Gazette’s 2014 top tips for eating out in Northumberland

SeaSalt, Amble
SeaSalt, Amble

We have had a busy 2014 at the Gazette – eating!

As you can see from the list below, we have been all over north Northumberland and occasionally further afield in search of a classy location, a cosy pub, great, friendly service, local ingredients and, simply, imaginative, well-presented, delicious food. We don’t ask for much!

Eating Out, Hooked, Alnmouth

Eating Out, Hooked, Alnmouth

The Gazette meal reviews are honest and genuine – we do not accept free meals in return for generous reviews and we pay for everything we order. Restaurants are not pre-warned of the arrival of a reviewer – we book as any member of the public would.

Our team has tested an array of venues and styles of food and we all have our favourites. Each reviewer has chosen his or her top venue from the 2014 selection.

My top two were quite different but both earned a nine out of ten rating. Holystone Lodge was worth the mid-winter drive north of Rothbury for an excellent selection of vibrant dishes, heavily influenced by Mediterranean concoctions and flavours in a splendid, luxurious setting.

But my vote for the best of 2014 goes to The Craster Restaurant, Craster. What a gem – amazing staff in a venue run by a French restaurateur serving dishes borrowed from Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine. The restaurant is currently closed for the winter but is well worth a visit when it reopens.

Scallops and king prawns at The Craster Restaurant.

Scallops and king prawns at The Craster Restaurant.

Helen Millichamp: Helen’s choice went to Hooked Restaurant, Alnmouth, which received her top mark. She described it as ‘small and intimate, perfect for a romantic meal for two or a special occasion’. She was also impressed with the freshness of the food, writing: ‘The emphasis on fresh and local produce at Hooked is fantastic.’

Ben O’Connell: Ben’s top experience of 2014 was at the latest addition to the gastronomic revolution in Amble. He adored SeaSalt, in Queen Street, saying: ‘The menu at SeaSalt is wide and offers a good variety of dishes, even better when you include the specials and the option of a brunch menu. The service was prompt, friendly, attentive and very professional – the whole experience was very good indeed and there are certainly plans to return.’

James Willoughby: Like me, James was torn between two venues, Hardy’s Bistro, White Swan Hotel, Alnwick and Thai Vibe, Narrowgate, Alnwick but gave the nod to the latter, one of the newest venues on the town’s food-scape. Despite never having tried Thai food before, he wrote: ‘It oozes style and gives off a feel that no expense has been spared ... Thankfully, the venue is more than just style. There’s a whole load of substance here too.’

Jane Coltman: Jane’s top tip was a trip to Eshott Hall for tea-for-two. She said: ‘Eshott Hall did not disappoint. It is one of Northumberland’s most beautiful 17th century country houses, set in idyllic surroundings with rolling lawns and ancient woodland. The afternoon tea was excellent value for money and after reading that head chef Chris Wood and his team have been awarded two AA Rosettes for the ‘highest standards of creative cuisine’, I would love to go back again and see what else the hall has to offer.’

So here they are, the good, the bad and the lovely. In reverse chronological order, here’s the complete list of venues reviewed in 2014 - it may help inspire you to eat out, or avoid certain places, in 2015. Keep buying the Gazette for more reviews this year.

DECEMBER

The Links Hotel, Seahouses by Paul Larkin

Alnwick Playhouse, Bondgate Without by Paul Larkin

Nood Food Emporium, Alnwick by Helen Millichamp

NOVEMBER

The Wynding Inn, The Lord Crewe, Bamburgh by Ben O’Connell

The Turks Head, Rothbury by Helen Millichamp

Shambles, Bridge Street, Morpeth by James Willoughby

OCTOBER

The Granby Inn, Longframlington by Paul Larkin

The Pack Horse Inn, Ellingham by Paul Larkin

Italia Plus, The Coquetvale, Rothbury by Helen Millichamp

SEPTEMBER

No.16 at Warkworth House Hotel, Warkworth by Ben Oconnell

Olive Branch Café, Alnwick by Helen Millichamp

The Coach Inn, Lesbury by Paul Larkin

AUGUST

SeaSalt, Queen Street, Amble by Ben O’Connell

Varanda Indian Restaurant, Clayport Street, Alnwick by Paul Larkin

Redesdale Arms, Rochester, near Otterburn by Paul Larkin

JULY

Circa, Marks Bridge, Amble by Helen Millichamp

Thai Vibe, Narrowgate, Alnwick by James Willoughby

The Plough, Bondgate Without, Alnwick by Paul Larkin

JUNE

Hope and Anchor, Alnmouth by Helen Millichamp

The Craster Arms, Beadnell by Paul Larkin

The Craster Restaurant, Craster by Paul Larkin

MAY

Dunstanburgh Castle Hotel, Embleton by Ben O’Connell

The Olde Ship Inn, Seahouses by Paul Larkin

Tea for two, Eshott Hall by Jane Coltman

APRIL

The Fleece Inn, Bondgate Without, Alnwick by Helen Millichamp

The Purdy Lodge, Adderstone, nr Belford by Paul Larkin

Hardy’s Bistro, White Swan Hotel, Alnwick by James Willoughby

MARCH

The Old Storehouse, Amble by Paul Larkin

The Widdrington Inn, Widdrington by Helen Millichamp

Hooked Restaurant, Alnmouth by Helen Millichamp

FEBRUARY

The White Swan Inn, Warenford by Ben O’Connell

Holystone Lodge Restaurant, Holystone, Coquet Valley by Paul Larkin

Northumberland Arms, Felton by Paul Larkin

JANUARY

The Art House, Bondgate Within, Alnwick by Ben O’Connell

The Strawberry Lounge, Narrowgate, Alnwick by Helen Millichamp

Yan’s Restaurant, Bondgate Within, Alnwick by James Willoughby