The Rat Inn
Tues-Sat: 12-2pm, 6-9pm
Recently a lady called NickyB posted a comment on this site that I had overlooked The Rat Inn in Anick, a tiny hamlet near Hexham.
Under the ownership of Karen Errington and Phil Mason, the place has reputedly blossomed from pub to gastropub. Nicky reckons it’s just as good as David Kennedy at Vallum. This clearly needed a proper test, so I sent in the ladies who lunch.
I wouldn’t normally devolve responsibility – my previous reviews have been based on personal taste and experience. But in this case, Mrs Diner wanted to go somewhere nice with some girl friends, (I suspect she was desperate to have some respite from me).
It just so happened that the four friends who accompanied her are remarkably well qualified to be food critics. They are:
- a former Michelin restaurant guide inspector,
- a television personality,
- a former boutique hotel owner who creates wonderful desserts, and
- an entrepreneur with an intimate knowledge of the fishing industry.
There was widespread praise for the location and the ambience: “it has a wonderful view of the Tyne Valley... a very pleasant country pub full of paraphernalia and quite charming,… wool throws on the back of the dining chairs, pine scrubbed tables... just the right amount of rustic chic without being stuffy or old.”
Our celebrity-watching ladies spotted Terry Laybourne and his wife sitting at another table, which, they reckoned, augured a good meal.
The menu is chalked up on blackboards, but “don't sit under the table where it hangs as we all had to crowd round the poor people dining underneath it.”
One of the dinettes had a gluten allergy, but was delighted to see gluten-free bread available. She was “speedily talked through what I could and couldn't have and it didn't present a problem to have the pan fried plaice fried without breadcrumbs.”
The wine list was wide-ranging and there were “plenty of good local ales and wines by the glass.”
|Chicken and (just a little) chorizo terrine|
|Baked camembert with walnuts and mead|
Baked camembert and walnuts with Lindisfarne Mead was “exactly as described…drizzled with mead, which gave a nice sweet twist.” It was “very nice, but not fantastic”.
Gazpacho was “garlicky…refreshing and light”.
|Crispy duck egg with ham hock|
The ladies sampled a range of main courses, though not the restaurant’s signature dish – Roast Northumbria rib of beef (for two) for £45.00. Apparently they’ve sold 324 ribs this year so far, “testament to the North’s love affair with great ingredients”. Or to Northumbrians’ waistlines, more like.
|Mackerel with roasted tomatoes|
Mrs Diner had fresh spring vegetable linguine in a light creamy sauce.
|Linguine with summer vegetables|
“The sauce was like something on a children’s menu – a sharper cheese would have made it a bit more grown up, but the veg was fresh and on a hot day was a nice departure from the heavier dishes”.
|"Unremarkable" ginger sponge|
|"Something my husband could have made"|
So that’s why ladies like puddings so much.
Mrs Diner and the Dinettes really enjoyed their experience, which cost £28 a head. The service was “top notch”, the owners “attentive…great”.
In short, “a thoroughly well-run pub with a lot of excellent cooking…I would recommend it to anyone.”
And they all agreed with the verdict – 4 stars.