When you go for a meal in a proper pub, you’re really looking for two things – hearty fare and a warm welcome.
Both of those were provided in abundance at the Plough Inn in Powburn, where we stopped for a bite to eat on a chilly but clear evening on Saturday.
But if there is one key point to take from this review, it is this; if you’re not feeling hungry, it may not be the place for you as the portions are certainly not for the faint-hearted!
We arrived at around 7.45pm, which was lucky for two hungry guests, as food was being served until 8pm – presumably a pre-tourist season timetable.
Likewise, we were invited to take a table in the bar area, which suited us just fine, although the pub also has a dining room.
The Plough is conveniently located on the side of the A697 close to the entrance to the village from the south and benefits from a generous car park.
From the outside, the look, all stonework covered in ivy, gives off the feel of a traditional country pub and the theme certainly continues inside.
The bar is located opposite the door with tables surrounding a roaring open fire on the right and a pool table and juke box on the left, while the paintings and ornaments dotted around the place all add to the ‘proper pub’ vibe.
We were made to feel very welcome both by the staff and the gents in for a Saturday night pint and a game of pool and it is clear that customer service is recognised as important by the team running the pub.
This extends to the menu which clearly sets out the Plough’s ethos: “Welcome to the Plough Inn Powburn. Please take your time to go through our menu whilst enjoying a seat next to our open fire.
“All our food is freshly prepared to order, using some of the best local produce in the county.
“If there is anything you would like to know, please do not hesitate to ask our staff that will be more than happy to help you.”
Turning our attention to the food itself, we found the menu to be neither annoyingly limited nor over-ambitiously wide, with five starters, 11 mains and four vegetarian choices.
Not knowing, at this stage, about the formidable size of the main courses, we both opted for a starter – a decision which proved perhaps more of an issue for my dining partner, who is female and about half my size.
We both opted for homemade mackerel pâté (£5.95) – a favourite of ours and too tempting for us to choose a different dish each which is our usual tactic.
The fish was as tasty as expected although the pâté was slightly different in texture to the usual, coarser option, being more like a tuna mayonnaise in consistency.
It was served with biscuits, which made a pleasant change to the usual toast or bread, and suited the slighter wetter consistency of the pâté, and a healthy portion of salad.
Moving onto the main event, the choices offer a range of pub classics – from steaks to gammon, and pies to scampi – and I went for Northumbrian sausages with creamed horseradish mash (£10.95).
We differed in our choices at this stage with the Plough Inn beef burger (£9.95), plus cheese added as an option, catching the lady’s fancy.
The burger arrived at the table first and this alerted us to the portion sizes as two thick burgers were slathered with cheese and topped with onion rings inside a bread roll, which was topped with further onion rings for good measure.
As if this wasn’t enough, there was an extremely healthy mound of chips and salad accompanying it.
But a lot of food is no use if it doesn’t taste good. Fortunately, the burger and chips were both up to scratch, although the amount left at the end may have given the wrong impression!
My sausage and mash was equally as hearty with four sausages on top of a bowl full of creamy mash, topped with a rich and unctuous gravy with mushrooms.
The sausages tasted authentic and flavoursome and the mash was reassuringly smooth and creamy.
For my taste, there was not enough of a kick of horseradish running through the mash, which I would have enjoyed, but it may have been drowned out by the excellent gravy.
Needless to say, the solid array of desserts – from sticky toffee pudding (£4.95) to banana split (£3.95) – were unfortunately beyond our appetites come the end.
EXPANSION OF THE PUB EMPIRE
Landlady Jackie McDougall has run the Plough at Powburn for a number of years, but around two months ago, she also took on the vacant Alnwick Gate pub on the town’s Clayport Street.
If the attitude to good, old-fashioned pub grub and friendly service carries across, then they are sure to do quite well.
They have already launched a takeaway Sunday dinner service at Alnwick Gate, which is proving popular.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Smoked salmon salad......£5.95
Homemade soup and roll......£3.50
Breaded garlic mushrooms......£3.95
Homemade Brussels pâté......£4.95
Steak and ale pie......£11
Minted lamb shank on a bed of mash and minted gravy......£11.95
8oz sirloin steak with all the trimmings......£13.95
Meringue nest filled with fruit, ice cream and cream......£4.95
Chocolate nut sundae......£3.95
STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)
Quality of food......8
Value for money......9
Use of local food......7
Access for disabled......7
Toilet for disabled......No
Verdict: Traditional pub serves traditional food favourites with generous portions and friendly service.
Contact: 07786 845745 or firstname.lastname@example.org