Plenty can happen in five years, not least in the food and drink industry, so a special family occasion and a meal for six at the Mizen Head offered the chance to check that the Bamburgh restaurant was still at the top of its game.
It was last reviewed on these pages in August 2012, by Paul Larkin, so with five relatives in tow (three in their 80s), I thought I would give it another run through the Gazette’s assessments.
Of course, the advantage of eating as a party of six is, so long as everyone doesn’t pick the same things, you get a feel for a decent proportion of the items on the menu.
While there were not many duplications in our party, the relatively extensive menu meant that we by no means covered it all.
What’s more, the menu changes regularly based on what’s seasonal and what’s available – a must if you are aspiring to offer a quality seafood selection.
Unfortunately, it meant that I didn’t get to try all the dishes that we ordered; with smaller numbers, I tend to stick my fork across and get a taste of everything – the reviewer’s prerogative.
Our starters included seared scallops, cauliflower purée and chorizo (£9.95), salmon two ways – smoked and gravlax (Scandinavian-style cured salmon – £8.95) and duo of homemade kipper and smoked salmon pâtés (£6.95).
I had the latter – regular readers will know that kipper pâté is one of my favourites; both were good and it was nice to have a duo to provide a bit of variety.
The scallops dish was a classic, well-tested combination of flavours, executed very well and perhaps the best presented dish of the night, while the salmon was polished off happily.
Two of our party went for non-seafood starters – goat’s cheese and sun-blushed tomato bruschetta (£6.95) and chicken liver pâté (£6.95) – as despite the ocean being the clear focus, there are a few dishes for non-fishy fans.
However, for the main event, we all stuck to the sea, although there were the likes of chicken or steak on offer.
There were two portions of fritto misto di mare (local seafood fried in panko breadcrumbs) with the fish on the night in question being turbot, monkfish, plaice and halibut (£16.95).
Unsurprisingly, these fish also appeared as part of other dishes – I had the seafood curry (£19.95), with monkfish, king prawns and scallops. A huge bowl of well-spiced but not too hot curry did not intimidate me and I polished off the whole lot and the side of rice.
Classic cooking, matching fish with tried and tested accompaniments, was the name of the game in two other dishes, both of which went down very nicely.
One was pan-fried fillets of turbot with asparagus and hollandaise sauce (£22.50), while the other was roast fillet of halibut with brown shrimps and samphire (£24.95).
Last but not least was a dish of moules-frites (£12.95) served with a traditional marinière sauce (shallots, garlic, white wine and cream), and comments were made on how large and fresh the mussels were. A choice of four sauces were on offer with the mussels, as a starter (£6.95) or main, with the others being Thai fragrant (lemongrass, ginger, chilli, coriander and coconut milk), blue cheese and leeks, and Provençal (tomato, mixed herbs and Pernod).
The only complaint I heard all night was about the new potatoes (most dishes come with a choice of fries or new potatoes as well as veg), although even this was a minor grumble not a moan.
I was the only one brave enough to tackle a dessert – mango cheesecake (£6.50) – and I didn’t regret it.
The meals were all washed down by a couple of bottles of white wine (a Picpoul from Languedoc) from a well-stocked and not offensively priced wine list.
At the very start of this review, I said that plenty can happen in five years, but, as it happens, my overall view is the same as Mr Larkin’s was back in 2012 – the food is very, very good and while the prices are high, the quality is such that you do not feel too hard done by, particularly if it is a special occasion, as in our case.
NOT CHEAP, BUT A SPECIAL NIGHT OUT
Our party of six went to the Mizen Head for a birthday celebration and with some of our group visiting the county for the first or second time,
I wanted to go somewhere that would showcase what’s good about Northumberland’s culinary scene and provide a decent evening out; I was not disappointed and, I believe, neither were any of my guests.
Unless you have a big bank balance, it wouldn’t be somewhere you would eat every week, but the food is extremely good and I would certainly recommend it for any seafood fan out for a special occasion.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Monkfish ‘scampi’ Caesar salad.......£8.95
Tempura of squid and king prawns.......£7.95
Selection of cured meats.......£9.95
Half a lobster.......£15.95
Pan-fried fillet of John Dory.......£21
Whole roasted brill.......£17.95
Whole lemon sole meunière.......£17.95
Baked North Shields cod.......£16.95
Chicken with crevettes.......£15.95
Cheese & biscuits.......£8.50
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food.......9
Use of local food.......8
Value for money.......7
Toilet for the disabled.......No
Verdict: A great venue for a quality dining experience to celebrate with family.
Contact: 01668 214254 or http://www.mizen-head.co.uk/