MEAL REVIEW: The Dirty Bottles, Narrowgate, Alnwick

Build your own burger, with mozarella and emmental cheese at The Dirty Bottles, in Alnwick
Build your own burger, with mozarella and emmental cheese at The Dirty Bottles, in Alnwick

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that the recent renovation of The Dirty Bottles, in Alnwick, has been the talk of the town.

In May, the pub had one of the biggest facelifts to an Alnwick building I’ve seen in the 14-odd years I’ve lived in the town.

A breaded chicken burger

A breaded chicken burger

Many people would say the transformation was a step too far, but in actual fact, the ‘cursed’ dirty bottles in the window may have lost their grip on this establishment.

The transformation to the watering hole, which was once called Ye Olde Cross, has certainly created a new identity for it.

If we go back to when it opened in May, another well-known and loved Alnwick eatery closed its doors.

I think it was fair to say, The Art House was seen as one of the more interesting and alternative dining experiences in Alnwick, particularly to my mum who couldn’t quite understand why food was served on planks rather than plates, so when this super-trendy (and cheaper) alternative to Alnwick’s dining choice came along, it did look set to take on The Art House just up the road.

Nachos

Nachos

Describing itself as a taproom and smokehouse, there’s something of an anachronism when you walk in and see iPads and pay-as-you-go self-service pumps but to a tech-savvy youngster like me, I’m all for a bit of change in the town.

I will always be honest when reviewing these places and will say that I heard a very mixed-bag of opinions about the establishment.

It is the third purchase of local business-owner Mark Jones who took on Alnwick’s I Won’t Tell nightclub a few years back and I really do think he’s onto something here.

I mean, picture your Saturday night, you can go for a meal at around 7/8pm (serving stops at 9pm) then you could grab a cocktail, pour your own pint then, next thing you know, you’re dancing the night away in the nearby nightclub, with a discounted entry if you take a beer mat with you.

The tablets inside The Dirty Bottles, in Alnwick

The tablets inside The Dirty Bottles, in Alnwick

Personally, when I do go out socially, I’ll always try to find somewhere that has a good deal going on – that would certainly draw me in.

So what of the food? I’ve actually eaten in here a few times now. I came in the same week it opened and thought it may be a bit too harsh to give it any critical ratings only a few days after opening.

I’m no business expert but I’m sure anyone would agree a good local venue needs at least a few months to settle in.

When you go into the building, I think the first thing you notice is how different the interior is.

Interior of The Dirty Bottles

Interior of The Dirty Bottles

It has been done out very tastefully and gives a real feel of a destination rather than just a place for a pint or some food.

As we were feeling a little peckish, we thought we’d try a sharing starter.

We went for the nachos topped with jalapenos, salsa, sour cream and mozzarella (£4.95) – a combination that sounded extremely appetising.

The dish arrived on a rectangular board, and was ample for at least four people, never mind just two of us. It was fabulous, a cornucopia of flavours, with the cheese and tomato as a solid base.

By the time we’d devoured it, we were pretty full and I’d slowly started regretting the fact I’d previously decided to double-up my main course. My eyes must be bigger than my belly!

Luckily, once the starter had been taken away, there was probably the right amount of time of waiting to allow your food to settle in between courses.

The Dirty Bottles Taproom and Smokehouse.

The Dirty Bottles Taproom and Smokehouse.

For the main event, I did opt to make my own burger and I didn’t regret it.

It is worth noting that the self-service theme that flows throughout the pub did not extend to me actually making the burger myself.

Rather, I had the option of choosing my own bun, cheese, toppings, etc.

The base price is £6.95 and you can add as many toppings as you like. I mixed mozzarella and emmental and added some gherkins. The burger was proper meaty and didn’t just disintegrate in the mouth.

My guest went for a chicken burger (also build your own) and was slightly less exotic in her toppings and a bit drier than my concoction.

The Dirty Bottles proves a great alternative eating experience for Alnwick and should be commended.

If The Art House were still open, this establishment would have given them a run for their money in terms of price, with the bill coming in considerably less than other venues across Alnwick.

This business is here to stay and the people of Alnwick would do well to recognise that.

A DINING DESTINATION

The Dirty Bottles’ renovation has proved that change can work in rural towns like Alnwick. For those who wish to order via iPad or pull a pint themselves, the option is there. For those who don’t, there’s the option to sit and eat elsewhere.

It is very much a destination rather than just an eatery and has been purposely designed that way. The integration with the club in Alnwick is certainly giving the younger generation a reason to get out and make a sleepy market town a bit more lively at the weekend.

SELECTION FROM THE MENU

Starters

Meat nachos, chilli, pulled pork, brisket topped with mozzarella......£5.95

Potato skins......£4.50

Chilli and garlic king prawns......£6.95

Burgers

Black and blue burger......£8.50

Smoked stack burger......£10

Breaded chicken burger......£8.50

Build your own......from £6.96

Mains And Light Bites

3-bean chilli with rice......£7.95

Lasagne......£8.50

Chicken kebab......£9.95

Jacket potatoes......from £5.50

Paninis......from £4.95

Desserts

Homemade cheesecake......£5

Sharing sundae......£9

Warm fudge cake......£5

Homemade crumble......£5

STAR RATINGS (out of ten)

Quality of food......7

Presentation......8

Choice......8

Vegetarian choice......6

Atmosphere......8

Use of local food......6

Service......7

Disabled access......entrance at back

Toilet for disabled......Yes

Overall rating......8

Verdict: Attractive renovation and real Alnwick destination with new ideas.

Contact: 01665 606193 or visit www.thedirtybottles.co.uk

The previous Northumberland Gazette Eating Out column reviewed Station Buffet, Barter Books, Alnwick, and if you missed it, here is a link to the Gazette’s top tips of 2014.