I took to The Lindisfarne Inn as soon as we had crossed the threshold.
It was a friendly building even before we encountered any staff.
Pleasant and well-maintained on the outside and warm and cosy inside.
Tastefully decked out in traditionally country-pub style, it seems to open its arms and give you a big hug.
The Northumbrian slogans carved into chunky beams raised a smile – ‘Scran, slorp, kip and dander aboot’ and ‘Gan canny’ above the exit.
The landlord was extremely pleasant, explaining carefully the difference between the two real ales on pump – Farne Island and the Secret Kingdom – both very appropriate for an inn at the gateway to the magnificent Holy Island.
My wife and I both chose the darker, richer and slightly stronger Secret Kingdom to accompany meal selection.
We sat in the bar area as the light, airy restaurant was full – that’ll teach us not to book!
The menu screamed pub grub at us, but there were enough variations on a theme and interesting twists to keep us hooked.
The specials board also posed a few dilemmas: Deep-fried, breaded brie wedges (£5,95) or Cajun-style chicken wings (£6.95) to start and pan-fried tuna steak (£14.95), beer-battered Scottish haggis (reflecting our proximity to the border, £9.95), seafood medley (mussels, haddock, salmon and king prawns cooked in a creamy garlic and white wine sauce, very tempting, £14.95) or pan-fried haddock with a Greenland prawn and vanilla cream sauce (£12.95).
I also liked the polite warning that the food was cooked to order and might mean delays at busy times – at least it meant your scran would be freshly cooked. The lack of commitment on the menu to local produce was slightly disappointing, though.
We chose to share a starter – the antipasto (a selection of cured meats, with olives, sun-dried tomatoes and toasted bread slices, £8.95) and ordered at the bar. Once it arrived, we realised it wasn’t the most challenging dish for the chef and was more an exercise in presentation, which was first-class.
The salad leaves could have been crispier but, all in all, a good start, a sample of the Mediterranean on the longest day.
Our main courses required more ingenuity. I went for pan-fried sea bass cooked in a honey, lime and coriander sauce, served with seasonal vegetables and new potatoes (£12.95). The sauce was an interesting combination of flavours, which would have worked had it not been too salty, killing any subtlety.
Added to the saltiness of the earlier olives and cured meat, I needed that pint to quench my thirst.
It was a fine effort, though, with neat presentation and well-cooked broccoli, green beans and carrots.
My wife had the chicken tikka (£12.95), which had a more straightforward appearance – chunks of chicken breast in rich, creamy tikka sauce in a silver dish, with a mound of plain rice and an artistic poppadom.
It was a triumph for someone who would not normally opt for a curry – her high-risk strategy paid off and she was rewarded with a spicy, but mild, treat.
We felt so at home that we decided to stay for desserts.
I side-stepped my usual sticky toffee pudding in favour of fruit crumble and custard (£5.95) and I ordered warm chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream (£5.50) for my wife.
Mine was a real conglomeration of flavours. The fruit was toffee apple, the crumble was sitting in a pool of custard and the dish drizzled with strawberry sauce and it was topped with a Flake. Wow! Too much for my delicate taste buds, I’m afraid.
You can tell the chef was trying so hard to impress, perhaps a little too hard on this occasion. Take away the chocolate and strawberry drizzle and the dessert would have been ample.
By contrast, the fudge cake was simple but effective. Guess whose dish was clean at the end!
She never did tell me her verdict, but I guess the empty bowl said it all.
We enjoyed our trip north and would give it the nod for anyone visiting Holy Island.
Vegetarians are well looked after at the Lindisfarne Inn, with their own section of four main courses, including mushroom tikka (£8.95) and roasted vegetable tart (£7.95). And many of the dishes have a guten-free option available.