As locations go, the Redesdale Arms is in one of the most stunning.
The remote, rolling hills of the Northumberland National Park provide the picture-perfect backdrop to a homely inn that is billed as ‘The First and Last’ inn en route to Scotland.
It sits overlooking the Rede Valley, just north of Otterburn, and is at one with the surrounding ancient landscape.
Parts of the unassuming building are more than 600 years old.
It was once a bastle house, a fortified dwelling that provided defence during the late Middle Ages when these lands were ruled by outlaws from both sides of the border –the Border Reivers.
These days, it’s more about hospitality than hostility.
We were on a rare family outing and called in for an evening meal. It was quiet for a Thursday, the tranquillity belying its turbulent past.
We were shown into the restaurant which was functional rather than spectacular.
Some lively background music bridged the gap until we were joined by fellow diners.
I was already enjoying my pint of Golden Plover, a refreshing real ale from the Allendale Brewery stable. My wife chose a glass of South African Merlot-Chiraz (£3.45 medium glass), which slid down rather nicely.
Judging by the menu, we could see the chefs pride themselves on home-cooking and local food – both important to us – and there was a lively specials board. The balance between a decent choice yet a manageable selection that could be freshly prepared seemed to be spot on.
We spent some time working out the permutations so that we all chose something different.
For starters, I couldn’t resist the seabass, cod, ginger and lime fishcake, with homemade tartare sauce and salad (£5.50), one of several smaller portions of the main courses, there being only three ‘pure’ starters on the menu. This was an excellent way to extend the options.
Across the table, my son had cream of cauliflower soup with a mini tin loaf (£4.75) and Mrs L plumped for classic prawn cocktail (£5.95). Child number two went for the rather novel mini tin loaf.
The fishcake was flat and round, a crispy exterior giving way to a soft-textured fishy centre with a subtle hint of ginger. The flavours worked the palate well.
The soup was described as ‘lovely, creamy, tasty’ – as much animation as you could expect from a teenage boy these days. It was only let down by plastic butter pats.
We were all left wanting more, the portions not being huge, but just enough to satisfy our initial hunger pangs.
Main courses were delivered swiftly. I had chosen Northumbrian hodgepodge pie, made with pork, beef and lamb, topped with sliced potato and cheese, served with seasonal vegetables (£10.95). Without further ado, I have to say it was delicious.
A thick gravy held a cocktail of meats and pearl barley, with the finest slices of potato and two types of cheese on top. My only criticism was the portion was quite small and I was glad we had ordered a side dish of the most splendid hand-cut chips you could wish to have (£2.35).
My wife resumed her love affair with lasagne (served with mixed salad and garlic bread, £9.95) and was suitably impressed – and she should know!
Son had homemade ¼lb steak mince and red onion burger in a sour dough bun, with chips, salad and relish (£9.95) and he couldn’t fault it, picking out the relish for special praise.
Daughter opted for homemade fish pie, with smoked haddock, cod, salmon and prawns topped with a cheddar cheese mash, with salad and garden peas (£10.95). The smoked fish was quite strong, yet didn’t overpower the more subtle fish flavours. She was particularly impressed by the prawns in the pie.
We decided to share a couple of desserts (all £4.95) to give us a taster. The homemade spiced apple and sultana oat crumble with custard, and the warm Alabama chocolate fudge cake with cream and ice cream were enough to plug any lingering gaps. The apple crumble was particularly scrumptious, not too sweet and a fine ratio of oaty topping to chunky apple base.
Traditional pub dishes were presented well and cooked with a caring hand,
The service was efficient and friendly – it had been worth the near-hour-long journey and not just for the amazing views.
A QUITE SPECIAL SPECIALS BOARD AT THE ARMS
The specials board was particularly inviting at the Redesdale Arms. Try this for size: Dressed Cromer crab, mixed salad coleslaw, mayo dip and hot new potatoes (£10.95); or homemade cheese and onion quiche, mixed salad, coleslaw served with hand-cut chips or ne potatoes (£7.95); or pan-fried lemon sole served with caper butter, vegetables and new potatoes (£10.95).
Vegetarians are quite well served, with dishes on the main menu and a couple of specials, including spinach and ricotta cannelloni (£8.95).
The prices across the board were pretty reasonable.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Homemade soup of the day, served with a mini tin loaf (v)......£4.75
Classic prawn cocktail......£5.95
Homemade terrine of the day......£5.95
Home-smoked chicken & rocket pesto penne pasta......£4.95
Mckean’s haggis, whiskey cream sauce, crushed carrot, parsnip & swede & mashed potato......£9.50
Pork & black pudding sausages......£9.95
Beer battered skinless cod, with handcut chips......£9.95
28-day dry-aged Northumbrian rib-eye steak......£17.95
DESSERTS (all £4.95)
Bread and butter pudding; lemon posset; orange crème brûlée; homemade sticky toffee pudding; Swedish almondy tarta.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......8.5
Value for money......8
Use of local food......9
Children catered for......8
Access for disabled......8
Toilet for disabled......Yes (in bar)
Verdict: Top-notch pub grub in a beautiful location.
Contact: 01830 520668 or visit redesdale-arms.co.uk