When a restaurant makes a commitment to using local food – and when I say local, I mean sourced just down the street – it can lead to a symbiotic relationship that benefits everybody.
The restaurant gets kudos for keeping it local and if it tastes good then that boosts the producer or shop’s business and as both succeed, they sustain each other.
And this certainly appears to be the case at the Wynding Inn at the Lord Crewe Hotel, where produce and provenance are king.
It was pleasing when I sat down to peruse the extensive and mouth-watering menu to be able to read their manifesto, which made me feel very confident that the ingredients going into my dinner would be the best that north Northumberland has to offer.
There are a whole host of benefits to local food – economic, environmental and culinary – and the chefs at the Wynding are wholeheartedly in accord. Fruit and vegetables come from GS Clark in Bamburgh, meat comes from R Carter & Sons, the village’s butcher for 125 years, and fish and seafood is supplied daily by a North East merchants.
Happily, when we first arrived, the surroundings and services seemed to match this dedication to local food.
The Wynding Inn forms part of the hotel, but has its own entrance from the street, as does the Lady Crewe tearooms. The restaurant is out at the back, accessed through the cosy bar area, and the décor is fresh and contemporary.
The welcome was warm and, despite having to adjust my dining time from 8pm to 7.45pm when I booked, the restaurant was not completely full, meaning the staggering of tables was to ensure the waiting staff and chefs can provide the service they wish.
Another pleasing touch was that almost as soon as we arrived, we were offered sun-dried tomato bread and drinks to enjoy while we looked at the menu.
My fellow critic, Gazette editor Paul Larkin, will be satisfied to note that the butter was in a dish and not a little foil or plastic packet.
The bread was particularly welcome as we struggled to make a choice perhaps more than anywhere we have eaten for the past couple of years.
The choice of starters was relatively modest, but the main courses totalled 12, before even considering the four specials.
I went for the starter that seemed a little different compared to the usual offerings – smoked chicken tart with marinated pepper topped with Northumberland nettle cheese and micro-cress salad (£6.95).
I have to confess that the chicken didn’t taste particularly smoked, but that didn’t bother me as it was tender and tasty. The other thing that surprised me was that the tart was not what I expected – flaky puff pastry – but almost like a scone in texture and taste. It went particularly well with the flavoursome cheese.
My companion went for the more classic option, choosing the steamed Isle of Lewis mussels and pancetta in wild garlic cream (£6.95). A generous bowl meant that I was allowed a taste – the mussels were very well-cooked; salty, crispy pancetta is always a good accompaniment; and the cream sauce was not too rich, which sometimes is the case.
The main course was where the real challenge came, but I didn’t regret my final decision at all – saffron-infused fillet of sea bass with crevette and scallops, chargrilled heritage potatoes, English asparagus and roasted red pepper dressing (£16.95).
The seafood, again, was very well-cooked, and the pepper sauce added a gentle sweetness. It was delicate rather than powerful so as to not overpower the sea bass.
I must also say that the heritage potatoes – essentially the spuds our ancestors ate pre-1950 and much further back – were delicious, while some real effort had gone into the accompanying plate of vegetables, which was a riot of red, orange, yellow and green made up of ribbons and small chunks. It tasted really fresh and vibrant too.
Across the table was ‘posh fish and chips’ – duo of deep-fried monkfish and sea trout in tempura batter with rustic chips and sweet chili mayonnaise (£14.95). Again the fish was the star of the show – my favourite was the sea trout.
My only real disappointment came at the end as one of my favourite desserts – individual banoffee tart (£4.95) – was unavailable so I opted for vanilla and raspberry cheesecake, an adequate substitute.
AN INTERESTING RANGE OF MAINS ON OFFER
I already mentioned the wide and varied offering on the menu and this continued on the specials menu.
On the night we dined, there was baked stone bass on crushed chive potatoes, buttered spinach and red onion and tomato relish (£15.95); mixed seafood stew with braised celery, tomato and basil served with rustic bread (£12.95); seared duck on cabbage and pancetta with gratin potato and blackberry jus (£16.25); seared pork chop and a Bamburgh banger, served with a leek and pea fondue (£15.95).
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Crab, coriander and fennel soup......£4.95
Marinated goat’s cheese with spiced beetroot chutney......£5.95
Wild game terrine......£6.50
Crayfish and smoked salmon cocktail......£7.95
Chargrilled Caribbean chicken quarter......£11.95
Baked fillet of turbot with garlic herb crust......£14.95
Trio of meats – venison loin, lamb cutlet and pork – with black pudding croquette......£14.95
Roast butternut squash stuffed with tempura vegetables......£10.95
Lemon tart with berry compote
Trio of ice creams
STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)
Quality of food......8
Value for money......8
Use of local food......9½
Access for disabled......6
Toilet for disabled......Yes
Verdict: A wide-ranging menu with local produce at its heart.
Contact: 01668 214243 or www.lord-crewe.co.uk.