Saturday, 25 October 2014

'The Rat Inn' & 'Parkers Arms' - two pubs with great grub!

There’s no real reason to write about the The Rat Inn and Parkers Arms in the same post other than the fact they are, in my opinion, two of the best food pubs in the country; I firmly believe that fans of one would love the other.

They may not have Michelin stars like Hand & Flowers, Pipe & Glass Inn or Black Swan but they are everything a good gastropub should be… enough 'pub' to appease the locals with enough 'gastro' to please the travelling “foodies”.

My love affair with Parkers is well documented on my blog and twitter feed but, having heard so many good things and a few recommendations from chefs, The Rat Inn (in Anick, Hexham) is one of those places I have been meaning to visit for quite some time.

Researching Anglo Saxons and Romans for a school project, I found myself in the North East the other day and it seemed the perfect opportunity to pay “The Rat” in a visit - at least it would have been a perfect opportunity had they not been about to go on a rare holiday… just my luck!

Luck was with me in a way though, as I managed to catch the final lunch service before the kitchen closed for a week; the catch being that they were only offering a partial menu. I had my heart set on the Pan Haggerty so this was a bit of a shame.

My initial disappointment was soon forgotten when my starter arrived – Chicken & black pudding terrine. You just cannot grumble at this type of food.

For my main, I went with the hearty pub classic of ‘sausage & mash’ – Northumberland sausage, leek and potato cake and onion gravy to be more precise. The sausages were great quality and the gravy was proper, complete with lashings of onion. Equally ‘proper’ were the chips.

For dessert, a decadently rich and moist Chocolate & Newcastle Brown Ale cake seemed the thing to have with Newcastle just down the road. It proved a good choice.

With its stunning views, homely feel and delightful service The Rat certainly lived up to expectations and I’ll certainly be back in the NE sometime for that Pan Haggerty.

Parkers Arms

Now to Parkers Arms, another place with wonderful views and charming service from the charismatic AJ.

In the area, I called in without a booking. I asked the kitchen to send out a few nibbles; ordered a crab dish and grouse for starter and main… you gotta make the most of the short season.

Nibbles included Chef Stosie’s magical Potato & Rooster scratchings; some naughty Smoked bone marrow and a dinky skewer of Cockles with fennel mayo, fennel salad & a cockle jus.

The Crab Blini with Lemon Mayo may not have looked like the most spectacular of dishes but it tasted immense - it consisted of a Blini made with brown crab meat, topped with white meat, dill and lemon butter.

My Abbeystead Grouse & Pork Terrine with Parkers Piccalilli was a perfect example of honest, hearty country cooking. It’s this style of nonsense flavour and produce driven cooking that prompted the glowing review form the Guardian’s Jay Rayner (see here).

Jay was a fan of the pies. ‘Hand raised’ with a glossy hot water crust pastry, it’s easy to see why. Jay had ‘Venison & Pork’ in his and I’ve heard talk of a fabulous sounding ‘Salt marsh lamb & cockle’ filling. The pie of the day on my visit was ‘Abbeystead Grouse & Whimberry’ a tremendous thing equalled in quality by the chips.

Both The Rat Inn and Parkers Arms are truly special places – there are not enough of these pubs around – unpretentious gastropubs where the food speaks for itself.

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