Northcote names stellar line-up for Obsession 23 festival as its own superstar Lisa scoops top award

Imagine your near-perfect restaurant bucket-list served up over 17 nights in a single venue one chilly January just off the A59. Yes Michelin-starred Northcote’s Obsession festival is back and spreading its horizons. Founded in 2001, this really is a unique celebration of stellar chefs that is really unique. Even the AA Hospitality Awards, not the most adventurous, gave it its ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’.

The 2023 incarnation runs from January 20 to February 5. 20 world class chefs with16 Michelin stars between them will make the trip to the luxury Lancashire hotel, now part of The Stafford Collection. It will kick off on Friday, January with 20, as is customary, Northcote’s own Lisa Goodwin Allen at the stove – this year in tandem with fellow Great British Menu stalwart Niall Keating. 

Lisa has this week been named named Ayala SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year 2022. She said at the ceremony: “Being an ambassador like this and inspiring the next generation of cooks, so that the next cohort of female chefs does great things, is really important to me. It’s vital that we nurture young talent, and provide them with all the tools they need to succeed…As an industry we need to be flexible; something I’m passionate about reflecting in my kitchen and with my team.”

Two women chefs also at the peak of their powers join Lisa to cook at Obsession’s grand Obsession 23’s grand finale on Sunday, February 5 – London legends Monica Galetti of Mere and Nieves Barragan Mohacho of Sabor.

All the meals in between look equally inspirational. What thrills me most about the intense 17 day showcase is that, post-pandemic, there is a returning global presence. France and Portugal feature. 

I’ve been lucky enough to stay and dine at the Yeatman in Porto, so the appearance on Saturday, January 22, of its 2-star chef, Ricardo Costa, is a big statement. 

His restaurant in the wine-driven hotel above the Port houses has been showered with awards and he was named Rising Chef 2016 by Relais Chateaux, Chef of the Year 2009 by the Portuguese magazine Wine; “Chef of the Future” 2012 by the International Academy of Gastronomy; and Best Chef in Portugal (2013) in the Gastro Arco Atlantico prizes.

At the same time the quality of the British contingent is proof of the vibrancy of our own restaurant sector in decidedly difficult times. My pick? Chetan Sharma of Mayfair’s Bibi on January 24, Alex Nietosvuori of Hjem in the North East on February 3 and the Ritz’s dynamic duo of John Williams & Spencer Metzger on February 2. Though I’d not be averse to meeting Anna Haugh of Myrtle on January 27. She has been a breath of fresh Irish air presenting the current Masterchef. 

The full list is here. People can register for tables for Obsession23 from Thursday, November 10. Each meal is priced at £185 per person, including a Louis Roederer Champagne and canapé reception, five course menu, coffee and petit fours. A specially paired wine flight can be added, starting from around £65 per person. The official charity for Obsession23 is Hospitality Action. To date, Obsession has raised almost half a million pounds for the charity.  

Northcote, Northcote Road, Langho, Blackburn BB6 8BE. 01254 240555. For information on a variety of gourmet breaks visit the website.