MEAL REVIEW: The Sun Inn, High Church, Morpeth

King prawns, with sweet chilli and coconut dipping sauce starter at The Sun Inn, Morpeth.
King prawns, with sweet chilli and coconut dipping sauce starter at The Sun Inn, Morpeth.

It certainly felt like a step back in time when we walked through the doors of The Sun Inn at Morpeth.

Not just a few years, nor decades, but centuries.

Duck liver pate, with hot toast and Cumberland sauce.

Duck liver pate, with hot toast and Cumberland sauce.

If buildings could talk, this ancient coaching inn would be able to regale us with a myriad of entertaining tales.

I could just picture the hundreds of people on days of yore stopping off on their travels, horse and carriage tied up outside.

The atmosphere was comfortable, the surroundings ‘olde worlde’, some may say old-fashioned, but I thought the exposed stone walls, dark, wooden beams and panelling, chequered carpet and different levels gave it an authentic feel. Too many venues have been artificially renovated to appear like every other quaint gastropub – this was genuine, no need for a false rent-a-history.

The focus on food was obvious, with tables – big, chunky tables – everywhere, in nooks, crannies and alcoves. But there was also a bustling bar area and a good selection of real ales for those looking for a watering hole, rather than a bite to eat.

Chicken, leek and bacon pie, topped with puff pastry with potatoes (or you could have chips) and veg.

Chicken, leek and bacon pie, topped with puff pastry with potatoes (or you could have chips) and veg.

During our visit, the real ales guest list, complete with tasting notes, boasted Spitfire Gold, described as a golden ale, sweet malt taste, a standard mild ale; Bombadier, rich and fruity English beer, copper colour with a sweet taste; and Deuchars IPA, dry hop flavour with hints of fresh citrus and a floral finish.

We were shown to our table, having booked earlier in the day and arrived early. Grub is served from noon until 2pm, and 6pm until 9pm. Despite arriving early, there were already folks eating.

The tables weren’t spectacularly decorated – a white, paper napkin, an unlit tealight and a knife and fork was the sum of it.

A beer and a red wine ordered, we settled down to peruse the substantial menu. It was a mouth-watering selection of comfort dishes at a curiously wide range of prices.

BBQ pulled pork, with pittas, chips, salad, corn, coleslaw and garlic mayo.

BBQ pulled pork, with pittas, chips, salad, corn, coleslaw and garlic mayo.

At the expensive end, there was homemade fish pie (smoked haddock, salmon and king prawns in a white cream sauce, topped with cheddar mash, £13.95); Thai king prawn curry (£14.95); and monkfish and chorizo kebab (£18.95).

The specials board offerings, too, were at the pricey side – seafood paella (£14.50), crispy duck breast (£15.95) and crispy belly pork (£14.50).

On the other hand, some of the pub standards would not strike too much fear into your wallet – chef’s beef lasagne, chips and salad (£8.95); wholetail scampi, chips and salad or mushy peas (£8.95); and three-cheese veggie bake (v, £8.50).

A big plus, though, was the list of local produce suppliers for the ingredients.

Cinder toffee cheesecake

Cinder toffee cheesecake

Feeling a tad peckish, we both went for starters. I opted for pan-fried king prawns in garlic, butter and white wine, on herby salad (£5.50), while across the table, the pin landed in ‘our duck liver pâté, with hot toast and Cumberland sauce’ (£5.95).

We had a comfortable wait for the food to arrive. My three king prawns were delicious, seared perfectly to retain their juiciness. The accompanying salad of mixed leaves, red onion and a slice of tomato was fresh and crunchy.

Mrs L’s pâté starter was colossal! Two huge blocks balanced precariously on thick, warm toast – I had to help her out and agreed it was rich, tasty, but a bit unwieldy.

For main course, I chose one of the comfort options – chicken, leek and bacon pie, topped with puff pastry with potatoes and veg (£8.95). Mrs L plumped for BBQ pulled pork, with pittas, chips, salad, corn, coleslaw and garlic mayo (£12.95).

Wow – no one could complain at the portion sizes! There were plenty of chunks of chicken and bacon in a sea of creamy sauce in my deep plate, under a towering puff-pastry topping, which was actually more puff than pastry and quite dry. But it was palatable and so, so filling.

The pulled pork dish was at least two meals in one. The pork was subtly flavoured and came with mini pitta breads and scrumptious chips. The only issue was the corn on the cob, which was overcooked and dry.

Inside The Sun Inn, Morpeth.

Inside The Sun Inn, Morpeth.

Desserts weren’t really on the agenda after the first two courses had done the trick filling the void, but after a rest, we decided to share a cinder toffee cheesecake – the things we do for a full review! Complete with toffee shavings and chocolate-coated biscuits, it was very pleasant and not too sweet, although not homemade.

PLENTY OF OPTIONS AT THE SUN INN

By all accounts – mainly on TripAdvisor – the Sunday lunch at The Sun Inn is top-notch. We were also tempted by the Grill Deal, which offers two meals from the grill (rump steak, gammon and eggs, breast of chicken, all with chips, salad and onion rings, or salmon fillet, new potatoes and salad), plus a bottle of wine for £25.

Youngsters have the choice of cod and chips; chicken goujons and chips; cheese and tomato pizza, or pasta; sausage and mash, with a drink and ice-cream for £5.95.

SELECTION FROM THE MENU

Starters

Homemade soup......£4.50

Mussels, in white wine, cream......£7.50

Grilled goats cheese (v)......£5.50

Sticky, meaty BBQ pork ribs......£5.95

Nachos, salsa, guacamole (v)......£5.95

Mains

Gammon and eggs......£10.95

Chicken supreme......£9.95

12oz sirloin steak......£16.50

Bacon and cheeseburger......£9.95

Monkfish and chorizo kebab......£18.95

Battered cod, chips, mushy peas......£9.50

Wholetail scampi, chips......£8.95

Chef’s beef lasagne......£8.95

Tomato, asparagus risotto (v)......£7.95

Grilled seabass fillets......£13.95

Desserts (£5.50)

Dark chocolate & orange sponge cake; chocolate fudge cake; lemon meringue pie, sticky toffee pudding.

STAR RATINGS

Quality of food......8

Presentation......7

Choice......9

Vegetarian choice......8

Children’s menu......Yes

Atmosphere......8½

Service......7

Access for disabled......6 (tricky steps)

Toilet for the disabled......Yes

Overall rating 8

Verdict: Go with a healthy appetite and choose wisely for the best value. Service a bit slow.

Contact: 01670 514 153 or http://suninn-northumberland.co.uk