The Hog’s Head Inn, Alnwick, Northumberland
Hearty Sunday lunches were the order of the day this particular afternoon as we headed out en famille to Alnwick in Northumberland. The famed Alnwick Garden was to be our port of call, but first sustaining lunches were needed after a morning exerting ourselves. In the case of the husband and younger daughter, rowing on the Tyne had taken it out of them, while gym classes had left myself and the older daughter fairly pooped.
The Hog’s Head Inn on the outskirts of Alnwick is en route to Alnwick Garden and we’ve enjoyed a hearty lunch here before so knew of its good reputation. It has 53 rooms adjoining and is popular with tourists discovering the rural and coastal charms of beautiful Northumberland. It’s part of the Inn Collection Group, a string of pubs with rooms, dotted around the North of England.
It was still hugely busy when we arrived about 2pm, the measure of its popularity – and that of its carvery lunches. It’s a cavernous rustic-looking pub (although it’s actually a new-build) with high ceilings, open fires and cosy décor, offering a mix of rustic country pub/gastro fare. Classic dishes include the likes of steak and ale pie, pulled pork burger, pan-fried sea bream, and fish and chips. Chef’s specials include grilled sardine bruschetta starter and homemade venison meatballs.
We sat in a cosy booth by the window with plenty of natural light streaming in – and ok, the view’s not the absolute best… we were overlooking some offices and a petrol forecourt, but the sun was out and there’s a children’s play area. And besides, the food did distract us somewhat.
My strawberry smash drink, £7, was an unusually refreshing one, and nearly put hairs on my chest… a mix of Tanqueray gin, strawberry syrup and ginger beer. The daughters opted for mocktails of cherry cola (cherry syrup topped with Pepsi) and sweet sunrise (fresh orange juice and pineapple juice with grenadine), both £3.95, while the other half played it safe with Kopparberg!
My husband opted for starter of venison fillet medallions served with pomme puree, bacon lardons and green peppercorn sauce, £6.95, from the chef’s specials. It was an excellent dish – the pink-in-the-middle meat delicious; earthy but flavoursome and tender.
I shared a starter of ham hock terrine with pease pudding, pickles and gherkins, £6.95, with the daughters. We piled generous amounts of the thick slab of terrine on toasted granary bread. It was a simple dish of quality ingredients, attractively presented, and a very generous portion. We maybe could have done with more toast to use up all the tasty slow-cooked ham hock.
Three of us opted for the carvery, which was doing a roaring trade this particular Sunday. A small plate costs £7.95, medium £9.95, and large, £12.95, and there’s a choice of beef, pork or turkey.
We all opted for medium plates and believe me, these were more than substantial. Two of us chose beef with all the trimmings – three large slices of roast topside (so tender and succulent) and piled our plates with roast potatoes, swede, carrots, broccoli, giant light-as-a-feather Yorkshire puddings, red cabbage, and stuffing accompanied by rich gravy.
The other daughter’s choice of turkey was also a hit – plentiful, flavoursome and not too dry.
The daughters liked that the broccoli was cooked al dente and not turned to mush! The older daughter is something of a broccoli connoisseur, who eats copious amounts of it raw, so she should know.
My other half’s choice of scampi in deep-fried crunchy crumb coating, with chips, side salad and tartare sauce (large dish, £10.95) was a tasty, filling dish.
We needed a rest from proceedings before even thinking about desserts. These looked amazing though, as we noted various ice cream sundae creations passing our table.
My choice of Eton Mess, served in vintage-style Kilner jar, a tempting calorific mix of berries, meringue and thick Chantilly cream, £5.95, did not disappoint, and filled me up for the rest of the day.
As did the daughter’s cookies and ice cream sundae, £6.95, and homemade raspberry cheesecake served with Chantilly cream, £5.95.
Beckleberry’s clotted cream and fudge ice cream, £3.30, was similarly a good choice. You can’t go wrong with this locally-made award-winning ice cream brand and this was a creamy sweet concoction.
It’s a lively pub but the staff were attentive, and the food we sampled was top notch. We finished off with superb quality local Ringtons coffees and tea, fully fuelled for our trip to Alnwick Garden.