This last weekend brought a return visit to this most stylish of country boltholes – and one of our favourite Tyne Valley pubs in Northumberland.
The Duke of Wellington Inn is a relaxed Northumbrian gastropub, tucked away in the village of Newton, a few miles from Stocksfield.
The restaurant was busy the Saturday night we swung by for dinner, and the seven luxe bedrooms are doing well too, proving popular with Hadrian’s Wall walkers, a few of these striding out for Bank Holiday.
The rural inn has won a clutch of awards in a few short years, including a five-star rating and breakfast award from VisitEngland, as well as a coveted gold standard plaque.
The open-plan bar and restaurant area is really cosy with inviting ambience. The décor is contemporary with rustic touches including wooden floor, blue checked curtains and exposed stone walls. And we love the Sue Moffitt cow paintings adorning the walls. We took a window seat in the restaurant with glimpses of those glorious Tyne Valley views.
Food is one of the pub’s great strengths. Head chef Dave McKie is currently at the kitchen helm – he has been in place for two years – and is doing a sterling job. It’s modern British with the emphasis on local and seasonal – with everything from lunchtime sandwiches to ‘Duke’s Favourites’ including the likes of homemade beef burger, spiced lamb kofta and beer battered cod and chips, to Sunday lunches and a la carte offerings.
We chose from the a la carte menu – savouring our choices over a glass of prosecco. It’s just as well it’s a fairly compact menu as we liked the look of every dish on offer.
My salad starter of set mustard cream with chunks of heirloom tomatoes, heritage beetroot and morsels of crumbly goat’s cheese, £6.95, was a rustic dish, full of flavour and colour. It looked so attractive – like a mini work of art. Every ingredient in the well-thought-out dish was incredibly tasty, from the juicy tomatoes to creamy cheese, and most especially the carefully crafted parmesan crisp.
Across the table, chicken Caesar croquettes, £6.95, with anchovies and gem lettuce, £6.95, was a sassy innovative take on the classic salad offering, the two croquettes packed full of delicious chicken.
Mains consisted of a choice of five dishes, plus three chef’s specials. My choice from the latter – pan-fried swordfish with mango salsa, sticky coconut rice, cabbage and asparagus and pak choi, £15.95. This feels like such a ‘holiday’ dish and is a rare choice for me. It was perfectly cooked, the fish firm and very meaty, beautifully seared on the outside, soft and flaky in the middle; the coconut rice with lemongrass so moreish.
Daughter’s choice of pan-roast stone bass, greens, cauliflower puree, cannellini beans, prawns and oyster, £19.95, was a terrific dish. The delicately-cooked fish was excellent – moist and flavoursome, the oyster – coated in popcorn flour and deep-fried – the piece de resistance, and pure taste of the sea. Another superb dish with lots of elements and interest, and the cauliflower puree was a big hit – so intensely flavoured!
Imaginative dishes these and some very skilful cooking on show.
Those with a sweet tooth will be in seventh heaven as there is an elevated desserts’ menu… My choice of pineapple soufflé, £5.95, with coconut ice cream and shot glass of creamy pina colada, was worth waiting the 15 minutes’ cooking time. The fluffy coat-the-roof-of the-mouth soufflé was risen to perfection; the melting coconut ice cream, with shredded coconut and mango pieces accompaniment making this a fruity tropical pud. I loved this delightful summery offering.
Daughter’s choice of cherry and white chocolate cannelloni, £5.95, with sour cherry sorbet and milk chocolate mousse, similarly looked like a mini masterpiece on the plate. The only slight let-down was the chocolate cannelloni, which was a little on the bland side, but then the tangy sorbet and heavenly mousse more than made up for it. And the dark chocolate crisps and chocolate ‘soil’ brought a smile to the face.
Every dish was carefully presented with care – the staff are hard-working and attentive, especially front-of-house manager Alex, who knows her job inside out.
We forget how good the food is here at this hidden gem of a place. And we’d only wished we’d booked an overnight stay. Maybe not for the walking on this occasion – but to savour the valley views the next day over a morning cup of coffee.
The Duke of Wellington Inn, Newton, Northumberland, NE43 7UL. www.thedukeofwellingtoninn.co.uk