Battlesteads, Wark, Northumberland
Nov 5 2010 By Katharine Capocci, The Journal
OUR journey to Battlesteads in Wark in Northumberland was largely what us townies call “out in the wilds of wanny”.
It took us about 45 minutes to reach the pretty, out-of-the-way village from home in Newcastle.
And by the end of our twisty, turny trip along the road to Bellingham our kids were mighty pleased to arrive as talk had just turned to car sickness.
As it turned out, it was well worth going the extra mile to Battlesteads.
And a chat with their chef Eddie Shilton resulted in a tip for a shortcut home, via the Military Road, knocking more than a fair few miles off the journey. You live and learn.
Battlesteads is the newly-crowned Best Pub in Britain in the Great British Pub of the Year Awards 2010. The popular pub/hotel also won the title of Best Green Pub 2010.
It has also just picked up a gold award for Sustainable Tourism at the North East England Tourism Awards. So we were keen to see how it fared when it came to the food offerings.
Originally built as a farmstead in 1747, the four-star inn and restaurant is run by convivial licensees Richard and Dee Slade, who were much in evidence the Sunday night we popped in.
They moved into Battlesteads five years ago from the Magnesia Bank in North Shields, with ambitions to build a “green” business.
The pub-hotel was the first in the country to be powered by a carbon- neutral biomass boiler, vegetables, herbs and salads come straight from their own two-acre gardens and polytunnels, with meat and fish sourced locally.
Décor is fairly traditional in the dining room with dark wood tables and chairs, and patterned carpet, although very much in keeping with the pub’s cosy, homely feel. And the restaurant leads to an attractive conservatory, which opens on to an otherwise hidden walled garden.
The menu is primarily modern British but with a smattering of international dishes. We dipped and delved and chose from the local and seasonal menu (two courses for £18.50 and three courses for £23.50) plus the a la carte menu.
The kids sipped glasses of blush pink Fentimans rose lemonade – rather pricey at £2.50 per glass – with a wonderful aroma and taste of Turkish Delight. I sipped a glass of Santa Florentina, Famatina Valley, organic chardonnay, while the other half supped a half of Durham Magus.
The children and hubby tucked into homemade butternut squash soup served with delicious spelt and honey bread, at £3.75. The soup was very good, mellow yellow in colour, sweet, hearty and warming.
My baked fresh figs, stuffed with Blengdale blue cheese was the perfect flavour combo of sweet and succulent fruit complemented by strong, salty cheese, a molten globe nestling among the figs. It rested on a bed of mixed leaves from the garden.
My main of lamb shank, complete with aromatic sprigs of rosemary, was literally falling off the bone, so tender and succulent was the meat. And ticking a local box, too. It came with diced leeks, super-fresh black kale, creamy, buttery mash and rich tasty mead gravy.
Across the table, the husband’s lamb cutlets were also tasty and sweet. The meat was well seasoned, the accompanying mash super creamy, with the Swiss chard coming from the vegetable garden.