A Hot Date With An 87-Year-Old, Bobbie Shafto Loving, War Survivor
By Jon Corbett on August 23, 2011 in Food
I‘m not sure if it’s because I’m a bad person or if it’s something to do with the fact that I enjoy placing harmful toxins inside my brain from time to time, but despite my best efforts I can never ever in a month of hell frozen sundays remember my Grandma’s birthday.
I can remember Alan Shearer’s and I even know my own, but never poor old Esther’s.
True to form, my habitual absent mindedness continued on the day of her birth only last week, so I had to think of a present super quick before the inquest began.
Then I remembered an old interview I did with an impassioned (and ever so slightly cookie) local businessman, who told me about his vision for a new pub he had just renovated going by the name of The Black Horse. Let’s take Grannykins for a nice pub lunch – perfect.
The Black Horse is a three hundred year old public house, nestled beautifully in the Beamish Conservation Valley close to Beamish Museum and the Tanfield Railway.
Set in the sweeping County Durham countryside complete with its own 10 acres of on site vegetable gardens and orchards, the site is nothing short of stunning and appears to be a constant hive of activity, led by its cigar smoking owner Bob Fountain.
The Black Horse was originally constructed around 1690 when it was one of 10 cottages built on the estate of the legendary heart breaker and former MP for County Durham Bobby Shafto (remember the Bobby Shafto’s Gone to Sea nursery ditty? Sure you do, if not here it is performed by a Korean choir) and has now been affectionately restored by Bob and his team.
Located on two floors, The Black Horse is a mammoth gastro pub complete with stylish and contemporary furniture, flag stone floors and a squad of attentive all female bar staff.
The bar is stocked and primed with real local ales (Hooray Henry in my view is liquid gold and will take the seasoned real ale drinker to the promised land) and the downstairs restaurant is partly located under a grand orangery backing onto the pub’s sun soaked grounds and rammed beer garden.
I couldn’t wait to get out there – it even had its own little beer garden bar for fuck’s sake – but Grandma couldn’t hack the heat; so I made do and battled on with an impressive menu.
As well as having a host of ever present British classics on there, The Black Horse has a fine respect for fresh and seasonal ingredients, and will regularly update the menu so guests don’t miss out and home-grown seasonal produce.
To start, our party would definitely recommend the home made ham hock terrine (£6.95). This little braised ham delight is pressed with fresh herbs served with a toasted Ciabatta, pineapple, cracked black pepper chutney and dressed leaves. It’s gluttony of the highest order, but it is essential to gorge oneself from time to time.
If you don’t want to fill your little tummy too early and fancied something a bit lighter, a good old prawn cocktail (£6.95) may suffice. This comes with Greenland prawns and a fine brandy Marie Rose sauce coupled with baby gem lettuce and fresh lemon.
If you’re feeling fishy and quite like the idea of taking things up a notch, the Woodstone king prawns (£7.95), lovingly prepared in a garlic and herb butter, is liable to make your knees shake with glee.
For the main, ordering a Red Row home made Beef and Bombardier pie (£10.95) wouldn’t be the worst decision you’ve made this year. This hearty treat comes straight from the British old school; an ale marinated Northumbrian power house complete with short crust pastry served with creamy mash and garden vegetables. My word! Make sure you ask for additional gravy for full affect.
Grandma opted for another classic; The Black Horse’s famous beer battered haddock and hand cut chips (£10.95). It was the first time she was quiet all day and I have it on good authority the old girl from the quaint fishing village of Cullercoats was suitably impressed. The fish was deep fried North Sea haddock fillet which comes with old fashioned thick hand cut chips, traditional mushy peas, lemon and tartar sauce. It was a shade larger than her excited cranium, so pudding maybe tricky if you manage to finish this naughty number.
Never one to shirk my reviewing responsibilities I “struggled” onto the desserts and immediately realised an appointment at the nearest A & E was likely.
The cold chocolate fondant with peanut caramel (£7.00) will simply blow you away and, despite reading about this negatively in an earlier review, the sticky toffee pudding (£4.95) with either creme fraiche or toffee sauce (break on through to the other side and combine them both like me) was a soul-filling delight.
I needed somewhere scenic, traditional, English, warm and friendly, and in the Black Horse and its idyllic setting, I found all of these things. It really is the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban dining and will come in handy next time you forget a loved one’s birthday or want to treat the family to something honest and wholesome.
In the words of their moto, The Black Horse is a mighty explosion of good crack and good beer and won’t let you down.
I just wish it was a little easier to get to. Perhaps next time I’ll stay for the weekend.