We scurried, hunched against the elements, into the Potted Lobster at Bamburgh confident that we were going to enjoy our evening.
It had almost required the building of an ark to get there, but, while the apocalyptic downpours raged outside, forcing the closure of the Seahouses road, which was under a few feet of water, inside was a world away.
Cosy, comforting and warm, the antithesis of the Northumbrian hooley blowing waves of horizontal rain at the neat bay windows.
Washed wood furniture and candles set in suspended jars like ships’ lanterns gave the impression of being on board a vessel bound for warmer climes.
Luckily, we were on terra firma and the restaurant was not rocking, not, at least in the movement sense. It was, however, buzzing with chatter and laughter – rocking in that sense – like walking in on a very convivial family party.
The welcome we received was enthusiastic and cheery and we were shown to our table, which was wedged between a party of four and another of five – not the most intimate of settings but we hadn’t requested a position far from the madding crowd.
We were all linked by a washed wooden bench running the length of the venue – it was adorned with a fetching seafood-themed cushion. Large white-framed, local prints completed the nautical ambience.
We chose to launch our feast with a bottle of house red – La Serre Merlot, an extremely palatable and fruity wine – which was accompanied by a jug of water, almost without mention. So to the menu.
The Potted Lobster is the latest venture of renowned local chef Richard Sim, an early incumbent of The Treehouse restaurant at The Alnwick Garden and the co-founder of Zecca and The Old Boathouse in Amble and latterly of the Baltic in Gateshead.
These have all been high-class ventures and we have enjoyed many meals in these restaurants – now you understand our earlier confidence.
The menu was typically Mr Sim – a blend of the ordinary and the extravagant. The dishes may seem audacious, but actually they are just a twist on tried and tested recipes.
Take my starter for example – I couldn’t pass over the signature dish, the potted lobster (£9). Like the description says, ‘think posh potted shrimp’. The understatement is delicious!
Think more fusion of delicate seafood flavours – the distinct, nutty and delicate lobster, the sharper, fishy crab and the sweet brown shrimps that are more at home in this dish. Held together with a butter and herb crumble and there, for me, was heaven on a plate, or in a terrine jar.
The perfectly apportioned warm toast sliced from ciabatta and butter pats on a separate plate gained this entrée full marks.
Across the table, duck rillette (a form of pâté), which was on the specials board, was delivered in very similar fashion, but with warm crusty bread and farmhouse chutney (£8). The combination was equally pleasing and received a firm thumbs-up.
Other starters among the specials included soft-shell crab with Thai coleslaw (£8.50); and salt and chilli squid with king prawns (£9.50). They may seem expensive but judging by our portions and quality, worth every penny.
You must think me, at best, eccentric but sitting in my favourite place – a fish restaurant – I fancied lamb next! Not any ordinary lamb, though – twice-cooked shoulder of Ingram Valley lamb, buttered mash and red onion jus, with homemade mint sauce (£16). To say it melted in the mouth is more of an understatement than the posh potted shrimp. It was absolutely scrumptious and the seasonal vegetables (green beans, curly kale and leeks) were spot on, crunchy and fresh, cooked in shallow water and butter, I would venture.
The whole lobster, neatly arranged with terracotta flowerpots of hand-cut chips and baby leaf salad (£29.50), with strips of yellow and orange carrot, was just divine.
We perhaps should have stopped there but ploughed on to desserts to complete the review. My Madeira-poached pears with warm rice pudding (£5.50) was filling in the extreme and a beautiful contrast. But my wife’s glazed lemon tart with fresh raspberries (£6.25) was a little too tart for her delicate tastebuds. She made a discreet point to the waitress and the item disappeared from the bill.
Overall, it was a classy, yet relaxing, experience and one that will surely be repeated.
VERITABLE HAVEN OF LOCAL PRODUCE
The Potted Lobster is a paradise for those passionate about their local food. I chose the lamb main course because it was from the Ingram Valley, but where possible, the ingredients have been sourced locally. Diners are even told the smoked haddock in the chowder is from Seahouses supplier Swallow Fish. The service was impeccable and judging by the comments around us, this new restaurant will be very popular.
Our bill was £84.45, which is on the expensive side, but about right for the quality.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Soup of the day......£4.50
Smoked haddock chowder......£8
Trio of Lindisfarne oysters......£6
Partridge popcorn/Thai sauce......£6.25
Leek and Gruyere tart......£5.95
Battered fresh haddock......£11.75
Dressed local crab......£16.50
Fish and seafood goujons......£10
10oz sirloin of local beef......£21
Cauliflower cheese fritters......£10
Seafood platter for two......£50
Truffle and Parmesan chips......£4
Millionaire’s brownie sundae......£6.25
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......9
Use of local food......10
Toilet for disabled......No
Verdict: High-quality food in a relaxed setting.
Contact: 01668 214088 or visit www.facebook.com/pottedlobster