MEAL REVIEW: Sea and Soil, Queen Street, Amble

Amble halibut with crab, brown shrimp and crab risotto.
Amble halibut with crab, brown shrimp and crab risotto.

Five chums from Alnwick were kicking their heels, looking for an adventure. One said ‘let’s go dining in Amble. I’ve heard that Sea and Soil is very good’.

First impressions were not good. One of the five of us – let’s call him Julian – went to Amble to make a booking.

Roast chunky cod with pak choi and aromatic broth

Roast chunky cod with pak choi and aromatic broth

He knocked on the door. There was clearly someone inside but no one answered. Julian tried his mobile phone. At last! Success! He made contact. “I’m outside and I want to book a table,” cried Julian. “We’re shut,” came the stony reply. But the Alnwick Five don’t give up easily. We persisted, managed to book a table and last Saturday we turned up at Sea and Soil for dinner.

What a transformation. The service was very friendly and the food was very good.

We started with a complementary bread basket; the bread was excellent and was accompanied by a delicious tomato pesto.

Julian had the lobster and crab ravioli (£10) to start. It came a little cold but our excellent waitress soon sorted that out. It was delicious. We all tried the lobster and saffron sauce and all any of us could say was mmmmm.

Chef's burger.

Chef's burger.

Dick had the wood pigeon, fig and parmesan salad (£8). He said the wood pigeon was perfectly cooked – the best he’d ever had. That’s praise indeed from Dick, he’s not easy to please.

George had the smoked haddock Scotch egg served with curried mayo (£8); she thought it was lovely, crispy on the outside with a good balance of flavours.

Anne decided to save herself for the main course and I had a ham hock, scallion and reblochon (French cheese) spring roll (£7). It was delicious and full of flavour; I wolfed it down.

Julian had roast chunky cod with pak choi (£16) for his main course and really enjoyed the cod but the aromatic broth it came in was a little too astringent for his taste.

Lobster and crab ravioli with lobster and saffron bisque.

Lobster and crab ravioli with lobster and saffron bisque.

Anne had the halibut, crab, brown shrimp and cucumber risotto (£18). The risotto was beautifully presented and the perfectly cooked fish came with a delicious pea puree that perfectly complemented the dish.

Dick, George and I opted for a burger – The Chef burger, with bacon mature Cheddar, boozed onions and fried egg (£15), to be more precise. George and I loved it – and the delicious brioche bun it came in. Dick felt his was a little overcooked but it just goes to show it is hard to please everyone!

Next was pudding (all £5). Julian was full, so he passed. Dick and I were feeling full but we didn’t want to miss out, so we opted to share the Bakewell tart. The pastry was light and nicely short, the jam was full of flavour and the flavour of almonds came through really well. It was a lovely Bakewell tart, served with a lovely swirl of mascarpone.

Dick felt it would have benefited from a scoop of ice cream instead but for me it was fine as it was.

Smoked haddock scotch egg with curried mayo.

Smoked haddock scotch egg with curried mayo.

Anne had the coconut and pineapple panacotta. It was so good that, once again, we all ended up trying it. It was beautifully creamy with a perfect balance of coconut and mango flavours.

George had the lime tart and mango cream. It had a sweet crunchy, brûlée-style topping that worked well with the mango cream beneath.

We thought the evening was very good value for money, coming in at under £30 per person including drinks (and they waived the price of Julian’s ravioli).

Sea and Soil has a nice ambiance. Tables are delightfully laid out, with proper cloth napkins and good quality cutlery with some weight to it.

The restaurant is simply decorated with a seaside feel that is appropriate for the location. The toilet could do with some attention, it is a little tired looking and there is a step up to it meaning that it is certainly not wheelchair-friendly.

Sea and Soil has vegetarian options, but not a huge choice of these (two starters, four main courses). It also has a Munchkins menu for children with basics like macaroni cheese and chicken and chips.

Sea and Soil, Amble

Sea and Soil, Amble

It serves brunch until 1pm, offering an eclectic menu, including French toast with berries and clotted cream; pancakes with bacon, syrup and blueberries; and bubble and squeak with poached egg and hollandaise sauce.

The five of us had a great time at Sea and Soil and we would most certainly be happy to go there again.

A FRIGHTFULLY SPIFFING TIME

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening and thought Sea and Soil was a very positive addition to the regeneration of Amble. The chef is Johnny Bird, who owns the restaurant with his wife Julie. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced. Johnny told us that he uses Belted Galloway beef from Twizell and his fish is freshly landed in Amble. He is planning to branch out and open a delicatessen later this year, also in Amble. If the quality of the food at the restaurant is any indication, the deli is something to look out for.

SELECTION FROM THE MENU

Starters

Potted chicken parfait......£7

Smoked heritage carrots (v)......£7

Goats cheese panna cotta (v)......£7

Main Courses

Tempura coley......£16

Steamed shellfish catch......£16

Pork duo......£16

Roast chicken......£16

Spring lamb rump......£17

10oz sirloin......£18

Burger: The Mexican......£12

BBQ carrots/falafel egg (v)......£15

Augergene presse (v)......£15

Vegetable & basil risotto (v)......£13

Smoked mozzarella salad (v)......£12

Desserts (all £5)

Hazelnut meringue with chocolate sauce; lemon meringue cheesecake; white chocolate and berry frozen parfait

STAR RATINGS (out of 10)

Quality of food......8½

Presentation......9

Choice......8

Vegetarian choice......7

Atmosphere......7

Use of local food......9

Service......9

Toilet for the disabled......no

Cater for kids......yes

Overall rating......8½

Verdict: Sea and Soil is well worth a visit. It is good value for money, service is excellent and the food is tasty and well-presented.

Contact: 01665 713569 or www.facebook.com/SeaSaltAmble

The previous Northumberland Gazette Eating Out column reviewed Lal Khazana Indian Restaurant, Shilbottle. And if you missed it, here is a link to the Gazette’s top tips of 2014.