Aa’ll tell ye ’boot the Worm

The Lambton Worm is ready for another round of story telling, writes Alastair Gilmour.

Once upon a time, a group of pub and food enthusiasts threw £500,000 into a well in Chester le Street. They did it with their “greet big goggly eyes” fully open, though locals oft did wonder at their wisdom.

Within a few days of the “well” – now called The Lambton Worm Sonnet 43 Brew Pub and Restaurant – being opened up it had “grewed an’ grewed” and all the neighbourhood visited and were mightily impressed.

They said a lot of kindly things about what they found – the fiercely local food, the wondrous ales which had travelled no more than a dozen miles to arrive at the counter, and the staff, many of them lured from some of the North East’s finest hotels and hostelries.

And this is no fairy story. The Lambton Worm Sonnet 43 Brew Pub and Restaurant – oh sod it, let’s just call it The Lambton Worm – has captured public awareness head-on.

The boast in the extensively – and expensively – refurbished pub is “good honest food that will make your heart sing” and that’s no idle quip. The emphasis is wholly on freshness, locality, imagination and British tradition. Raw ingredients are traceable to food heroes who include Andrew Hutchinson’s lamb reared on the Cleveland Hills; Neil and Carol Peacock’s Parlour Made Cheese; John and Sue Archer’s ice-cream from Jersey cattle grazed on clover-rich pastures near Darlington; and Charlie Hird’s rare-breed pork sausage. We’ll come to Mrs Doreen and her black pudding later.

The Lambton Worm also features craft beers from its microbrewery in Coxhoe, Co Durham, and is the first of a handful of Sonnet 43 Brew Pubs and Restaurants planned by Sunderland-based Tavistock Leisure. But let’s sit down – three of us – so “whisht lads, haad yor gobs, an’ aa’ll tell ye aall an aaful story”.

We begin with wild mushrooms which have the expected earthy bluntness and somehow succeed in not disturbing the palate with intense flavours.

Across the table is a trio of melon served with Parma ham and marinated figs. This is an exercise in freshness, sweetness and delightful combinations of textures.

The garlic king prawn and roasted tomato on a trowelling of saffron noodles are delicate enough to get away with a breath-test. The fillet of stone bass on creamy mussels with Dauphinoise potatoes and spinach is a triumph. The trio of Gressingham duck – breast, leg and sausage – with Dauphinoise potatoes and coriander carrots is somewhat overpowered by cinnamon jus, but eventually recovers with a gamey comeback.

Eight-hour smoked shoulder of Charlie Hird’s pork is served with Mrs Doreen’s black pudding and a sweet jus, sautéed potatoes and braised red cabbage, topped with crispy pork crackling. Mrs Doreen is possibly the best black pudding deviser ever (and this comes from an offal nerd). Then there’s the crackling; can we fill our pockets for the journey home? Strapped in, we presume it’s okay to wind the windows down and start singing: “Aa’ll tell ye ’boot the Worm.”

The Lambton Worm Sonnet 43 Brew Pub and Restaurant, North Road, Chester le Street, DH3 4AJ. Starters from £4.25, main courses from £9.95, desserts £4.95, bar snacks £1.80-£3.25, tel 0191 387 1162, www.thelambton.com

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