Real ale, real chips, real fire – this was the enticing description on the internet that first attracted us to the Railway Inn at Acklington.
All three ‘reals’ are right up our street and so a trip south couldn’t fail, could it?
On an abnormally balmy midweek December evening, we arrived at a subdued pub with the fire unlit but a warm welcome all the same.
The real ale on offer was a Christmas brew – after all, it was only a couple of sleeps since the big man had been.
So, armed with our beer and red wine, we were shown to a table in the restaurant on the far side of the bar.
The décor was functional; chequered carpet, brown, mock-leather seats and dark, wooden tables.
On one side, plain walls sporadically decorated with festive tinsel; on the other, a vibrant mural in celebration of the inn’s glorious past connections with the military when Acklington was home to a Royal Air Force (RAF) base.
The airfield was operational from 1916, being used by the Royal Flying Corps and, from April 1918, by its successor, the RAF, before being closed in 1920. It was reopened in 1938 and utilised by the RAF until 1975, after which the site was turned over to Her Majesty’s Prison Service for the creation of two new jails, HMP Acklington and HMP Castington, now HMP Northumberland.
According to the pub’s website, ‘many of the officers, including Princess Margaret’s first love, Peter Townsend, visited the pub regularly. In fact, there is a Townsend Court in Acklington village.’
So, wallow in nostalgia as you are surrounded by monochrome images of bygone days of heroism, gallantry and unfailing camaraderie.
Our flying visit started with a perusal of the menu, which was typically pub-grub fare, complete with burgers, steaks, scampi and deep-fried cod – all with chips, of course, although the option of mash or new potatoes was also there.
Starters included the likes of staple bar-room dishes prawn cocktail, soup and potato skins.
It was encouraging to see a healthy portion of local and homemade produce on offer, the meat coming from the butcher Roland’s of Amble.
To begin, curiosity got the better of me as my eye was drawn to haggis pakora – balls of haggis deep-fried in batter and served with whisky yoghurt (£5.25). The fusion of Scottish and Indian cuisine jumped out as something a little different.
My wife went for the king prawns in garlic butter served with crusty bread (£7.29 or £11.95 as a main course).
We were under starter’s orders and did not have to wait too long for them to land – and first impressions were very good. Both were presented beautifully.
My haggis bites were coated in a light tempura batter and went down all too quickly. An accompanying salad was a touch minimalist and the lettuce a bit brown around the edges but overall, it was an enjoyable appetiser.
Across the table, there were similar noises of contentment, the prawns and garlic butter combining to smother the taste buds.
It was a decent start to proceedings.
On to the main event – I had plumped for the grilled trio of Northumberland lamb cutlets, served with homemade chips (£13.95). There was certainly plenty of it – large cutlets and copious chips filled the square plate.
My meat was quite tough but as tasty as can be.
Opposite, a well-matured 8oz sirloin steak with mushrooms and onion rings (£17.95) was equally filling. The steak was delicious – juicy, tender and finely cooked.
Did we have room for a dessert, our efficient host asked and, after a few minutes’ breathing space, we went for it.
The homemade black cherry crumble did the trick for me, although the fruit filling was more likely from a tin or jar.
It was certainly tangy and a suitable finale. I appreciated the custard in a separate jug.
Mrs L’s chocolate brownie with ice-cream also hit the spot. All desserts were £4.25.
It had capped a good-value, pleasant experience.
OASIS OF CALM BETWEEN PARTIES
We enjoyed a quiet evening between the Christmas and New Year revelries, probably not the best time to review a venue and could imagine a more lively atmosphere during the busy summer months. Music was playing throughout but was barely audible from where we were sitting and gave us plenty of excuse to enjoy each other’s company!
Opening hours – Summer: Every day from noon to close.
Winter: Monday to Friday, noon–2pm and 5pm–close; Saturday and Sunday, noon–close.
Food served : Monday to Saturday, noon–2pm and 5.30–8.30pm; Sunday, noon–5.30pm.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Mini chicken fillets......£5.15
Local 8oz rump steak......£14.95
Local 10oz gammon steak......£13.45
Deep-fried cod fillet......£9.95
Vegetarian dish of the day......£9.55
Chicken or beef sizzlers......£9.95
Madcap double burger......£9.95
Desserts (all £4.25)
Sticky toffee pudding; chocolate brownie; pancakes with syrup, lemon or chocolate.
STAR RATINGS (out of 10)
Quality of food......8
Use of local food......9
Access for the disabled......8
Toilet for the disabled......Yes
Verdict: Decent pub grub.
Contact: 01670 760320, website http://www.railway-inn.co.uk/