Just returned from a trip.
The highlights were discovering perhaps Northumberland's (or even farther afield) BEST fish and chips. It is the FRIDAY-ONLY lunch at the Cresswell Arms, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea.
The crowd of regulars who show up early to be fed tells it all. Pristine fish (cod) fresh of the quay. Great chips. Super mushy peas. This is F&C not to be missed and completely superior to the general product, which, I heard recently, Keith Floyd considered the world's finest "fast food."
19 High Street
I returned a few times to the Three Horseshoes. Their chef still continues to have generally good dishes with only a few misses here or there. A venison dish was good the first time, but was completely differently presented when I ordered it again. You'll find a new ostrich burger there. The service is generally OK but some of the young girls could use a little training. They appear to consider customers are not of sufficient social status to actually talk to them :-) "you expect to be waited on, AND to talk to me?! I don't think so. "
Just over the border in Melrose Scotland had a so-so experience at Burt's Hotel. Rather clique-ey and again the passive-aggressive-friendly-unfriendly brand of service I have come to associate with the UK. Perhaps Basil Fawlty was right "You can't get the staff." I noted just the Fawlty style of either fawning over them or being rude or ignoring others. Food: only OK.
Ridley Arms at Stannington is now a gastropub I suppose (I remember it from its Berni Inn days!). Not horrible, not great. Actually a REALLY good Ingram lamb stew.
The Black Bull at Corbridge I enjoyed for their steak and kidney pudding. It was good to see a pudding version available and it was filling, tasty and traditionally done.
The Black Bull
David & Lynda Wears.
Middle Street, Corbridge, Northumberland NE45 5LE
Tel. 01434 632261 email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading, and PLEASE try those fish and chips in Newbiggin some Friday if you can. Splendid stuff.
No problem, and indeed I forgot to mention The Olde Ship Inn in Seahouses. Wonderful crab salad there. Superior and just excellent. Their other dishes are well meant, and sometimes top notch too. This is a family hotel, and that extends to the cooking. It's completely unpretentious, and sometimes (often) delicious. A good "stealth" wine list from an owner who knows his grapes and grog. Can't praise their rooms enough. Excellent comfort, for a decent price. (50 pounds per incl. breakfast).
I know the Olde Ship and would have to say I think it's just bog standard pub grub.
I could write a fair old list of places to avoid. We had a week at Bamburgh in June and, as you'd expect, did as much food research as possible - guides, egullet, etc. IMO, there is absolutely nothing worthy in the immediate Bamburgh/Seahouses area (with the exception of Pinnacles - which is a decent chippy). The *only* even reasonable meal we had was at the Tree House at Alnwick Gardens and I question whether the 50 mile round trip was worth it). Oh, and a decent crab sandwich at the Jolly Fisherman in Craster (they only do butties).
I tend to think the Jolly Fisherman and Olde Ship's crab salads are about at par.
I know what you are alluding to. There is something mysteriously "missing" in most places.
I think that's why I keep returning to the "Shoes" because their chef may not be on the MIchelin ladder but he has some sort of vision and "raison" to his food most of the time. This makes a difference to the whole experience. Particularly the unique idea of using black pudd as a sort of palate cleanser (!?!) Sorbet or black pudd? Duh! No contest.
The Ship though while not haute, does gain points in my book for its clearly homegrown "older ladies-in-the-kitchen" approach. It's not fine dining, but maybe approximates to a home-cooked meal, which counts for something.
To add my pennyworth - have spent the last 2 New Years in the area. My highlights would be the butcher in Bamburgh - excellent meat and pies and pasties, and The Ship Inn at Newton-by-Sea. I can imagine that itis virtually impossible to get near the bar in the summer as it is small (but perfectly formed,) but have enjoyed several v good lunches.
The Ship considerably pissed me off. It's website makes no mention that you can reserve a table in this pub and that it is, indeed, essential that you do for dinner.
So, we drove from Bamburgh to Newton only to be refused service. And refused service even though they had vacant unreserved tables - simply that we hadnt booked."We have no more food".
When we asked about booking for the following night (bear in mind this is the ONLY Good Food Guide listed place for miles around), we were told that they weren't offering their full menu that night only the "simple" menu. This, we were told meant sandwiches or kippers. Frankly the Ship can go f**k itself.
Butchers in Bamburgh is very good. Which makes a change for the village. The main eatery - the Victoria Hotel - is dismal. However, the Italian just down the road could win a prize - for getting fewest toppings on a pizza.
Interesting info. I have not had a bad experience there, but detect a sort of "if you get on the wrong side of me I will not serve you" attitude. I think to some extent "tourist overload" is a problem. After a while the wandering hordes of holidaymakers I think cause some fuses to get short. Yes, that's their bread & butter (!) but I can sort of see it. Thinking of it, I have mostly gone here off-season as crowds I cannot handle. Good tip about the butcher. There's another good one (Green's) in Longhorsely. Ate their meat at the Oak Inn and it was choice stuff.
A little further south, The Feathers near Stocksfield is one of the best food pubs I've ever been to. The 28 day aged beef roast I had is still a fantastic memory and I keep trying to get back. They've been winning a lot of awards too for their food, all of which is based on locally sourced ingredients. http://www.thefeathers.net/
I also like Manor House Inn in Carterwayheads, which is on an uphill climb again after a rough year foodwise a few years ago, before the new owners.