Some days simply demand simple fare. You know the ones – nothing seems to go right and everything is a rush.
Even if you had remembered to get the chicken out of the freezer, there’s no time to cook the wretched thing.
It’s at times like this – and they seem to occur far too frequently at Larkin Towers – that places like The Island View Inn come into their own.
I had actually received a recommendation from a reader to give this B&B, formerly called The Cat and sitting beside the A1 at Cheswick, just south of Berwick, a whirl.
“My husband and I heard good reports of the Island View and went along to investigate,” said the email. “I’m pleased to say that the catering standards have vastly improved and I would like to encourage your readers to give the menu a try.
“Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke we returned a couple of weeks later and were delighted with our meals – at very reasonable prices! Island View deserves local support.”
Difficult to resist such a recommendation, so having seen the simplicity of the menu online, I was intrigued and waited for the day when we needed a bit of comfort.
It came on Sunday.
Having checked online, we discovered food was served from noon to 8.30pm every day. On this occasion, the tide times didn’t really match to make a day of it on Lindisfarne so we decided to avoid the Sunday lunch rush, make the most of the fine weather and pop up at sunset.
A midsummer mist obscured any view of Holy Island the picture window in the restaurant might afford, although I’m not sure it can seen from there anyway.
A recent refurbishment had given both the restaurant on the left and the bar on the right a homely feel, although our timing meant we were virtually alone listening to the echoes of our own voices. A little light music would have helped create more of an atmosphere. A cursory glance at the menu revealed the same limited choice but all the pub-grub favourites you’d expect.
I’d wager you would be able to name the four starters without a bother. You guessed it – soup, prawn cocktail, garlic mushrooms and potato skins!
Likewise, the main courses, with cod and chips (£9.95), sirloin steak (£14.95) and mixed grill (£14.95) topping the bill. The remaining dishes were mainly priced at an extremely reasonable £8.95.
Our meal began with a pint of Belhaven Best Scottish beer, a glass of red wine and a Coke for our daughter, who, fresh from receiving her GCSE results, had tagged along.
We went for every starter on offer, bar the soup.
They arrived promptly and neatly arranged. My garlic mushrooms sat in a mini frying pan, with a portion of deliciously crusty baguette drizzled with cheesy garlic sauce. It was a quite splendid twist on a traditional, some would say boring, entrée. No, I was hooked!
My wife’s prawn cocktail was not as spectacular, but did the job a prawn cocktail should do and filled a gap. We noted, though, one of our pet hates – a foil-wrapped butter pat.
The hefty portion of potato skins, daughter’s choice, were mopped up by all of us. They were proper crispy, plainly home-cut and complemented nicely by three dips – sweet chilli, barbecue and garlic mayonnaise.
Our main courses landed before we had barely caught our breath. There were gasps all round at the size of each of the meals – this was the very definition of comfort food.
I chose to have a beef, rather than chicken, roast dinner (£8.95) on the recommendation of a chirpy, helpful and attentive waitress. Again, there were no surprises, just good, wholesome English grub. The broccoli could have been more freshly cooked and I was served new potatoes to accompany mash, when I might have expected roast spuds.
The beef was plentiful, tender and tasty and accompanied by two large, if overcooked, Yorkshire puddings. Apart from that, no complaints – it went down very well.
My wife continued her love affair with lasagne (£8.95) and declared this a pretty fine effort, not too tomatoey nor too salty. Her chips were cracking, homemade, crispy round the edges and chunky. Two large slices of garlic baguette dominated the dish initially, but there was certainly plenty for her to get her teeth into.
The pick of the bunch was daughter’s steak and ale pie (£8.95) – the puff pastry was tremendous and the chunky meat and thick, tasty gravy beneath were a joy. A stack of onion rings, a portion of peas and those delicious chips completed a well-balanced. filling and nicely cooked meal.
Such was the size of the portions, we didn’t have space for any of the four desserts, not even the ice cream (£2.50).
Does anyone have any other recommendations?
A HAVEN FOR KIDS AND VEGETARIANS
Despite the small choice generally on the menu, vegetarians are paid more than just lip service at the Island View. Half the starters were meat free and vegetable lasagne, Cheddar fusilli pasta and red Thai vegetable curry were among the main course options.
Children were also made welcome with their own selection: Macaroni, beef stew and mash. lasagne, roast dinner or sausage and mash, each at £4.75.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Soup of the day......£3.95
Hand-battered cod & chips......£9.95
8oz sirloin steak......£14.95
Double burger, cheese/bacon......£8.95
Sausage and mash......£8.95
Cheddar fusilli pasta......£6.95
Red Thai vegetable curry......£6.95
White chocolate cheesecake......£3.95
Apple crumble and custard......£3.95
Sticky toffee pudding......£3.95
STAR RATINGS (out of ten)
Quality of food......8
Use of local food (menu only mentions cod as ‘locally sourced’)......6
Disabled access......very small step
Toilet for disabled......No
Verdict: Decent pub grub at a good price. Not haute cuisine but worth a try.
Contact: 01289 387420 or visit http://theislandviewinn.co.uk
The previous Northumberland Gazette Eating Out column reviewed The Dirty Bottles, Narrowgate, Alnwick. and if you missed it, here is a link to the Gazette’s top tips of 2014.