Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but the food inside was delightful.
As the snow fell down on a wintry afternoon in Morpeth, a delicious and hearty Sunday lunch at Barluga proved just the tonic to banish the January blues.
Taking refuge inside from the blizzard – having parked in the car park nearby – my wife and I were impressed with the venue’s stylish look.
Located at the town’s Sanderson Arcade, Barluga is a boutique and contemporary affair, with a real gastro-pub feel.
It fits in well with the upmarket shopping precinct, which boasts coffee shops and little boutiques, as well as a smattering of national companies.
Spread out over two floors, the formal dining area is upstairs, while there is a more casual and relaxed sitting space downstairs.
For diners with disabilities or pushchairs, the venue has a lift.
The trendy Barluga can also cater for a range of functions, including weddings; perhaps an indication of just how smart this social spot is.
We didn’t book beforehand, but still managed to secure a table without any fuss and were seated immediately.
Being 1pm on a Sunday, the dining area was busy, but was not bursting at capacity, which made for a comfortable dining experience, with enough people to generate a lively atmosphere, but without feeling claustrophobic and manic.
Music was playing in the background, while the classic film South Pacific was projected onto one of the walls – although you couldn’t really hear it.
We were shown the menu, which featured a traditional Sunday lunch offering, as well as an à la carte option. We opted for the former.
The Sunday lunch was reasonably priced – £11 for one course; £14 for two courses; and £16 for three courses. There was also a children’s option – £6 for one course, or £7.50 with ice-cream.
The set Sunday menu comprised a suitable range of dishes, with four starters, six mains and three desserts (see selection from the menu, right), with choices for vegetarians. Helpfully, it highlighted the dishes which contained nuts or were gluten-free.
To start, we chose the moules marinière, with cream and parsley, and the soup of the day (carrot and coriander).
For the main course, Mrs W opted for roast pork loin, served with crackling, sage and pork stuffing, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cabbage, peas, carrots and broccoli, while I went for the trio of meats (beef, pork and chicken for £3 supplement) with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cabbage, peas, carrots and broccoli.
Barluga’s website states that it uses ‘the finest locally-sourced seasonal produce’. In keeping with this, the Sunday lunch menu featured Northumbrian beef, although that was the only direct reference on the menu to Barluga’s keep it local mantra.
To wash down our food we ordered a small white wine and a pint of Amstel.
The carrot and coriander soup was wholesome, thick and smooth. The bread roll was heated, but not soggy.
The mussels were indulgent, fresh and meaty and the sauce was oozing flavour, with the taste of the parsley coming through, but certainly not overpowering the fish.
It was a good start and there was more of the same as we moved onto the mains.
The Sunday lunches were filling and delicious.
The beef was moist, flavoursome and delightfully pink – just how I’d asked for it – while the pork was succulent and The Wife devoured the crackling.
The vegetables were suitably crunchy and the Yorkshire was light and fluffy and not in any way greasy.
Perhaps my only gripe was that I could have done with a touch more gravy, but it certainly didn’t spoil the meal.
Both full to the brim, we decided not to order dessert, but the pudding options – chef’s cheesecake, sticky-toffee pudding or knickerbocker glory, were tempting, especially as the first two courses had been a success.
It wasn’t just the food which impressed at Barluga either. The service was efficient – especially as the restaurant was filling up with the lunchtime crowd – and the waiter was attentive, friendly and more than happy to chat about the menu and the specials on offer.
In all in, the dining experience at Barluga was top notch, proving you can serve up substance as well as style.
COMPREHENSIVE MENU FOR DINERS
It isn’t just meat and two veg that’s on the menu at Barluga. The stylish restaurant has more than just the traditional Sunday lunch offering to tickle the taste buds, including a range of sandwiches (such as pulled pork, chargrilled steak and open mushroom), Thai-style fishcakes and burgers.
In keeping with its contemporary feel, Barluga has a comprehensive cocktail menu, from the likes of a cosmopolitan and mojito to a dirty banana, the amaretto-based cherry lips and gin-infused Singapore sling. There’s also wine, beer and Champagne.
SUNDAY LUNCH MENU (£11 for one course; £14 for two courses; and £16 for three courses)
Goats’ cheese tart (vegetarian)
Ham hock salad (gluten free)
Roast Northumbrian beef, served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, cabbage, peas, carrots and broccoli.
Market fish, served with coarse mustard cream and seasonal vegetables.
Wild mushroom and tarragon risotto (vegetarian and gluten free), served with rocket and grana padano.
Chef’s cheesecake (ask for details of the serving of the day).
Sticky-toffee pudding, with vanilla ice-cream and salt caramel sauce.
Knickerbocker glory, with fruit compote and cream (contains nuts).
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......7½
Use of local food......none mentioned
Value for money......8
Verdict: Decent food in stylish settings, Barluga is a welcome addition to Morpeth town centre.
Food Hygiene Rating (inspection November 30, 2017)......3 (Generally Satisfactory)