, the guests were called to order by Andrew Smith and invited to take their tables for lunch in the magnificent Edwardian Suite, with its beautiful glass arched ceiling. 'I didn't think it would be that easy,' he remarked, as silence fell across the reception room when he gave the table a thump.

Thereafter, announcements were preempted with an altogether more genteel tinkle of the glass. 'Not as effective,' he was heard to mutter. Sue Campbell welcomed the readers and spoke briefly about North East Life before lunch was served.

Head chef Austen Shaw had prepared a delicious starter that took most guests by surprise. Billed as a fillet of seabass on the menu, indeed it was, but it came in a rich soup - very creative. Roast breast of chicken followed with vegetables and a lovely chestnut cream sauce, and the meal was completed by a dessert of milk jelly, plum compote and shortbread, followed by tea, coffee and truffles. The service throughout was efficient and unobtrusive, and all overseen by Andrew Glendenning and his charming spa manager, Angela Lowe.

No sooner had the tables been cleared than international make-up artist Ariane Poole took the floor to give an hour-long demonstration of her art. 'When we were 16 we wore make-up to look older,' she began, in her trans-Atlantic accent. 'Today I am going to show you how to apply makeup that makes you look younger.' It was a pledge that received broad approval from her audience and saw the men, who had remained politely attentive until then, scurry out to somewhere where they felt more secure, claiming that they 'couldn't bear to see the myth destroyed'.

Ariane selected reader Audrey Robinson to be her volunteer model during the demonstration, and an excellent subject she made. Bravely, she allowed the Canadianborn beauty presenter of ITV's This Morning programme and numerous other television appearances to remove all her make-up before starting, step by step, to create a series of looks using a wide variety of cosmetics, including her own brand, which she passed around the room for the audience to sample and experience. At the conclusion, Ariane was thanked by Sue Campbell and then besieged by guests seeking personal advice and information, and impromptu make-up sessions that continued into the late afternoon.

Encouragingly, most of the ladies who dined with us declared that they would love to come to next Readers' Lunch, at The Morritt, Greta Bridge, on December 3.

FACTFILE:

Headlam Hall Hotel is a country house hotel, spa, restaurant and golf course located in County Durham midway between Darlington and Teesdale. Standing in beautiful gardens with its own luxury spa and golf course, this 17th century Jacobean mansion looks out over its estate of rolling countryside.

There are a total of 40 en-suite bedrooms with differing shapes, styles and character. The kitchen team enjoys an excellent reputation for producing stylish, individual and tasty dishes reflecting the best of English and Continental cuisine.

The layout of the restaurant gives good scope for private dining rooms and the Drawing Room, overlooking the main lawn, is ideal for the medium-sized special occasion.

The spa boasts a swimming pool, outdoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room, drench shower, gymnasium, therapy treatment rooms, a lounge and brasserie. Outside there are extensive walled gardens, a nine-hole golf course and driving range. To contact Headlam Hall Hotel ring 01325 730238, email admin@headlamhall.co.uk, or go to www.headlamhall.co.uk.

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