I’ve been going to the races for a good few years now and it’s one of my highlights of the spring and summer. It’s always fun to get dressed up and go for a day out, hopefully with a few wins in the bag by the end of it too. I was really excited to be invited along by Ladbrokes to the St Patrick’s raceday at Newcastle Racecourse last weekend.
Despite many trips to the Gosforth based racecourse for Ladies Day and Plate Day, I’d never been there for a St Patrick’s Raceday experience. We arrived at Brandling House, and were given our tickets and directed upstairs to the Gosforth Park suite. I’ve been in one of the hospitality suites at Newcastle racecourse before, but never this one and it was a huge room, decked out in green and black for the event.
I was handed a St Patrick’s themed glass of something fizzy, and shown to our table, hosted by Ladbrokes, where plenty of other North East bloggers were already waiting. We were table number 13, but the unlucky number was combated by the lovely good luck gift waiting on our placemats.
While we perused the menu, drank our fizz, and had a look through the race day program, I had a good look around the room. There was a total mix of people there, from couples of all ages on the smaller tables for two down one side of the room, to groups of men very much up for a laugh on St Patricks day, and mixed groups of friends and couples around larger tables that seat up to 10-12. It made for a great atmosphere ahead of the days racing.
There were plenty waiters and waitresses about, taking drinks orders and providing table service, as well as individual bookies wandering around taking bets. At each end of the room, were bookmakers, and bars, and lining the walls were plenty TVs showing racing elsewhere in the country.
Then of course, there’s the fabulous view of Newcastle racecourse itself out of the windows running the full length of the room, with access out into the private seated terrace, and access down onto the general public areas. There’s two in total, the Grandstand and Paddock, and Premier enclosures.
The whole set up makes for a very exciting raceday experience, especially if you’re looking for one with a bit more luxury to it that the hospitality packages provide. Great if you’re wearing heels! We placed our orders for drinks and starters, and then made our way down to the general enclosure to take a look at the odds, the horses and some of the characters down there!
It was a pretty cold day, so we didn’t stay outside too long and instead retreat back inside for the comfort of the Gosforth Park suite, complete with view and warmth! Our starters arrived, I went for the trio of salmon, but there were other choices such as cream of leek and potato soup and sliced duck breast with carpaccio of beetroot. I really enjoyed the salmon, it was beautifully presented and tasted just as good as it looked.
As it was St Patrick’s Day we obviously had to order a Guinness, and they also had an offer on for ‘Baby Guinness’ shots. Basically they’re made up of Tia Maria with a layer of Baileys carefully poured on the top so it resembles a tiny Guinness in the shot glass. At £6 each I thought they were quite expensive for a shot, but a good novelty for the day – they’re delicious too, and remind me of the days I used to work in a bar at uni.
Main courses were buffet style, so we made our way up to help ourselves. It was ‘Sunday roast’ style with the option of pork or beef from the carvery, and a full selection of vegetables, Yorkshire puddings and thick mashed potato to dish out onto your plate. The best bit for me is serving your own gravy – I like plenty, there’s nothing worse than a dry Yorkshire! There was a stuffed pepper vegetarian option as well, which Deb of My Boys Club informed me was very nice, and a Guinness marinated beef stew.
I would say the best thing about this style of dining is that you could serve yourself when you were ready, to fit in with watching the horse races, placing your bets and collecting your winnings if you were lucky. The waiter service wasn’t lost though, as I mentioned there were plenty of them for starters and deserts, and drink orders. The staff were lovely, very happy to help and kept on top of clearing the tables as dishes built up. I imagine it’s not easy with people constantly coming and going from their seats.
Desert was my favourite course, and from five options including sticky toffee pudding, duo of white and dark chocolate torte, and whiskey cheesecake, I went for the lemon tart with raspberry coulis and fresh berries. It was beautifully presented and finished off the food very nicely! I usually can’t manage a full three courses, but I think the buffet style for main meant I didn’t eat too much and still had room for desert. I’m glad I did as it was very good.
The rest of the day was spent watching the racing, and enjoying the atmosphere of the day. It was very lively, with the Guinness flowing and Irish music, as well as the excitement of people winning. I had a great day, with one or two wins and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Quick Round Up
Facilities – the Gosforth Park suite was excellent, it accommodated a lot of people without being overcrowded, great views of the racecourse and easy access to seating and the public areas.
Value for money – hospitality packages aren’t cheap of course, our ticket was worth about £100 each I think, but great value for the facilities, three course meal and the comfort of somewhere to sit that you don’t get on a general admission ticket. Definitely worth paying if there’s a big group of you wanting to make the day special.
Dress code – smart casual, women were in dresses, although I have to say they were a lot less flamboyant in March than Ladies Day! Men were all in shirts, although again they weren’t as formal as the suits you see on Plate Day.
Food & Drink – I found wine to be quite expensive, but no more than what I’ve experienced on a general admission ticket elsewhere in the racecourse. Beer prices were typical of Newcastle and not overly expensive, neither were soft drinks.
Atmosphere – I loved the atmosphere of St Patrick’s Day, there was a definite theme throughout the day and it was brought out in all aspects of the hospitality, from the decoration to the food and drink, and the dress code. It was definitely less formal than other events held at Newcastle racecourse like Ladies Day and Plate Day, but it suited the style of the event, and the attitude of the staff definitely contributed. They were a friendly bunch, typical of Newcastle!
I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the racing season!
Disclaimer: I was invited to St Patricks Raceday by Ladbrokes, and received a complimentary ticket and hospitality. All opinions are genuine and honest.