Another Sunday, another lunch. There are other things to do on a Sunday of course, but in these relatively godless times, lunch is a better and more rewarding thing to do than most. Aldous Huxley said something about how a lunch can turn a pessimistic determinist into an optimistic believer in the will's freedom. Quite right, but I wonder if he specifically had beef and Yorkshire pud in mind? We did, at the terminus of a fun weekend when we had friends up from darn sarf.
An unpromising weather forecast held off long enough for us to earn the ensuing feed by ambling swiftly from the car park at Steel Rigg to Sycamore Gap (the Robin Hood Tree!) and back. If you're from round these parts and haven't ever done this walk, you really should; the views are properly brilliant and you can pretend you're in some windswept fantasy like Game of Thrones, if that's your thing.
With the hell of the wind still ringing in our ears we drove the short distance back towards Newcastle, alighting at Vallum Farm. This place really has become a middle class day out in the sort-of country par excellence. There was a small indoor market on with craft and food things for sale. A few tastes from a really top-drawer cheese stall got us in the mood for the subsequent victuals.
It seems that David Kennedy is no longer attached to the restaurant at Vallum Farm, nor indeed the River Cafe restaurant on The Fish Quay. According to staff at Vallum he's taking a break from the old cheffing game. Hopefully not for good; we've had lots of nice meals, and some really superb ones, in his restaurants. In his absence, the menus at Vallum still offer the kind of stuff I've always associated his places with: lots of sensible sounding cooking, using good quality - often very local - ingredients, at a price that is clearly good value. A change of chef also doesn't alter the fact that the restaurant here affords some lovely views out to the south-west and the Tyne Valley.
|Vallum fettle fritters, kitchen garden pickles, shoots|
|Roast black label topside of beef, Yorkshire pudding, red wine|
When it did arrive, the beef was a solid performer. Well cooked, flavoursome meat, decent gravy and roasties, good Yorkshire and tasty, if slightly unimaginative, steamed veg. Am I falsely remembering some mythical past, or was there a time when Sunday roasts came with significantly more than three roast potatoes? Anyway, this all hit the spot. Not so much praise for the vegetarian option of Cauliflower and truffle risotto mind you. I didn't taste it, but I never trust a risotto that comes mounded up on the plate.
|Sticky toffee pudding, vanilla ice cream|
I have to note some of the disconcertingly grown-up chat coming from the mouths of middle class kids all around, as they sat politely with the adults, comparing notes on their preferred types of couscous and other similar culinary conundrums. Whatever happened to letting the little buggers knacker themselves in the park before putting them in the car with a bag of scampi fries, while the grown-ups hit the pub/restaurant/whatever? Never did me any harm, and that's what mine'll be getting. Vallum farm is, precocious foodie youth aside, an excellent place for a quick day out from Newcastle, taking less than half an hour to get to from the city. As well as the main restaurant, there's a tearoom (also serving Sunday lunch I think), a smoke house, a small but perfectly formed deli, a bakery and who knows what else besides. Once the season swings into gear visitors will also be able to marvel at the fantastic produce coming from Ken Holland's polytunnels.
Lunch at Vallum Restaurant was decent, rather than excellent. A couple of mis-fires with the food and some really long waiting times - we were there for well over two hours I think - notwithstanding, it was unremarkable but enjoyable stuff. And three courses at under £16 make it pretty great value. If you're after a nice Sunday lunch in a very pleasant spot, and especially if you're got kids, it's a solid choice.
Vallum Restaurant, Vallum Farm, Military Road, East Wallhouses, NE18 0LL
01434 672 406