|Image: The Rat Inn (weather wasn't as clever the day we went mind...)|
I've eaten my fair share of these things lately, a symptom of the fact that we've had a number of friends visiting; there are surely few better ways to round off a pleasant weekend of catching up and general merriment than a convivial feast with which to allay any booze-inflicted shakiness. This has allowed a couple of critical observations to be made. Firstly, the venue. A trip to the country is ideal. A trip to the nearest retail park to house a Toby is not. As the meal is in some ways a paean to the fruits of agriculture, eating it in a rural setting makes for a felicitous endeavour. All the better that the chosen scran-house has something going for it that can be filed under the heading "charm".
Let us speak of meat. Personally I struggle to err from beef, both the cut and cooking of which are key. Topside is all good and well, but for serious flavour and texture rib is king, having just the right amount of fat in and around it. And as to its preparation, lots of pink is where it's at. A mere blush offers up scant flavour and is liable leave the thing dried out out and lend it dodgy boiled flavours; I'm after some iron tang, and only properly rare cow will do the job. If the meat is done right, then it should be moist enough to render the other vital, bedewing component of the meal not strictly necessary. Yet things that are not needed are no less desired. And nothing is desired more than considerately produced gravy. The well made lotion should be rich with the taste of meat - not merely of cube - and also speak of reduced booze and ample time spent simmering away.
Roasties and yorkshires are of secondary importance, and the rest less vital again. Serious meat and proper gravy: rare enough that when they show up in tandem, you know you are in the safest of hands. Which takes us from the general to the particular, and a particularly good Sunday lunch in the tiny and picturesque spot of Anick, just outside of Hexham.
I had been meaning to visit for ages, and from the minute we rocked up the signs were good. A handsome chunk of stone building, The Rat is set in a lovely garden with stunning views of the Tyne Valley. Unfortunately the weather was a bit rubbish, so we quickly scurried inside. A real range fire, sturdy furniture, blankets on the backs of chairs, newspapers to browse and menus on blackboards; all the signifiers were present and correct and so hopes were stoked.
|Brown shrimp on toast|
|Beef roast lunch|
The pudding menu had stuff on it that sounded brilliant - something about a brioch ice-cream sandwich - but we were all beaten. We spent some time digesting the food and the venue, which is like the very fantasy of a country pub. At some point in the future I'll move somewhere where somewhere like this is my local. Service was super-friendly and some words of praise too both for a short but interesting selection of wines and an intriguing collection of bedpans.
We'll be back to The Rat for sure; there was much evidence of simple but flavoursome cooking done really well. On a more summery day than the one we visited on the garden would be a fantastic place to spend a couple of pints worth of time. It's nice to be able to report back on a local gem, doing right by one of the more compelling contributions this country has made to the gastronomic cannon which, I think, is what I just did. You should go, it's great.
The Rat Inn, Anick, Hexham, NE46 4LN
01434 602 814