It was a cold dreary day in Newcastle and the promise of a pie and mash emporium warmed the cockles of my heart.
To the Quayside we headed, hooded and booted against the sleety snow, towards a hearty meal.
The Grade II-listed Red House offers an impressive façade. Entering through a cobbled corridor into the dimly-lit interior, I felt like I had gone back in time, into the realm of the traditional.
There were plenty of nooks and crannies to explore as we wound a way towards the bar.
I spy with my little eye something beginning with pie. And a pleasing line-up of local brewery ales: Hadrian and Border, Tyne Bank, Mordue and Firebrick.
I opted for Mordue’s Five Bridges and mulled over the menu. Set out like a flowchart, I admired its modularity and the cheery image of Terry the cow and Taloola the pig; a kind reminder of where our fillings came from.
I took solace in the fact that the meat was locally-sourced from The Amble Butcher and not a concentrated animal feeding operation. At first glance it looked quite complex. There are four steps to the selection process.
Step 1: The seven wonders of the pie world. Step 2: Mash it up. Step 3: What’s pie without peas? Step 4: Liquors.
I was bemused by the latter until I realised it was gravy. Easy peasy.
We settled on a window seat, with good views of the Tyne Bridge and the Sunday market stallholders pitting themselves against the chill.
Ambience comes easily; softly lit and adorned with impressive beams, I could easily while away the afternoon here in an ale-induced haze.
After much deliberation, I was tempted by the steak pie, Dijon mustard and honey mash, minted peas and meat gravy.
My Greek co-pie-lot chose a meatless pie: sweet potato, goats’ cheese and spicy tomato with confit garlic mash, red wine gravy and, after a brief description of the difference between mushy peas and pease pudding from the appeasing (sorry) barman, pease pudding. There was no kids’ menu and no mention of vegetarian options but two of the pies offered meat-free potato combinations.
We were the only diners in our compartment and our fodder arrived in no time – on the same plates as the ones used next door, in the Hop & Cleaver.
Owned by the same company, you can pass between the two effortlessly.
Pie propped on a potato mound, flanked by a pot of peas and swimming in thick, lusty gravy. Did the paper carton add a touch of class?
My pie, although looking slightly overcooked, tasted tremendous. Soft, succulent steak in a thick sauce encased in light, crisp pastry. The mustard mash lent a subtle kick and impressive texture and my delicately-minted peas added a virtuous twist to the bold and meaty gravy.
The sweet potato pie was equally delightful. I’ll be honest, I didn’t have high hopes for it.
Despite conscious efforts to cut back on my meat in-take, I’m of the ilk that good pie needs prime cuts. I was wrong. Spicy and sweet, it was a satisfying combination, complemented by the elegance of the red-wine gravy and finely tuned for a Mediterranean palate. The pease pudding was highly praised and I agreed on account of its smooth smokiness.
Everything is made on site and I have to say I’m very impressed. The portion size is fair but you can double up and get another pie for an extra three quid.
In-keeping with the pie-and-mash motif, the puddings are bold and basic. It’s pleasing to see they’ve done our county proud and opted for local again with Northumberland’s Doddington Dairy ice cream. After a brief respite, I succumbed to the rocky road sundae while my companion yielded to the ‘guest’ sticky toffee pudding. Mingled with flaked almonds, brownie pieces, marshmallows and raspberry sauce, my sundae went down a treat.
Although my companion delighted in the springy sweetness of the sticky toffee pudding, I thought its lightness far removed from the dark, sticky denseness I was accustomed to. While lacking in the sauce department, the lusciously smooth ice-cream, served gratuitously in another paper cup, more than made up for it.
By then, we were suitably replete and ready for a Fireglow spiced winter ale.
Whilst at the bar I noticed the coal fire that we should have been sitting next to- I had dined in my coat but a seat near the door is never the warmest option.
The toilets are shared with the Hop & Cleaver and smokehouse aromas guide you en route. The uneven floors and small steps on every approach likely hinder access for wheelchair users.
We were both highly satisfied with the Red House. It’s bursting with character, guest ales and friendly staff, with great food to boot. A slice of Northumberland in the heart of Newcastle. Get yourself along to the Red House- it’s as nice as pie.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Pies (One pie meal £7.95; Two pie meal £10.95)
Stout ale, mince & onion
Chicken, gammon & leek
Sausage, apple, cider & onion
Mature cheddar, potato & onion
Sweet potato, goats’ cheese & spicy tomato
Creamy; Dijon mustard & honey; confit garlic; mature cheddar
Mushy, minted or pease pudding
Puddings (all £4.50)
Jam roly poly
Rocky road sundae
Doddington ice cream
STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)
Quality of food......9
Value for money ......9
Use of local food......10
Access for disabled......1
Toilet for disabled......Yes
Verdict: Quality, locally-sourced pub grub in a relaxed atmosphere- beaming smiles all round.
Contact: 0191 2611037; www.theredhousencl.co.uk