On an evening when we were left in the dark, the taste of Spain warmed our mouths, it being a cold winter’s night.
On Monday, I’d made plans to eat out at a local pub, but discovered that some places around rural Northumberland have closed up on quieter nights of the winter week.
I suppose it’s understandable that pubs in some rural areas might struggle through times when many folk are giving up drink and lavish foods for New Year’s resolutions. Luckily, I definitely feel I am the exception to this rule.
So as I was desperate to have my tummy filled, we found refuge in Wooler where we spotted No 1 Hotel and Wine Lounge, which is sporting a new tapas menu.
In case you didn’t know (and some people don’t), tapas is Spanish for small dishes, which happens to be my all-time favourite type of food. I’m glad to say I can add No 1 Hotel and Wine Lounge as one of my new favourite eateries.
After having a casual chat with the staff for a while, I was told they had started serving the food in early 2014 and, after a popular summer, were looking forward to a second year of trading.
I do think it’s great that in a place as rural as Wooler you can find a good selection of venues to eat. You have the traditional pubs and cafés, but you also have a popular Italian and now a great tapas bar.
The pub is also open for afternoon tea with a fine selection of scones and cream teas, but at night it turns into a Spanish bar.
As is the theme with Spanish food, it all came at once and the array of smells and sights were something to behold.
I opted for a selection of different savoury dishes, including patatas bravas (£3.95), small chopped potatoes with a spiced tomato sauce, which you could taste had been mixed with a form of purée, but complemented the crispy potato very nicely.
I also had a very pleasant frito de Manchego (£4.25), which is Manchego cheese rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. What was so beautiful about it was it was glazed in honey, which lent a very nice, sweet taste to the batter.
Other dishes included gambas pil pil (£5.95), which are king prawns with olive and fresh chillies, chipirones (£5.45), a pleasant battered baby squid and a sizeable wedge of Spanish omelette (£4.95), which was tasty but served cold. It would have been better warm, but that’s only a personal preference, not necessarily the traditional way of serving.
Unfortunately, on the dessert front, you don’t have a massive amount of choice. There are the options of local Doddington Dairy ice-cream or you could have a selection of mini desserts (£4.95), which we opted to share.
They included ice-cream, chocolate tort and a succulent cheesecake (and I don’t normally like cheesecake).
In terms of price, you can’t fault it. We had six dishes, including free bread and dips, plus four drinks and dessert, which rang in under £40.
With it being a pub, of course there was a great selection of beers, wines and spirits, but what stood out from the drinks menu was a fine selection of cocktails, all for £5 each.
I would say that tapas isn’t ‘first-date’ territory as you’re expected to share all your food which I know can be an issue for some people, particularly me, so I was lucky to be accompanied by a close girlfriend.
In terms of other choice, it is restricted to Spanish styles, but I was told by my friend that they conjure up an exceptional afternoon tea.
The two styles of cooking infused together seem an odd match, but it seems that the owners of the bar have tapped into what pleases the local community the most and created something popular for all.
In terms of atmosphere, for the first Monday of January, when most people are spending their money at home, it was fairly busy and not an unpleasant ambience.
Really the only criticism was that the furniture was a bit of an odd match. We were sitting in rounded leather armchairs, which weren’t the best for eating from, better for having a pint.
We really enjoyed the food we had at No 1 Hotel and Wine Lounge and you certainly can’t grumble at the prices with plenty of mains under a tenner.
I enjoyed what I ordered, but there are many more dishes on the menu that I would like to try.
I would recommend anyone from the area to make the trip up to the bar and try out the Spanish cuisine for yourself.
WORTH MY JOURNEY UP TO WOOLER
I would say the tapas bar is worth the time and effort to head up to Wooler, assuming you don’t live nearby, as the food is very reasonable and tastes like the real deal.
The sensation of different flavours is something which I would recommend all readers to try.
If you’re visiting through the day, also try out the afternoon and cream tea selection as they won’t disappoint.
I would note that if you are travelling with disabled patrons, there is no step-free access.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Breads and olives
Mixed olives marinated with chilli, garlic and herbs......£2.50
Rustic fries served with a selection of dips......£2.50
Mushrooms, garlic, truffle oil and Manchego cheese on crisp toasted bread......£4.75
Spiced pork and beef meatballs in a rich slow-cooked tomato sauce......£4.95
King prawns cooked with garlic, white wine, butter, parsley and lemon......£5.95
Sharing platter of aged Serrano ham, chorizo, Manchego cheese, olives and rustic bread......£8.95
There were various options for gluten-free and vegetarian diets.
STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)
Quality of food......9
Value for money......9
Access for disabled......2
Toilet for disabled......Yes
Verdict: An assortment of food flavours which will not disappoint.
Contact: 01668 283089 or visit www.no1highstreetwooler.co.uk
This is our first meal review of 2015, but we have compiled a list of favourite venues visited by Gazette reviewers in 2014. Check it out if you’re stuck for somewhere to go.