We’ve driven past the Shoulder of Mutton at Longhorsley on the A697 many a time but never popped in.
With our son back from university for the weekend, it seemed the ideal time to pay a visit, along with his girlfriend.
Storm Brian was raging as we wound our way through the darkness and lashing rain to the quaint village.
The lights of the pub were a satisfying sight as we bowled up, all fairly scranny.
Once sheltered from the elements, the welcome was suitably warm.
The Shoulder is a traditional village inn, with its dark beams , caramel-coloured walls, velvet seats and dark wooden tables.
The restaurant is quite sizeable with plenty of space between the tables. A lively atmosphere included a general murmur of conversation that occasionally drowned out the background music – just how it should be.
We never felt that our chatter could be overheard as it would be in a smaller venue.
The menu was an interesting affair. It included a pledge that is right up my street: ‘All our food is cooked to order and we appreciate your patience. Our chips are cut from premium potatoes and our meat is from Green’s award-winning family butchers in Longframlington. All other produce is locally sourced where possible.’
Cooked to order and locally sourced – the cornerstones of a good restaurant.
We ordered drinks while we perused the options. The ales on offer were either Deuchars IPA or Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire Amber Kentish Ale – I chose the latter, Mrs L hit the red wine and the young ’uns had Cokes.
There were no starters on the regular menu and just a choice of four on a specials sheet – lentil soup, mushrooms à la Grecque, crispy potato skins and curry spring rolls.
The consensus was we’d break with tradition, skip starters and dive straight into the main courses and maybe leave a little gap for desserts.
The dishes on the regular menu were dominated by pub favourites – steak and ale pie, cod and chips, mince and dumplings – and even the specials had a no-frills approach – 10oz rib-eye steak, sausage and egg pie, Singapore-style chicken chow mein – at prices that won’t bust the bank.
My attention was grabbed by the Northumberland lamb casserole, served with dumplings and mash (£9.95). It was the local lamb that sold it.
Mrs L went down a familiar path with her choice of beef lasagne, served with salad and homemade garlic bread (£10.95), one of the specials. She also ordered a side portion of chips (£2.50).
The teenagers had beef chilli and rice (special, £9,95), which came with a polite warning from the waitress that it was quite hot; and wholetail scampi, served with chips and salad (£9.95).
The wait was commensurate with the time it would take to cook the meals from fresh, so we had some moments to chat.
On my dish, a towering fortress of mash beneath a crusty, herby dumpling was surrounded by a moat of thick casserole containing copious chunks of tender meat and topped with a sprig of fresh parsley. It was certainly full of flavour – my only gripe was the excessive amount of salt in the mash.
I was beginning to wonder whether there would be room for a second course, particular after sneaking a couple of delicious chips from the wire basket side order.
The lasagne was declared tasty, meaty and definitely homemade; the salad was fresh, colourful and crunchy.
Thankfully, the chilli wasn’t too hot to render it inedible, although it did require another Coke to quell the fire. The rice, fluffy and cooked to perfection, also did its job in neutralising the heat. The scampi, cloaked in breadcrumbs, were also good.
We weren’t quite defeated but decided to share a couple of desserts between the four of us.
The date-laden sticky toffee pudding, which was swimming in a toffee sauce, and the gluten-free chocolate brownie were a naughty but fitting end to the evening.
CHILDREN ARE CATERED FOR TOO
Children have their own dedicated section on the menu. Each of the dishes is £4.95: Roast of the day; chicken nuggets and chips; fresh fish bites and chips; and sausage, mash and gravy. There are also small portions of the North Atlantic cod and wholetail scampi.
Vegetarians have a couple of choices of starters and main courses.
Also on the menu, for lunchtime visitors are baguettes, served until 6pm, with fillings including BBQ chicken, Cheddar and pickle, tuna melt and BLT.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Mushrooms à la Grecque......£5.95
Crispy potato skins......£4.50
Curry spring rolls......£ 6.50
Steak and ale pie......£9.95
Grilled gammon steak......£10.95
North Atlantic cod......£10.95
Chargrilled chicken escalope......£9.95
8oz rump steak......£10.95
Roast of the day......£9.95
Mr Green’s burger......£10.95
Chunky vegetable stroganoff......£9.95
Cheese and vegetable pie......£9.95
Sausage and egg pie......£10.95
Desserts (all £4.95)
Lemon meringue pie, chocolate fudge cake, profiteroles
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......7½
Use of local food......9
Value for money......8
Caters for children......Yes
Toilet for the disabled......Yes
Verdict: A comfortable place to stop over or a nice night out.
Contact: 01670 788236 or www.shoulderofmuttonpub.com