It was a team effort for this week’s Eating Out, as the combined reviewers took themselves off to Blyth for the opening of Northumberland’s newest inn.
As the coastal town prepares itself for the biggest event the county has yet seen, the powers that be have collaborated to provide a quite spectacular venue to herald the arrival of the most beautiful vessels known to man.
The Tall Ships, due to land in Blyth at the end of August, have been the focus of everyone’s attention for months now. It is set to be one of the most spectacular sights the county has experienced, eclipsing even the recent Tour of Britain cycle race, or the circus surrounding the fleeting visit of the iconic Olympic Torch or the Commonwealth Baton.
The £4.5million Commissioners Quay Inn has been built by Arch, the county council’s arm’s length development company, and is operated by The Inn Collection Group, which boasts The Hog’s Head Inn at Alnwick and The Lindisfarne Inn at Beal among its portfolio.
That’s quite a pedigree – the Group seems to have hit on a winning formula of comfort, decent pub grub and a convivial atmosphere that has been repeated at the new venue to good effect.
It’ll never win Le Cordon Bleu accolades but if you want palatable grub at affordable prices in cosy surroundings, with good drinks, friendly staff and canny craic, this will be for you.
We headed off to Blyth in convoy and were bowled over by the welcome. Proud staff showed us around a superb inn, a great bar, with alcoves aplenty, and a room with a view that was simply crying out for a return visit.
It had all the hallmarks of the other venues, the fresh, yet country, feel of the Hog’s Head; the lived-in ambience of The Lindisfarne Inn; the coastal pub atmosphere of The Bamburgh Castle Inn at Seahouses.
After ordering a variety of drinks, from generous gin and tonics (with orange and peppercorns) to craft beers, we placed our food orders, as instructed, at the bar. Here are our impressions:
Paul Larkin – as the menu has already changed from the early days, my starter (grilled black pudding on bubble and squeak) is no longer available. It was, however, tasty, if a tad on the cold side, with carrots in the mashed potato base adding a neat twist.
By my side, Mrs L found pleasure in the shredded duck pancakes, served with cucumber, spring onion, delicious plum chutney and oven-dried tomatoes (£5.95).
Our main courses were the epitome of pub grub – steak and ale pie (£8.95) and The Commissioners Quay Inn burger (£7.95). My pie was a proper slice of pie, with pastry top and bottom and humongous chunks of beef. It’s dryness was countered by a jug of gravy.
The handmade, flame-grilled Aberdeen Angus burger was served in a toasted brioche bun and topped with cheese – a thumbs-up and a simple description of ‘nice’ from Mrs L. On both counts, the chips in a flowerpot were a highlight.
Janet Hall – the short-lived black pudding starter could definitely have benefited from a spell on the hot plate but it tickled the tastebuds.
The antipasto platter, with a selection of cured meats served with a pot of olives, chutney and foccacia (£5.25), was a hit with my husband and big enough to share.
Another repeat for mains in the shape of the steak and ale pie. No fancy little pot of stew with a disc of puff pastry here – shortcrust top and bottom in a good, chunky slice. The only disappointment was the dry meat.
Across the table, the 10oz rib eye steak (£15.95), seasoned with a spicy rub and served with peppercorn sauce (£1.50), grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and chips, was declared delicious.
James Willoughby – I went for the black pudding starter and thought it was very tasty and nicely complemented by the bubble and squeak.
I followed this up with the steak. It wasn’t as rare as I had hoped, but it was still delicious, especially with the spicy rub, which gave it a tantalising and unique flavour and texture.
SOUND PUB GRUB AT FAIR PRICES
The food offering at the inn extends into the daytime, with a variety of snacks on the menu.
Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 11am, with the likes of a full Northumbrian (£5.95), eggs on toast (£2.25) and bacon, sausage and egg bap (£2.85).
Then, from 11am to 5pm, sandwiches, wraps and paninis, are served with crisps and salad (£4.95). The main menu begins at noon.
What struck us the most was the value of the food. You’ll go a long way to find the same quality cheaper.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Fish and chips......£8.95
Chicken tikka bhuna......£7.95
Chargrilled chicken burger......£7.95
Chicken Caesar salad......£6.25
Greek salad (v)......£6.25
Roast vegetable tagine (v)......£6.95
Linguine pasta (v)......£5.95
12oz rump steak......£14.95
Raspberry crème brûlée......£4.95
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......8
Use of local food......No mention on the menu
Toilet for the disabled......Yes
Cater for kids......Yes
Verdict: Pretty decent pub grub at excellent prices in a splendid setting.
Contact: 01670 335060 or visit www.commissionersquayinn.com
The previous Northumberland Gazette Eating Out column reviewed The Grill on the Hill, Berwick. And if you missed it, here is a link to the Gazette’s top tips of 2014.