a perfect location for our planned exploration of the North East & Northumberland.
Why do so many brits choose to head overseas during the warmest period we have in the UK?
Surely it makes more sense to take a plane during months in which the weather is not so kind, months like May or October? I suppose what these months are less likely to offer is it the ability to play top trumps with our Facebook friends, just saying!
Whilst I appreciate this year has not been the best summer in terms of continuity of sunshine, I still believe my tactic makes perfect sense, so as in previous years, this year we set out on a mission to explore a part of the UK we are less familiar with.
Whilst the North East of England is in theory only a hop skip and jump away from Yorkshire it still represents a good 2-3 hour journey up the A1 and therefore is somewhere I’d rather ashamedly unfamiliar with.
Our staycation begins at the Jesmond Dene House, a quaint but grand hotel situated just North of the River Tyne and City of Newcastle Upon Tyne, easily accessible from the A1 its the perfect location for our planned exploration of the North East & Northumberland.
It comes as no surprise that the Jesmond Dene House is an idyllic location for weddings, our stay there across 2 days includes witnessing the celebrations of 2 weddings and whilst this has no impact on us it does, to me, always feel that you are playing seconds fiddle to the celebrations of a happy couple and their entourage.
The rooms at the hotel are good & the breakfast reads superbly, unfortunately however it’s not executed quite as well as it reads, shame!
I start my dining experience with a Mackerel dish, it’s a simple creation that delivers the perfect example of local catch, matched with a pickled cucumber salad, it’s a dish that allow me to forgive the mishaps of the breakfast experience.
It’s no secret that I like to see the quality of the ingredients do the talking and that’s certainly evident here.
It get’s even better with the main, a chicken dish that once again is clever, this is less about the quality of the cooking (which is amazing) and more about the quality and pairing of the ingredients.
Let me tell you that chicken, peas, bacon & mushrooms with well constructed jus is the absolute perfect combination, a dish that I applaud and would happily eat over and over again.
Dessert leaves me a little frustrated, essentially the blueberry tart is a left over from the afternoon tea, served with a quenelle of ice cream and a hike in price from the afternoon service it’s a disappointing end to a meal that was going so well, must try harder!
First stop on our tour of the North East is Blyth, a small seaside town about 30 minutes drive to the North of Jesmond, Blyth delivers our first experience of the quality of beaches in Northumberland and I have to say I’m very impressed.
Silky smooth, vast & incredibly clean we spend a couple of hours purely enjoying family time however there’s a more pressing place that’s been on my list for a while.
It has everything (on a hot day that is) a clean cove beach that’s protected from the elements, stunning views and a hut that serves some of the best seafood that I have ever had the pleasure of devouring, you so need to visit Riley’s Fish Shack!
Having experienced the awesomeness of Tynemouth our hideaway for the evening was at St Mary’s Inn in Morpeth, again ideally located for the rich pickings of Northumberland and in stark contrast to the Jesmond Dene House.
St Mary’s Inn is an upmarket Inn, elegant in design with a handful of rooms located upstairs that are very impressive indeed.
A long soak in a huge bathtub is all it takes to recharge my batteries ahead of experiencing the dining experience on offer at St Mary’s Inn.
There’s something about St Mary’s Inn I love, I’m not sure if its the exceptional service or indeed the impressive range of high end beers the serve but without even taking a bite of any of the culinary creations I’m falling in love with this place, it’s homely, comfortable and reeks quality without any pretentiousness.
The menu reads mighty fine, I’m finding myself in one of those situations in which I’m struggling to choose.
But choose I do and start with Salt and Pepper Squid served in a peanut satay sauce, need I say anything else? The hit from the sprinkling of chillies and the depth of the peanut sauce delivers an awesome way to start a dining experience, but wait it gets better.
A spiced duck breast with duck leg bon bon, pak choi, celaric and jus, this dish is absolutely stunning, it’s a dish so spectacular in depth of flavour that had I not have been in a packed restaurant I have no shame in admitting that the plate would have been tilted 45 degrees and my vast tonge would have licked every remaining drip of jus from the plate.
I’m so impressed with the dish that I can’t bear to end a meal with anything sweet and rather rarely opt for the cheese board instead which is equally impressive.
Clearly breakfast the next morning needs to be as epic as the evening meal the night before.
I double take on one of the options, pan roasted peach on french toast with bacon and maple syrup, not a dish I’ve tried before but in chef I have trust so lets do this.
Further exploring of Northumberland takes us further North to the shores of Bamburgh before making our way down the coast and taking a boat trip in Amble in which the waves are bumpy but the sight of 30-40 seals bobbing in the water is a memory to treasure.
If you haven’t yet explored the North East, if it’s been on your list for a while, let me give you a piece of advice, do it! It’s a very very impressive part of the UK.