MEAL REVIEW: Coach Inn, Lesbury, near Alnwick

Vegetables side dish at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

Vegetables side dish at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

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If pubs or restaurants are judged solely on their appearance from the outside, the Coach Inn would win a gold medal.

The floral display, with a cart spilling a cascade of blooms, tubs, hanging baskets and wicker umbrellas over picnic benches, is nothing short of spectacular. It is a blaze of vibrant colour all year round.

Vegetable soup at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

Vegetable soup at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

In summer months, drinkers and diners spill out onto the tables outside and the place is buzzing on a sunny weekend.

Inside is rather more subdued, although over the years it has become more homely and comfortable, with the addition of armchairs and smart tartan carpet in a dining alcove.

We landed unannounced, as usual, at the busiest time for the village pub – Sunday lunchtime. It was quarter to one and bar and dining area were both heaving.

We were ushered through to the restaurant to the right of the bar and were seated on the last available table. It was right next to the swinging door of the kitchen – not the best, but our fault for not being early nor booking!

Prawn cocktail starter at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

Prawn cocktail starter at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

The restaurant is likewise home from home. A big stone fireplace complete with glowing electric fire, whitewashed walls above green wooden panelling, wicker chairs, oak flooring, solid tables, cream dresser...

It being a Sunday, the menu was restricted to starters, roasts and desserts. The specials board just above my wife’s head was taunting us with the delights of sea bass and sea bream – a reminder, nonetheless, to return on a different day.

While we perused the choices , our drinks were ordered and arrived promptly – a pint of Black Sheep for me and a lime and soda for Mrs L.

The starters numbered four: Homemade soup with fresh crusty bread (£4.40), vegetable parcels, with chilli dip (v, £4.80), prawn cocktail (£5.80), crispy Camembert, with raspberry coulis (v, £5.30).

Lime mousse with raspberries at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

Lime mousse with raspberries at the Coach Inn, Lesbury.

The soup was vegetable and tempted my wife. I went for the prawn cocktail.

The main courses all cost £8.95 – slow-roast Northumbrian beef, slow-roast mini-joint of Northumbrian lamb, chicken breast and roast loin of pork. Vegetarian options from the main menu are also available (details, right).

We’re both suckers for and supporters of local food, so Mrs L had the beef and I plumped for the lamb.

We ordered and the offer of a glass of water without asking was a most pleasant surprise.

Without further ado, the starters arrived, both in generous-sized bowls, with chunks of malty brown bread. Cress was sprinkled on both dishes. High marks for presentation.

The only thing that let them down was foiled butter pats – ramekins of butter are much more classy.

Taste-wise, the soup was the bee’s knees – smooth and moreish, very nourishing on a distinctly autumnal day.

The prawn cocktail was very pleasant too and seemed to go on forever. Both starters were canny portions.

The chirpy, efficient waitresses were there in a flash to clear away empty plates and the next round appeared in the blink of an eye.

The focal point of a roast dinner is the meat and in both cases, large, rough-cut wedges were served up. No pre-cut, pre-cooked slivers here.

As slow-roast meat they were both well-done and fall-apart tender. The lamb was quite fatty, which will suit some tastes.

Two lightly roasted and two new potatoes, accompanied by an airy Yorkshire pudding and rich gravy completed the initial plateful.

An additional dish was a potpourri of veg, some perfectly cooked (cauliflower), some overdone (soggy broccoli). An extra boat of gravy was another nice touch.

The result was a decent Sunday lunch at a price reasonable enough to make it almost cheaper to eat out than bother to cook at home.

It actually restored my wife’s faith in the pub roast. A few howlers have failed to match her own high standards in the past.

Desserts, all £5.40, were a mixture of homemade and manufactured. Mine was not homemade – Dutch apple pie with very thick custard – but tasty all the same.

Across the table landed a homemade lime mousse with fresh raspberries – a rich, interesting combination of tart fruit and sweet mousse.

Both were spectacularly presented with a dusting of chocolate powder.

The food was good, service excellent, no real complaints.

TOP TREATS FOR VEGETARIAN DINERS

While the Sunday selection is limited, the options for vegetarians are more extensive as the main menu comes into play.

Options include fresh pasta with roast Mediterranean vegetables and goats’ cheese (£9.40); cheese and onion crisp bake served with cheese sauce (£9.20); roast cherry tomato and goats’ cheese tart topped with poached egg (£9.40); scrambled egg with fresh asparagus served on toasted muffin topped with a Parmesan crisp (£10.20).

THE COMPLETE SUNDAY MENU

STARTERS

Homemade soup with fresh crusty bread £4.40

Vegetable parcels, chilli dip (v) £4.80

Prawn cocktail £5.80

Crispy camembert, with raspberry coulis £5.30

MAINS (ALL £8.95)

Slow roast Northumbrian beef

Slow roast mini-joint of Northumbrian lamb

Chicken breast

Roast loin of pork

DESSERTS (ALL £5.40)

Bread and butter pudding

Homemade fresh strawberry brûlée

Rich chocolate pudding

Homemade sticky toffee pudding

Homemade lime mousse with fresh raspberries

Dutch apple pie

STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)

Quality of food 8

Choice 6

Vegetarian choice 8

Value for money 8

Atmosphere 7

Service 8.5

Use of local produce 8

Children catered for (half-portions) 7

Toilet for disabled No

Access for disabled (ramps) 8

Overall rating 8

Verdict: Enjoyable home-cooked food, decent portions, not expensive, subdued atmosphere, a quite relaxing Sunday experience.

Contact: Call 01665 830865