If there’s something you don’t expect to see on the menu at an Italian restaurant, it’s a whole basket full of local produce – local to Northumberland, not Italy, that is. But local ingredients are exactly what you get at Élan Artisan Pizzeria in Seahouses.
It can’t be easy to integrate Northumbrian produce in a Mediterranean recipes and flavours but Élan does its best – two Northumberland Cheese Company products (Hadrian and Redesdale) make up the quattro formaggi (four cheeses) pizza, while local smoked salmon, beef and black pudding also have a place.
There’s a lot I liked about Élan. It’s a bring-your-own-wine-or-beer restaurant, with corkage at £1 per bottle, although it does also have its own drinks menu, with wines ranging from a house red, white or rosé at £11.95 to Castleforte Valpolicella Ripasso at £16.95.
We were tempted to take along our £4.35 supermarket special, but decided in the end to splash out on a bottle of the Élan house red, which came with its own branded label – a neat touch.
I liked the open kitchen in which you could see your food being freshly prepared and the pizzas being hand-crafted. The restaurant was a lot bigger than I remember it from our last visit some six years ago when it first opened.
I liked the relaxed, child-friendly atmosphere, with upbeat background music, and I liked the reasonably priced menu that was not so extensive that it could not all be made to order.
The carafe of water, courtesy of Northumbrian Water (ie from the tap), which was offered without prompting, was also appreciated.
We were seated within sight of the chefs scurrying around preparing the food.
Our table was lit by a single candle and it grew increasingly dark, yet romantic, as the evening wore on and the sun went down (which was not conducive to taking pictures during the meal!).
We were quite peckish and decided to plump for starters. For me, it had to be the bruschetta, mainly because it was topped with Northumbrian black pudding, along with fresh chorizo and manchego on freshly-baked bruschetta with sweet chilli and tomato dressing (£5.95).
Opposite, the order was Elan baked mushrooms (oven-roasted mushrooms baked with garlic butter and mozzarella, £5.50), which came with freshly-baked ciabatta for an extra £1.
We were both very impressed at how quickly the order was turned around and how generous the portions were. And when I bit into the bruschetta, I knew immediately that I was onto a winner – it was absolutely delicious. Such a fine combination of flavours, not too spicy, but with a gentle kick, and on the freshest of breads.
It was the best bruschetta I had been served.
Mrs L was also impressive with the mushrooms, grinning like a Cheshire cat and licking her lips as she soaked up the juices with her ciabatta bread. I distracted her with a ruse about the kitchen and sneaked a quick mushroom from her dish – thank goodness for the darkness! I can confirm, that too was a top-notch starter.
We marched on imperiously to mains – pizzas, of course – even Mrs L managed to sidestep the lasagne (although the seafood variety did sound rather splendid).
Who could resist this description? ‘Our delectable Élan dough is hand-stretched which creates a uniquely thin and crispy base, with a light upper crust.’
I opted for the manzo piccante pizza (Northumbrian beef steak mince sauteed with chilli, fresh peppers, red onion, tomato and mozzarella, £11.95). It was served on a board and a sharp, serrated knife helped cut through what was quite a tough base. The topping was plentiful and oh so tasty. We also opted for a side salad, which was crunchy and as fresh as a daisy.
Mrs L went for the anatra pizza (Peking duck, plum and hoi-sin sauce, spring onions and cucumber, £9.50) – an unusual, yet inventive, concoction that really worked. This one, though, was served on a plate that was too small for the pizza, making it very difficult to cut, particularly around the edges.
However, it didn’t unduly spoil the experience – overall, we were very impressed.
DESSERTS NEEDED AN EXTRA BIT OF TLC
We did venture into the world of desserts. Neither of ours were homemade, which was somewhat at odds with the rest of the menu. My Lawler’s-produced American cheesecake and the sticky chocolate pudding opposite, both with Blaydon’s Beckleberry’s ice-cream and both £4.95, were pleasant enough, but needed a human touch.
Youngsters are properly catered for, with a meal deal of a small margherita pizza with any one topping, Beckleberry’s ice-cream and soft drink for £5.95. Food allergies and intolerances are also considered.
Elan has a five-star food hygiene rating from the Food Standards Agency and the county council.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Focaccia (for two)......£4.95
Antipasti (for two)......£9.95
Feta and olive dish......£3.95
Quattro formaggi (four cheeses)......£6.95
Marinara (tuna, prawns, anchovies)......£9.50
Chicken & green pesto pasta......£11.95
Chocolate fudge cake, lemon tart, banoffee pie sundae, Élan tiramisu, Sicilian lemon pot, profiteroles.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......8½
Use of local food......9
Value for money......8
Access for disabled......8
Toilet for disabled......Yes
Verdict: Delicious, authentic pizzas with dollops of imagination.
Contact: 01665 721311 or www.elanpizzeria.co.uk