Everyone loves a bargain and it’s even better if it involves eating and drinking your fill and paying very little for the privilege.
So you can imagine my delight when I came away from the Northumberland Fayre Night at the Hog’s Head Inn last Tuesday £20 lighter, but having enjoyed two courses (both me and dining companion) and a bottle of wine.
Now the eagle-eyed regular readers of the Eating Out column will spot that my colleague already reviewed Alnwick’s newest inn, giving it eight out of 10.
But I felt that the selection of winter deals on offer warranted a return trip.
And I wasn’t disappointed, certainly not on value for money.
All I knew about the night before I went was the offer itself – two courses and a bottle of house wine for two people for £20.
Sounds good already, but I was expecting to choose my food from a reduced or special menu.
There are no such limitations though, we were able to choose any starter and main or any main and dessert, including from the specials board.
Add a nice bottle of wine and it’s a very cheap night out for two.
The previous review talked about what the pub is like inside, so there’s no need to go into it again, other than to say that it was a very cosy venue for a wet and windy weeknight.
And I was impressed with the number of people who were there. It was not full by any means (it can cater for 150 diners), but it was very far from the empty scene with tumbleweed that you come to expect in some places during the week.
So on to the food, and having been given carte blanche to order anything from the menu or specials, I made sure I made the most of it.
I started with the bacon, stilton and mushroom melt (£5.45), which came on top of a toasted muffin, accompanied by a salad with a tangy mustard dressing.
The combination is a classic and it worked very nicely to get my tastebuds tingling.
The portion size, too, was good with not too much bread, but a generous topping of bacon and cheese.
On the other side of the table were the tempura thai prawns (£5.95), daintily served in a metal basket and served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.
The batter was light and crispy, but I thought the prawns were just slightly underdone.
The sauce was well-balanced with an initial sticky sweetness, before the chilli heat kicks in afterwards.
On to the main event and while the menu offers a good selection of pub favourites, the specials board really caught the eye.
I chose the haunch of venison (£14.95) while my companion went for the chicken and black pudding (£10.95).
The other selections were pan-seared lamb rump served with garlic and thyme roast potatoes and red cabbage (£15.95) and salmon linguine with a parmesan and garlic muffin (£13.95).
The venison was delicious – I asked for medium rare and I got it so the meat was tender and pink.
It was accompanied by haggis, which was subtly meaty with a perfect peppery kick, while the roast potatoes and green beans were nicely done, not just slapped on the plate as accompaniment.
Bearing in mind we paid £20 for the entire meal, getting away with venison for a main at £14.95 felt like a steal. I felt guilty...almost.
The chicken and black pudding was nicely cooked and the pepper sauce it was covered in bound it all together in spicy goodness.
The wine we washed it all down with was an Australian shiraz and very palatable, not at all an old bottle of rubbish plonk that they wanted to offload.
The only slightly disappointing thing was that while the night was billed as Northumberland Fayre, much of the menu and all of the specials made no reference to the provenance of the meat or fish.
Was I eating Northumberland Estates venison from just around the corner? Sadly I don’t know.
It must be said though, that the inn’s website does promise that all of the food uses ‘ North East ingredients wherever possible’.
You order your meals and drinks at the bar, but the waitresses working were prompt and efficient at bringing the food and clearing the tables, despite quite a busy room on their hands.