It was a brave move by the new owners of The Plough On The Hill at West Allerdean, near Berwick to buy the restaurant during lockdown and treat it to a designer revamp.
Only five years ago, the site was transformed from a traditional local pub to a more modern and stylish venue complete with south-facing outdoor terrace to make the most of idyllic countryside views.
In many ways, the new management has taken The Plough back to its roots, decking out the interior to resemble a country store – a nod to its commitment to let locally sourced ingredients do the talking.
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And so, it was only proper that my wife and I should offer our support by sampling the menu and sitting down for a long-awaited meal for two.
After months of non-stop cooking at home, it was a thrill simply to let someone else pick up the baton (and wash it up) but as she showed us to our table, restaurant manager Chloe promised to treat us like a king and queen, so we immediately upped our expectations.
My wife took far too long to choose from the extensive selection of gins and cocktails (craft beers and wines also available) but we were served promptly and soon realised Chloe was a woman of her word; supplying us with an array of appetizers to whet our appetites.
Among them were hefty chunks of sourdough with balsamic dipping oil; halkidiki olives; a charcuterie platter and Lindisfarne oysters – all delicious.
Despite not having eaten out (in) for so long, we soon relaxed into the comfortable surroundings and enjoyed the experience of being indulged.
With that in mind, we enthusiastically ordered from the ‘small plates’ menu. The smoked haddock fishcake was superb, light and flavoursome, beautifully garnished with homemade tartar sauce, lemon mayo and petit pois. We also shared the local crab on toast; generous chunks of grilled crabmeat served warm atop artisan sourdough from the Etal-based Woodfire Bread Company.
We agreed this would make a perfectly satisfying lunch should we spontaneously stop by on a sunny day, when the children were at school.
We ploughed courageously on to our mains; a fiery Goan chicken curry with homemade naan and a tasty palate-cooling ‘kachchumba’ and, from the Inka grill (because it would have been rude not to), a juicy sirloin steak with chunky chips. Again, the restaurant’s strapline of ‘Honest Food Done Well’ rang true with fresh ingredients, expertly prepared, shining through.
By now, our out of practice stomachs were protesting, but dutifully we agreed to share a dessert and Chloe recommended the mango and white chocolate cheesecake. What a delight it was – surprisingly light and served with a tangy mango sorbet.
Social distancing means that sneaking a peak at what other people have ordered is a bit more tricky but we were already greedily deciding what we’d try next time as a stream of tantalising dishes emerged from the kitchen. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait quite so long until our next visit.