There has been a revolution at The Sun Hotel at Warkworth. Where once was a country-hotel restaurant paying gentle homage to local produce, there is now a full-blooded steak house.
The inn, idyllically positioned beneath one of Northumberland’s iconic castles, has experienced a few reincarnations down the years. The latest one has seen a fibreglass mounted knight take guard outside – in keeping or tacky? You decide.
Inside the hotel wing, the bar and function room are bedecked in dark claret and mahogany, grand furniture and suits of armour aplenty – all very Gothic.
The conservatory which now houses the steak restaurant and which, incidently, hosted our wedding reception 22 years ago, is refreshingly spacious. Tables are not greedily crammed in and instead there’s a freshness about the place.
Mock brick wallpaper and a pine-cladding floor gave it a more rustic feel. The tables were neatly table-clothed and the chairs clad in black covers.
The menus doubled up as two-sided table mats, including the chef’s guide to the six stages of cooking steaks, from blue, through rare to well-done, which he described as the ‘waste of a good-quality steak’.
Cross-section examples of the steaks provided a very graphic illustration of how your meat should appear.
The menu was not the most extensive – eight starters, seven main courses, other than the various steaks, and four desserts – but enough to suit most tastes, perhaps with the exception of the desserts.
Although I was sorely tempted by the sea bass, I couldn’t really navigate round the beef in this, a steak joint.
But to begin with, I opted for a another ‘safe’ choice – king prawn cocktail (£7.95), with baby gem lettuce and Marie-Rose sauce. Mrs L was only slightly more adventurous with her choice of sticky chicken strips (£6.95), complete with bourbon glaze.
Each was generous, the cocktail packed with large, juicy prawns and topped with two unpeeled ones. The mixed lettuce base was crispy and fresh.
The chicken strips were coated with a rich, spicy yet sweet barbecue-flavoured coating with hints of whiskey and star anise.
There were seven varieties of steak, from rump to porterhouse (a jumbo T-bone steak). I went for a No.2 sirloin (£18.95), described as ‘lean with a thick edge of fat which enhances the flavour’.
Although it is not mentioned on the menu, the hotel website claims the meat is ‘Northumbrian’.
I also opted for twice-cooked hand-cut chips as opposed to sweet potato fries. Roast vine tomatoes and charred gem lettuce completed the meal.
Chef had recommended medium-rare for the sirloin but I defied the advice and went for medium. I think perhaps he was right.
The steak, however, was tender and tasty, thick and succulent, but would have benefitted from a little more redness, as recommended. I should have listened!
I wasn’t a fan of the charred lettuce, but the chips were great and the tomatoes fragrant and delightful. We shared a jug of Diane sauce (£1.95 extra), which was suitably creamy and swimming with mushrooms.
Across the table, the hallowed No.6 – rib-eye steak, topped with a lobster tail and garlic butter, chips and a side order (homemade ‘slaw’, in Mrs L’s case) – was ordered. It set us back £28.95.
She acquiesced to the chef’s recommendation of medium and didn’t regret it. The steak was beautifully cooked, oozing flavour and juices. The lobster was equally agreeable and a perfect foil for the beef.
It had been a fair old feast, fit for a knight at the Round Table, so we decided to share a dessert.
The bourbon oat granola (£4.95), served with fresh raspberries and fromage frais sounded intriguing, although more familiar as a breakfast item. But curiosity had got the better of us.
There was certainly plenty of it, with a deep dish of raspberries swimming in fromage frais and topped with a crunchy concoction of granola, seeds and nuts.
LUNCHES ARE ALSO ON THE MENU
The No.6 Steak House is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays, noon to 4pm and 6pm to 9pm, with lunches (three courses for £7.95) being served at the earlier time. The lunch consists of potato skins or soup followed by rump steak or smoked salmon linguine, then an ice-cream pot or coffee, which sounds like great value.
Children have a choice of steak and chips; southern fried chicken; or vegetable and tomato linguine (all £4.95). Vegetarians will find the menu a challenge.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Bread board & olives......£3.95
Whole baked Camembert......£5.95
Classic steak tartare......£7.95
10oz rump steak......£14.95
10oz rib-eye steak......£18.95
16oz T-bone steak......£22.95
32oz porterhouse steak......£41.95
8oz fillet steak......£23.95
10oz homemade burger......£11.95
Oven-baked cod loin......£12.95
Sea bass fillets......£13.95
Giant pearl cous cous......£9.95
Smoked salmon linguine......£10.95
Flourless chocolate torte......£4.95
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......8
Use of local food......7
Access for the disabled......7
Toilet for the disabled......No
Verdict: Decent steaks, nicely cooked; desserts not up to much; excellent, attentive service.
Contact: 01665 711 259, or log on to thesunhotelwarkworth.co.uk/new/