26 July 2013

The Rat Inn

Food ✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪✪ 

The Rat Inn
NE46 4LN 

01434 602814 

Tues-Sat: 12-2pm, 6-9pm 
 Sun: 12-3pm 

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. 
Not even Masterchef could boast more expert judges. Here, then, is the collective judgment of Mrs Diner and the Dinettes. 

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
Starters included chicken and chorizo terrine “you could really taste the chicken and the chorizo gave it added bite”, but “the grilled veg was bland”. However, another thought “you couldn’t really taste the smokiness of the chorizo which would have taken it up a notch.” 

Baked camembert with walnuts and mead
Craster kipper pate had “just the right amount of lemon”.  

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
One dish engendered universal praise: a crispy coated Duck egg on top of pulled ham hock on a bed of lettuce with fresh peas was “delicious, definitely the best starter of the day”. 

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
Instead, one Dinette had peppered rump steak, “perfectly cooked, very smooth sauce” with roasted tomatoes, watercress and “delicious” chips, while the others ate lighter. Grilled mackerel with confit of tomatoes was “nicely presented, with well-seasoned tomatoes and peppery sauté potatoes…the mackerel was a bit on the small side, though”. 

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”. 

"Woolly" plaice
One big letdown was the plaice: it was “woolly”. This from someone who definitely knows her fish. 

"Unremarkable" ginger sponge
The puddings were not recommended. Ginger sponge was “well cooked”, but “unremarkable”, and chocolate and summer fruit sundae was “a disappointing mix of store cupboard ingredients with ordinary vanilla ice cream – something even my husband could have made.” 

"Something my husband could have made"
As another Dinette put it: “Noone at the table seemed to be having that orgasmic feeling one gets when tucking into a sinful and scrumptious dessert.” 

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.

The Rat Inn on Urbanspoon


  1. I received the following email from Jim Mattinson of Corbridge:

    Our lunchtime experience was totally different.
    We found the food acceptable but not the service which was slow in the extreme. They mixed up our order and one female waitress was particularly rude, I guess because they were severely under-staffed.

    That said wife and I will certainly hesitate before returning for lunch although I am unable to speak for the other 4 in our party.

    It os also a pity that the web site menu bore no likeness to the lunch time offering.

    J Mattinson
    Cliffe House, Corbridge

  2. This email sent to me from Sean Hedley:

    Re: the rat Inn, Anick
    You should have tried the Northumbrian Rib of Beef, worth every penny ! So pleased you enjoyed the whole experience, but did you really have to tell the rest of the north east about this gem?

    The experience of dining and relaxing in this pub is testimony to the owners enthusiasm.

    Kept up the good work
    Regards Sean

  3. I wonder if Jim complained about the rude staff and slow service at the time. I'll bet The Rat (or any other establishment worth its salt) would be horrified to read that feedback and would have wanted to know about and deal with the issues at the time.

  4. Karen Errington is aware - she tweeted about it this morning, so I assume she will post a response in due course. Or possibly contact Mr Mattinson directly, as he left his address.

  5. I have had one good experience and one very poor. I guess it is difficult to maintain constant high standards, but if you do not only will your diners return but also they will confidently recommend to others.