When I first set foot in Topsey Turveys, I expected to find a world turned completely upside down.
Table lamps hanging from a carpeted ceiling, pictures at rakish angles, clocks turning anti-clockwise, even rabbits in top hats serving canapés – maybe the rabbits is going too far, but you get the picture.
This restaurant in the heart of Warkworth has such a great name, which conjures up all sorts of images.
As it happens, it’s more Hickelty Pickelty than Topsey Turvey. There’s a lot going on in such a small place and the theme when we popped in on Sunday was very much Easter.
Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and Easter paperchains – the sort we use to make out of strips of paper glued into links when we were kids.
Most of the cornucopia of knick-knacks were for sale, including the eclectic collection of signs and pictures scattered around. It’s a real Aladdin’s cave. We last reviewed a meal at Topsey Turvey’s seven years ago and I was curious to see whether anything had changed.
I didn’t notice much different – tantalising desserts were still temptingly placed in a chilled cabinet in the window, it still felt like walking into someone’s front room, tables were still wedged in and, most importantly, there was still steak and kidney pudding on the menu!
When we landed, on a stunningly sunny day, there was not a seat to be had – every place was taken and there was a hubbub of excited conversation. We popped over the road for a pint in the Hermitage Inn, from where we could spy on the comings and goings at the restaurant. Once the balance of movement appeared to be more out than in, we returned.
My calculations proved correct and this time, it being about 3pm by then, there was a free table.
The menu was also as I had remembered it – full of homely, comforting favourites, lacking adventure, maybe, but dependable nonetheless.
The main meal section was an abridged version of the one on the restaurant’s website but still contained enough variety to satisfy our needs. There was also an extensive snack selection, including jacket potatoes, with a variety of fillings (vegetable chilli, crab, tuna, cheese, etc) and ranging in price from £4.75 to £6.50, and toasted sandwiches with a similar selection of fillings at around the £5 mark.
Hot snacks included quiche (£4.50), vegetable burger (£4.50), bacon sandwich (£3.75) and sausage and gravy in a bun (hmm, interesting!), (£4.50).
To start, I opted for local crab with bread and butter (£6). In common with the rest of the meal, the portion of crab was generous. The meat was a mix of brown and claw, suitably fishy with a small dish of complementary mayonnaise.
The balance of bread to crab was just right and it offered a pleasant start to proceedings. My wife went for garlic prawns (£6.75) and declared them chunky and tasty, if a little too salty – another recurring theme, we were to discover.
Our son, who had joined us to grab the opportunity for a free driving lesson, asked for leek and potato soup (£3.75) but actually received the other option, celery and Stilton soup, which again suffered from too much of the four-lettered s-word.
In the seven years since the last review, I have rarely discovered another steak and kidney pudding on a menu. So, I couldn’t resist – it had stuck in my mind as being just like my grandmother used to make, with large chunks of melt-in-the-mouth steak and flavoursome kidney in a thick, meaty gravy (£10.50). It did not disappoint, although, dare I mention that s-word again. I think we have all been conditioned to cook without salt, so it’s noticeable when it is over-used. I did enjoy the traditional dish, though, and it took me back to days of yore. The accompanying vegetables were well cooked but did not included potatoes.
Next to me, the hunt for the perfect lasagne resumed (£9.95) with a tangy, salty variety in a huge dish that filled Mrs L to the brim. Her side salad was heavy on the diced tomatoes, cucumber, onions and peppers, a crunchy feast in itself.
Opposite, the choice was chicken burger (£4.50) from the snack menu. The burger was breaded and fried and came in a large, soft bap and accompanied by the same crunchy salad.
Chips (the deep-fried, frozen variety) cost an extra £2 on all dishes (unless stated on the menu), or there was the option of Chips sliced potatoes in cream and cheese for an extra £3.
The fare was so filling that there was no room for desserts, although they sat glaring at us, in all their home-made glory, from their position in the window as we left. Instead, it was back home for a much-needed nanna-nap!
THE LITTLE RESTAURANT WITH BIG HEART
Youngsters are made more than welcome at Topsey Turvey, enjoying a choice from their own menu. Dishes include roast of the day (£4.50); sausage with gravy and chips (£3.75); chicken nuggets and chips (£4); egg, chips and beans (£4); hot dog and chips (£3.75); fish fingers and chips (£3.75).
Prices generally are very reasonable and the portions sizeable, so it’s a win-win situation in this friendly little venue. Add on the efficient service to make Topsey Turvey well worth a visit.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Fish soup and roll......£6
Garlic prawns with hot roll......£6.75
Roast of the day......£9.95
Scampi, salad and chips......£9.95
Seabass with garlic prawns......£11.95
Corned beef pie/chips/beans......£8.75
Mince and onion pie......£8.75
Trio of salad – crab, prawns and smoked salmon......£11.95
Egg, chips and beans......£7.75
Quiche with salad potatoes......£9.95
Raspberry roulade, toffee pecan roulade, lemon roulade, caramel apple pie, sticky toffee pudding, crumble and custard, Victoria sponge.
STAR RATINGS (OUT OF 10)
Quality of food......7
Value for money......9
Children catered for......8
Use of local food......8
Access for disabled (it’s a squeeze)......7
Toilet for disabled......No
Verdict: A good, old-fashioned café, with good, old-fashioned food.
Contact: 01665 711338 or online at www.topseyturvey.co.uk.