Jane Pikett enjoys dinner and a pint or three at the Duke of Wellington
What is it about the Duke of Wellington which qualifies him to lend his name to thousands of pubs nationwide?
Not only does his name live in perpetuity over the door of one of my favourite ale houses, but my favourite footwear is also named for him, which is nice, if not strictly relevant to this review, which is supposed to be about my dinner.
So, back to the job in hand, and The Welly, which is just up the road from appetite HQ at Newton, near Stocksfield, achieves the tricky balancing act of quality restaurant food robust enough to carry off a pub setting and, crucially, to stand up for itself on the same table as a pint or three of real ale. Thus, it lives up to the elaborate descriptions on the menu, while remaining at home in a pub frequented by locals and their dogs.
Special mention to the puddings, which are seriously good, thanks to the efforts of some new blood in the kitchen. The Grenadine roast rhubarb is exquisite – my new favourite version of my favourite spring vegetable, delightfully paired with ginger mousse, cream patisserie and double ginger ice cream. I’d go back for that alone.
The peanut butter cheesecake with raspberry jelly and peanut butter-filled macaroons was so good that, on a dessert roll, we asked for a third pudding to take home, which is how I came to be eating lemon and lavender posset with lavender shortbread in my bed at midnight. You’ll agree, I’m a class act…
The lamb was divine – pink, succulent, tender, butter-soft – while the sea bream was a delightful perfection. There was a fantastic pan-fried mackerel starter, plus an adventurous combination of tempura king prawns, scampi, fennel-spiced cauliflower fritters, and – the star – mussel popcorn.
As you will gather from the length of some of the descriptions above (which I’ve cut in most cases) the dishes on the a la carte menu are complex. The specials menu, however, offers a simpler cod, chips and mushy peas, a burger with onion rings and chips, rump, rib eye, and sirloin steak and chips, and scampi with lemon mayo. Mind, the side orders include parmesan and truffle fries, so it’s not exactly straightforward pub fayre, but it’s less daunting for those of simpler tastes.
I salute the Duke’s team for their commitment to quality ingredients and creative combinations. Bar meals have changed since the days of chicken in a basket, and The Welly can give any quality restaurant a run for its money. Plus, the landlord keeps a very good pint. No doubt the Duke would approve. Cheers!
The Duke of Wellington, Newton Northumberland, NE43 7UL tel 01661 844 446, www.thedukeofwellingtoninn.co.uk