So here is the conundrum – do we drag two teenage offspring along to a top-class restaurant (charging top-dollar prices) or do we opt for the safer (and cheaper) bar menu in the same venue?
The decision was made for us by a quick phonecall to the eaterie – yes, we were allowed to chose a dish or two from the bar menu while sitting in the posher restaurant area. That sealed it and we were booked!
As has been well-documented in this newspaper, The Old Storehouse has undergone a spectacular transformation from its days as the Granary. It’s still big and airy but there are pockets of intimacy in alcoves scattered around. There is a mixture of furniture ranging from sink-into settees, to bar stools and dining chairs.
We were ushered into the swish restaurant area – it was stylish, decadent even, with a distinctly nautical feel – shell-patterned carpet, rope and tarpaulin chandelier, rope lamps and the most magnificent sand-sculpture wall which changes colour, casting a pink, blue or purple glow across the whole space.
An indoor fountain adds to the classy feel. If you didn’t already realise you were in a quality restaurant, the menu would be a giveaway.
The dishes are inventive, varied but also on the pricey side – a pork T-bone steak (grass-fed pork, with portobello mushroom, watercress and hand-cut chips) would set you back £15.25, while sous vide loin of Northumbrian coastal lamb (with a brioche herb crumb, bacon lardons, celeriac velouté mint jelly and port reduction) costs £17.95.
There are only 13 main-course dishes on the restaurant menu and we were given the choice of a couple of specials, which is a good indication that everything is cooked to order. There was a cornucopia of local produce, but only a couple of the options were vegetarian-friendly.
For me, there was not enough separation between the swanky restaurant and the more relaxed lounge and bar area. The noise of Saturday night revelry made conversation quite difficult. It was not helped by a dull thud from music in the adjacent function room, which rattled the overhead air-con grille.
I would imagine, though, the experience varies tremendously through the week, with the restaurant becoming a more exclusive experience on a quieter midweek evening.
The food itself was generally splendid, fantastically presented, full of flavour and expertly cooked.
Warm, homemade poppy-seed bread with garlic and herb butter was delivered as a complimentary entree. We kicked off with two starters from the main menu, one from the specials selection and one from the bar menu.
I plumped for Amble-landed pan-seared scallops, served with potato and chorizo galette, compressed apple, pancetta crisp and baby leaves in a wholegrain mustard dressing (£8.95). The artistic arrangement was inviting and the combination of flavours enthralling – apple, beetroot, chorizo, pancetta and the shellfish, which were quite small and a tad salty but palatable nonetheless. My wife had a special – garlic prawns in a tomato sauce with chorizo (£7.95), which was even better, a dish she would have enjoyed as a main course.
Son’s leek and potato soup (£5.95) and daughter’s sticky chicken wings, with sweet barbecue dip and crunchy coleslaw (£4.55), from the bar menu, put smiles on both their faces – a treat in itself!
I continued the ultra-local theme into the main course with Amble-landed sea bream, pan-fried with braised fennel, potato lyonnaise, seafood bisque and samphire (£15.25).
There was plenty to enjoy about this dish – the bitter samphire contrasting with sweet, chunky onions. Fresh fish, sliced potatoes and the mustard-based sauce were an interesting combination.
Mrs L chose 28-day-aged sirloin steak served with tomato, portobello mushroom, watercress and hand-cut chips (£18.50). The steak was expertly cooked and the chips, in a mini-saucepan, tasty.
The wild mushroom risotto (v, £10.95) was given the thumbs up by our son, although he said the mushrooms were quite salty, while daughter’s BBQ chicken and chips (£9.95) from the bar menu kept her smiling!
The teenagers chose Eton mess and chocolate brownie (£3.40) from the bar menu but we abstained on desserts. The mess was ‘yummy’ and the brownie quite dry, but capped a pleasant, if not perfect, evening.
A CHEAPER ALTERNATIVE OF BAR MEALS
The bar menu, which we cheekily raided, has some cheaper alternatives. From our experience, the offerings are equally-well presented and cooked. For example, there’s starters: Fish goujons, £4.75; soup (v), £3.95; prawn cocktail, £4.55; sticky chicken wings, £4.55.
Mains: BBQ chicken and chips, £9.95; Amble Links sausage and mash, £8.95; Amble-landed cod and chips, £8.95; penne pasta (v), £7.95; Storehouse salad (v), £6.85; rump steak, £12.25; mixed grill, £14.65; gammon steak, £9.25; gourmet burger, £8.95. Desserts: Eton mess, £4.95; sticky border pudding, £4.95; rhubarb crumble, £4.95; apple and cinnamon pie, £4.95.
There is also a small, separate children’s menu and a Sunday lunch offering.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Poached hen’s egg, asparagus.....£6.50
Northumbrian duck liver parfait.....£6.50
Chef’s soup (v).....£5.95
Heritage tomatoes, baby spinach, avocado (v).....£5.95
Confit duck leg.....£15.60
Sous vide loin of Northumbrian coastal lamb.....£17.95
Northumbrian fillet of beef.....£22.95
Herb gnocchi (v).....£11.50
Amble-landed lobster tail.....£23.95
Amble-landed sea bass.....£16.25
DESSERTS (all £5.95)
Lemon posset, white chocolate tart, almond Bakewell sponge cake, pear tarte tatin, crème brûlée.
star ratings (out of 10)
Quality of food.....9
Value for money.....7
Children catered for.....7
Access for disabled.....9
Toilet for disabled.....Yes
VERDICT: Decent restaurant food, artistically presented in decadent surroundings. A colossal wine list but no pump real ales when we were there.
CONTACT: 01665 710500 or visit www.theoldstorehouseamble.co.uk