8 January 2020

Beadnell Towers

Food ✪✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪

The Wynding 
NE67 5AY 

01665 721 211 


Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free options? Yes 

There’s nothing so refreshing as having your jaded assumptions assailed and disproved by the jolt of actual experience. A number of dud lunches over the last few years have taught me to be suspicious of restaurants and hotels with a particular focus and financial outlay on the look of the place, particularly when that look seems to have come straight from the pages of Ideal Home magazine. Beadnell Towers has, according to the blurb, had £3 million pounds thrown at it, with Dynargh Design creating a “true ‘boutique’ hotel concept” for a new owner, property developer David Wilson. 

Judging from the public areas we saw, they’ve done a fine job. It feels like it’s meant to feel like a smart coastal retreat for busy town folk. 

“Hey you!” it shouts. 

“Yes you! Come and relax over here (kids and dogs welcome)!” 

There are acres of parquet, exposed brick and wood, a good lick of Farrow and Ball Hague Blue (if I’m not mistaken), striking wallpaper and splashes of colour by way of smart yellow stools in the bar. There are also funky touches here and there. The reception desk is backdropped by row upon row of vintage black telephones. The glass racks above the bar look like repurposed industrial fittings. Why? Why not! 

All good and well, but I’m in the business of finding nice things to eat, and I can’t taste interior design. The good news is that, unlike a number of hostelries of my recent acquaintance, the food here on a recent lunchtime was not a lowest common denominator “that’ll do” afterthought, but a bunch of well-cooked crowd pleasers that had something to say about the part of the world in which the hotel is situated.

Mrs Diner and I actually ate here a couple of years back, prior to the place changing hands and being thus transformed. The food had been a pleasant but uneven retro take on seafood-based classics; thermidor sauces, lemon sole on the bone with beurre noisette, that type of thing. Now, with chef Tony McDermott at the pass, it’s more contemporary and consistent, although still, thankfully, majoring on seafood. Mrs Diner and I brought the pal, who brought her own Junior Diner. We all brought appetites seasoned by the tang of salt on a bracing sea breeze. 

A simple starter of scallops boasted fresh and sweet-tasting bivalves, delicately cooked to medium-rareness, although lacking the contrast in texture and flavour to be derived from a good caramelised crust. 

I began with a dish of crab and red onion bake, which was packed with both brown and white meat and topped with cheese. Scooping this stuff up and slathering it over some fine toasted bread was just the thing to do while sat in a pricily acquired, multiple-cushioned armchair. 

You may think - and you would not be the first - that fish and cheese have no business sharing the same plate. I would point you in the direction of the Beadnell Towers fish pie, a thing of beauty. 

Underneath a burnished crust of cheddar-topped potatoes lurked generous lumps of salmon, cod and mussel, all draped in a swoony smooth béchamel. It came with a much needed mound of chlorophyll in the guise of nicely al dente peas, french beans and spring greens. The thing was massive; Mrs Diner admitted defeat early doors, at which point the pie became a communal trough. 

My own main was another soothing, saline, comforting plateful; a wodge of perfectly flaking smoked haddock sat on a hillock of very decent mash, crowned with a poached egg and a crisped slice of Parma ham, with a tangy mustard and white wine sauce on the side. Minus points for the slightly tragic overcooking of the poached egg, but otherwise this was a cracking dish. 

Perhaps more so with fish than anything else, if you want a good end result you need good raw product. McDermott is getting his from Collingwoods of North Shields, who also supply Peace and Loaf. Fair enough. 

The Junior Diner in our midst may not have appreciated this fact, but she certainly appreciated her “Beadnell” fish fingers, which in reality comprised two great wedges of perfectly moist, crisp-battered cod (I think) with rustly chips and peas. I love it when as much care is taken to get the kids stuff right as the grown ups. 

Desserts were arguably the highlight. More good local product - ice cream from nearby Morwick - was used in a Knickerbocker Glory that our Junior Diner was completely silenced by. Impressive. 

For the big people, a crème brûlée cheesecake was a rather excellent piece of baking featuring solid pastry, riotously rich innards and a pleasing blowtorched top. 

Elsewhere, some serious chocolate had been employed in the making of a fine delice that came with shards of crunchy praline and lime sorbet that perfectly balanced it’s cast of sweet and sour characters. 

My own pud was of the sticky toffee persuasion. It fully merited that title being as it contained dates, and was just a rather perfect coda to a very, very enjoyable meal.

We all had to climb into cars after the meal so there was no boozing going on and I didn’t see a wine list. Service, from all the staff we spoke to, was confident, caring and knowledgeable. My impression was that anyone staying here would be superbly well looked after in between bracing hikes along the coast, trips up to Bamburgh or whatever else they got up to. 

The new Beadnell Towers, only reopened for a few months at the time we ate there, is doing an impressive number of things very well indeed. I had made the mistake of... well, not judging exactly, let’s just call it unconscious bias. That sounds suitably modern, and also, now that I’ve fessed up to it, gets me off the hook, right? In any case, this meal was a welcome and delicious reminder that you can’t judge a restaurant by its paint job, and that the quality of the fit-out and the food is not necessarily a zero-sum game.

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