The Jolly Fisherman pub at Craster revels in one of the most glorious locations known to man.
Perched on the edge of the land in the picture-postcard fishing village, its view across the North Sea has left many visitors lost for words.
The food is pretty good there too. A relatively recent refurbishment and high-class menu has certainly enhanced its reputation.
The gastro-pub’s numerous happy patrons will be delighted then that the coastal Jolly-ness has spread to the Toon. That awe-inspiring corner of Northumberland has been ferried down to Newcastle.
You could say it has taken the seaside to the Quayside ... or the brine to the Tyne!
You’ll find it tucked behind the more established Pitcher and Piano, with its mock beach and deckchairs.
The Jolly is less flamboyant but extremely classy, with a distinct but not overpowering nautical twist. Mock lobster pots and sea-bleached wood sit comfortably in the themed, expansive bar.
The restaurant upstairs has the benefit of height and so looks down on the Tyne flowing serenely past and the triumphant Sage building.
It has a more modern feel, again oozing style from its solid furniture, exposed brick walls and wooden flooring. The perfectly-laid tables provide a stunning welcome.
We had arrived in mid-Saturday-afternoon at a bit of a hiatus, with bar food ending at 3pm and the restaurant not open until 6pm.
Still, I had plenty of time to start proceedings downstairs with aptly named The Jolly Ale, a zesty golden beer brewed by Theakstons.
Mrs L went for the ‘vibrant and fruity’ house red, which went down so well that we ordered a bottle to see us through the meal.
The menu was compact and heavy on the fish, although not exclusively ‘de la mer’. There was also a smattering of Northumberland produce to make us northerners feel at home – notably, venison and lamb.
I could have sat all night, soaking up the atmosphere and failing to make a single decision. In the end, I plumped for the slow-braised belly pork, with langoustine glaze, crispy squid and squid ink (£7.95) to start.
Opposite, it was to be a slow-cooked hen’s egg, with smoked celeriac and shoestring potato (£6.95)
But before they were served, a delightful basket of sour dough and five-grain bread, with a large, flat pebble housing ovoid pats of butter, one appropriately seaweed flavour, arrived.
Then came a bottle of water and our wine, which was neatly decanted before us – a nice touch. The service throughout the evening was exemplary, the attention to detail, politeness and knowledge of the dishes.
My starter was a divine combination of tasty meat, naughtily fatty as belly pork is, and rings of squid in the lightest of tempura batters, finely presented.
The egg and fine strands of potato in a sumptuous, creamy sauce, with what Mrs L picked out as a hint of star anise, was another triumphant entrée.
The pan-fried sea bream, with butter beans, Jerusalem artichoke, cauliflower and smoked tomato fondue (£17.50), caught my eye in the mains section of the menu. I had chosen wisely.
Although the contents of my plate did seem a little frugal, it was beautifully cooked and flavoured. The veg were an unusual blend but one that worked well.
On the special board was half-a-lobster with lobster cream sauce, herb crumb, chips and salad (£22) – right up Mrs L’s street. She was in seafood heaven, although a tad disappointed that the half-lobster didn’t include at least one claw.
Desserts aren’t usually our thing but it seemed rude to refuse, especially as we didn’t want the moment to end. On the recommendation of the maître d’, I opted for the dark chocolate tart, with orange, nuts and seeds, and Jolly’s whisky (£6.95). It was yummy with a capital Y, a smooth and light tart contrasting with the crunchy nuts, and not too sweet.
The sticky toffee pudding, with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice-cream (£6.95) was also a joy and disappeared before I could grab a taste!
THOSE FAMOUS CRAB SANDWICHES
Don’t be caught out by the food service times at the Jolly ‘Part Two’, like us. The restaurant is initially open from Thursday to Saturday, from 6pm to 9pm. Bar lunches are available downstairs from Monday to Saturday, noon to 3pm. Included on the lunch menu are the likes of shellfish soup (£8.95); Famous Jolly Fisherman Crab Sandwich (£7.95); or more substantial dishes like haddock and chips (£11.95).
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Homemade soup, artisan bread......£4.95
Carpaccio of beef......£9.95
Roast butternut squash (v)......£5.95
Local smoked mackerel parfait......£6.95
Smoked haddock & leek fishcakes......£15
Roasted lemon sole......£19
Aged rib-eye steak......£22
Northumbrian lamb rump......£18
Pan-fried fillet of salmon......£16
Caramelised roasted pineapple......£6.95
Selection of ice-creams......£6.95
Autumn apple trifle......£6.95
Jolly Fisherman’s cheese board......£11.95
Star ratings (out of 10)
Quality of food......8½
Use of local food......9
Access for the disabled......8
Toilet for the disabled......Yes
Verdict: Good food, splendidly presented and served. A lovely atmosphere and a prime location.