Dinner@Sea and Soil, Amble

Sea and Soil is a small restaurant in the seafront Northumbrian town of Amble. It is owned by Jonny Bird and his wife, Julie. When we arrive for dinner the restaurant is empty but within minutes the place starts to fill up. Johnny is also the chef, he trained under Albert Roux, and as you start to read the menu you get the impression that he knows what he is doing.

I’m pleased to see that Sea and Soil stocks some proper bottled beers. From the Notebook is a brewery created by two guys with a passion for real ale and a passion for wildlife. Men after my own heart! All their beers are named after wild creatures and I choose one, The Puffin, a sharp tasting best bitter with hints of caramel.

Rock is saving herself for dessert and decides against having a starter, but I really fancy the hot smoked salmon scotch egg served with horseradish creme fraiché. It is a thing of beauty! Though the strength of the horseradish does require me to order another Puffin.

After a great starter I’m really looking forward to my main course of lobster tail & crab risotto with cured ham and green beans. My expectations have risen so high that I’m a tiny bit disappointed by the risotto – there are nice pieces of crab, lobster and cured ham and the dish is full of flavour but lacks the creaminess I expect from a risotto. Rock is, yet again, having the sea trout – this time with apple, celeriac and caramel hazelnut – the fish is perfectly cooked but the caramel element is a little too sweet for her.

For dessert we share the warm chocolate fondant with cinder toffee ice cream. It is a sublime fondant – a delicate sponge containing molten chocolate that runs out as you break into the sponge and perfectly complemented by the ice cream and pieces of fruit. Wow!

Overall a really fine experience. We loved the fact that Jonny regularly left the kitchen to come and talk to the diners, not only to check that they were enjoying themselves, but also to solicit feedback. This shows real confidence in his kitchen and a desire to satisfy his customers.

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Coffee&Cake@Barter Books, Alnwick

Barter Books is a truly fascinating place. A former Victorian railway station, it now houses what one newspaper called ‘The British Library of secondhand bookshops’ plus a cafe in what used to be the waiting rooms. They light the open fires if there is any sign of a chill in the air. There is even a fantastic model railway that snakes round a track above your head in the main bookshop.

The cafe serves breakfast, coffee, cakes, lunch and afternoon tea to book browsers and to anyone else who wanders in. Rock and I both have coffee and share a local favourite – Earl Grey fruit cake with cheddar cheese. Rich, moist fruit cake with mature cheddar – interesting and enjoyable. The service is great and the whole experience is fantastic.

If you love books, trains, coffee or cake – this is a great place to visit. If you love all of these things, this may just be your heaven!

Lunch @Bertramswarkworth

The roadtrip has brought us to the pretty Northumbrian town of Warkworth where we are staying for a few days. This morning Rock and I have had a very pleasant walk to the beach and built up an appetite for lunch and we are heading for Bertrams, a licensed cafe in the centre of the town.

The place is busy and we are very happy to find a table and to see local beers on the drinks menu. Rock has a Golden Plover and I have a Wagtail – both from the Allendale Brewery. The Golden Plover is a zesty golden pale ale and the Wagtail a malty amber bitter with a long aftertaste. Both are excellent.

Rock selects the cheese and ham quiche with salad, coleslaw and chutney. She loves the fact that it is filled with decent chunks of proper ham – no processed stuff here. I have the smoked haddock fish cakes which are fresh and beautiful. Served with salad and fries.

We don’t have room for dessert but the cakes look so good that we take home a really large slice of raspberry bakewell – a good decision that we certainly don’t regret later. Service throughout was friendly and excellent. If you are in Warkworth then Bertrams is a fine place for a local beer, a plate of freshly cooked food or a decent cake!

Lunch@The Ship Inn, Low Newton

A long walk from Beadnell across an extraordinarily beautiful Northumberland beach has brought us to The Ship Inn at Low Newton. We are again with our good friends Gino, Cosmo & LN and we are all in need of a beer and some lunch. As in all our visits to The Ship Inn, the place is packed and we are lucky to get a table.

The beer is very good here as they have their own brewery. Pints of Sea Wheat, Red Herring and Ship Hop Ale are poured and enjoyed. LN has a kipper with fresh brown bread & butter. Gino and Rock both have the kipper fish cakes with salad & a stottie. The excellent kippers and kipper fish cakes are locally supplied by Swallow fish of Seahouses. Cosmo has a beautiful homemade spiced vegetable soup. I have the lamb koftas with pitta, salad and mint raitha.

Some of us are hungry for more and I know they do a great apple crumble here. I head to the bar only to find that they have sold out! There is absolutely no apple crumble left and that is the only dessert on the menu. Oh well, another beer then…

Situated in the middle of miles and miles of beautiful coastline, The Ship Inn is a haven for much needed, good quality food and drink. In many ways it is an oasis for beach walkers – I’m so glad it isn’t a mirage!