An extensive use of local produce, particularly in an area of such abundance and quality as north Northumberland, has a number of advantages.
Not only does it support the local economy and jobs, but it’s also much greener and better for the environment, something that we don’t all care about but should.
That’s why it was both reassuring and pleasing to open the menu at the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel on Sunday and read on the first page that it is the only hotel in north Northumberland that has been awarded a Gold Award for Green Tourism in recognition for the ethical way that it is run.
It also assures diners that they take pride in their meals, ‘using only the best of local seasonal produce wherever we can’.
We arrived at the pretty, white building on the main road through Embleton on perhaps the sunniest Sunday of the year so far, which meant that the hotel looked dazzling and inviting from the outside.
Heading inside, you pass down a corridor to the small bar area and head to the left into the restaurant area.
There were a number of people dining, but we were offered a choice of table and decided to sit in the more open area by the window as it was bright and airy on such a nice day. In the midst of winter, I imagine further into the room would be cosy and intimate though.
Turning our attention to the menu, I was pleased that while Sunday roast was on offer, we weren’t limited solely to beef and trimmings.
A separate lunch menu with quite a few options was also available alongside a bar menu featuring baguettes. soups and the like.
With an eye on meaty main courses, we both decided to go for fish to start – why would you not on the north Northumberland coast?
I had the Seahouses crabcakes with avocado dressing (£6.25), which were just the right size for a starter, packed full of crab meat and with a crispy coating.
The avocado dressing was creamy and something that I hadn’t really had before, but it was tasty and worked well with the crabcakes.
Equally as local and equally as tasty was the Swallow’s oak-smoked salmon and smoked salmon pate (£7.25), which again was a good portion with two rolled-up slices of smoked salmon and a healthy dollop of pate.
Just as some fishcakes can be mostly potato and not much fish, so can some mousee/pates be mostly cream and not much fish. Neither was the case here.
Sundays aren’t really Sundays without a roast in my view, but the varied menu tempted me away from what I would on any other occasion have chosen – roast topside of Northumbrian beef (£8.95).
Instead I was drawn to the 8oz homemade Castle burger (£11.50), which was described as a huge burger feast.
The tasty meat was served inside a bun from the Running Fox bakery at Felton and of course I added the cheese – from Doddington Dairy – for £1.
The accompaniments were ample and delicious as well, with homemade coleslaw in the burger, lovely handcut chips, crispy onion rings and a sweet and tangy red onion marmalade.
However, the traditional option didn’t disappoint either and the roast shoulder of Ingram Valley lamb (£8.95) went down very nicely too.
It was served with roast potatoes, a large Yorkshire pudding and gravy and accompanied by an appetising bowl of vibrant and fresh vegetables including carrots, broccoli and suede.
The promised ‘huge feast’ of my burger, coupled with a generous portion of lamb across the way, meant that there was no way that we were going to be able to manage desserts.
However, we did have an espresso each, which is just one option of coffee that can also be enjoyed as part of an afternoon tea menu.
As would be expected, the hotel offers a fairly extensive wine list and the verdict from the other side of the table was that the Pinot Grigio – one of the two whites offered by the glass – was very good.
There were two real ales on tap with one being local in terms of from a North East brewery (Jarrow’s Rivet Catcher) while the other was from West Yorkshire.
Service was professional but friendly, attentive but not intrusive and all the extras such as warm bread and butter, water and the like were provided.
A WEALTH OF OPPORTUNTIES FOR EATING
As previously mentioned, Sunday lunch was on offer as well as the normal lunch menu, both of which are served every day as are morning coffee, afternoon tea and all-day sandwiches.
The evenings offer a great deal of choice as well with an a la carte menu (similar to the lunch menu) and seasonal specials menu in the Castle Grill Room or a four-course Table d’Hote menu in the hotel restaurant.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Soup of the day......£4.50
Field and oyster mushrooms in a light garlic cream sauce......£5.25
Terrine of the day with red onion marmalade......£5.25
English goat’s cheese bruschetta......£5.75
Breast of free-range chicken with wild mushroom sauce......£10.95
Beer-battered fillet of sustainable cod......£11.25
Supreme of Loch Duart salmon with crayfish, lemon and caper sauce......£12.95
Whitby scampi tails......£10.25
Sauteed oyster and field mushrooms in a red wine sauce......£9.95
Butternut squash and sweet potato Thai red curry......£9.95
Quality of food......9
Value for money......7½
Use of local food......9
Access for disabled......6
Toilet for disabled......No
Verdict: A very tasty lunch that certainly didn’t skimp on the portions. You can’t grumble at the commitment to local food.
Contact: 01665 576111 or visit the Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel online.