Deciding to take a gamble and go somewhere new rather than play it safe with a tried and tested option, I chose the Tankerville Arms in Eglingham, having heard good things. We didn’t regret it with the traditional venue and hearty menu providing a really nice evening.
Apart from a couple who left not long after we arrived, we were alone in the dining room, which is perhaps not a surprise on a chilly February evening.
But while we had a private dining experience, there was a decent number in the bar, which meant that there was a bit of atmosphere and not deathly silence – the best of both worlds really.
There was plenty to tempt the tastebuds on the menu so we decided to have starters as well. My eyes were instantly drawn to the local seared pigeon breast with black pudding and bacon (£6.95) as pigeon is a favourite of mine and not something I tend to have at home, made even better by the perfect accompaniment.
But I had also spotted the breast of guinea fowl for the main event and, while not entirely similar, I decided that double breast of bird was rather one-note.
So instead I started with the smoked salmon and cod fish cake with lemon mayonnaise (£5.95), which was also the choice of my grandfather.
They were classic-tasting fish cakes with no frills and with a crispy outside and a soft interior, we both enjoyed them.
The portion size was also good for a starter, but it may have left you wanting more had you had it as a lunch or light bite.
Elsewhere on our table, another classic starter – crispy potato skins with garlic mayonnaise (£4.95) – which were done very nicely, and the game terrine, with homemade chutney and artisan bread (£5.95).
My wife didn’t afford me a taste of the latter, which says something in itself, but I was assured that both the terrine and chutney were very good indeed and it was obvious to the eye that they were handmade, and not from a packet or jar.
The quality of the starters had well and truly whetted our appetites for the main courses and we weren’t disappointed. My guinea fowl (£13.95) was well cooked and moist – something that isn’t a given if care is not taken, as with all poultry, while the accompanying dauphinoise potato was rich and creamy.
If I had to be hyper-critical, I would have preferred a bit more punch to the mushroom and bacon sauce, but there was certainly nothing wrong with it.
The bowl of vegetables that was served to accompany the mains was good as well, with crunch where you would want it and no sogginess in sight.
There were similar noises of enjoyment for the herb-crusted lamb chops with roasted garlic and rosemary new potatoes and minted gravy (£14.95) plus the oven-baked fillet of hake with the well-judged accompaniment of tomato and chorizo ragout (£14.95).
My grandfather’s diminishing appetite in his later years was to my advantage as it meant he couldn’t quite finish his pan-fried 8oz fillet steak, with chips, mushroom and tomato (£26.50), and I got to polish it off.
It wasn’t cheap but I thought it was excellent, very tender, and the chef had got the medium-rare cooking requested bang on. If you pay for expensive ingredients, you at least want to taste what you’re paying for and that was certainly the case here.
In a simple example of the good service on offer, his steak came with a garlic butter, which wasn’t one of the sauces on the menu, but which the kitchen was happy to do.
My wife and I decided to share a dessert and went for the warm apple and caramel pie (£5.50), opting for custard with it rather than ice-cream.
It was a nice end to the meal, although for me I would say the ratio of apple to caramel was possibly too much in favour of the latter. I bet those with an even sweeter tooth than mine wouldn’t bat an eyelid though!
SPECIAL NIGHT FOR BURGER FANATICS
As well as the main menu, which is served at lunchtimes too (not on Mondays and Tuesdays) and also features sandwiches (noon to 6pm only), there is also a special burger night on Mondays from 4pm.
For £10, you can choose from one of five burgers, 10 sauces, five sides and two toppings from a choice of eight.
Plus, if you upload a photo to social media – #TankyBurgerBattle – you could win a monthly prize.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Chef’s soup of the day......£4.50
Garlic king prawns, chorizo, white wine cream......£7.95
Spinach and goat’s cheese tart, beetroot puree, basil dressing......£5.50
Beer-battered fresh codling, chips, tartare sauce, mushy peas......£10.95
Aberdeen Angus steak burger......£11.50
Belly pork, black pudding mash, honey and mustard mash......£13.95
Tankerville pie of the day......£11.95
Baked chickpea and coriander cake......£11.95
Chocolate and raspberry brownie, chocolate ice-cream......£5.50
Sticky toffee pudding......£5.50
Doddington Dairy cheese......£7.50
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......9
Local food......no specific mentions
Value for money......8
Access for disabled......6 (some steps)
Toilet for disabled......Yes
Verdict: An enjoyable evening of good food and drink in comfortable surroundings.
Contact: 01665 578444 or visit www.tankervillearms.com