Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Restaurant Review: Sunday lunch at St Mary's Inn, Morpeth

The first thing you'll want to know about St Mary's is that it's not, despite what the website says, in Morpeth, or not quite, anyhow. The second is that merely boshing the postcode into your sat nav may, depending on your model and how recently you have updated it, result in disaster. Kasia is from this neck of the Northumbrian woods so we had a head start. When the Garmin wanted to send us down a one-track lane in entirely the wrong direction we knew better. Pro tip: locate the place on your choice of mapping application and guide yourself in using that.

St Mary's Inn is set in what was the administrative building of a former lunatic asylum which closed in 1995. This is a open goal for anyone writing about the place because you can say things like "and you'd have to be mad not to order the foie gras!!", but I'm above that sort of thing, thankfully. Actually: is it still ok to say lunatic asylum? Was it ever? I don't want to offend any lunatics among my loyal readership, that's for sure. Tell you what, let's just say that the place where we had some Sunday lunch recently is housed in what used to be a psychiatric institution and move on shall we? Great. Phew!

Regardless of its heritage St Mary's is really quite nice inside, as you'd expect from the same crew that operate Jesmond Dene House. There's a bar/pub bit, and then what seemed like endless small dining rooms. The chalk-tone painted walls of the one we were sat in were puctuated with an interesting array of pictures. Some of bees and honey, some of vegetables, and some, if I remember correctly, of gorillas. I didn't see any gorilla on the menu, so their inclusion was a puzzle.

This meal marked the denouement of a weekend of fairly serious gluttony, so we limited ourselves to but two courses. I had my eye on the English onion soup, but other people wanted puddings, so I gave way. I'm so thoughtful!

Pork or beef? Beef or pork? Beef is the safer choice of Sunday roast, as bad beef is better than bad pork. However, great roast pork is better (and I understand that this is a contentious subject, but I'm right, so it's fine) than great roast beef, making it the gambler's choice. When the meat is dense and dark, the fat creamy and the crackling glassy, pig is very much where shit is at. I decided I was feeling lucky, so rolled the dice, and came up smelling of roses. And roast pork.

Roast pork
This was a roast which, while not quite ambrosial, certain brought together a lot of solidly prepared components. Spuds were excellent, although the modern trend for serving only two or three per portion is in my view a regressive policy. The meat itself was almost as I previously described, and well seasoned too. The crackling had some chewy bits among the crisp sections and the meat wasn't quite as darkly poised as some I've tried, but still delicious. The wodge of black pudding was an enjoyable extra oink, while the yorkshire was good, rather than superb. Same goes for the gravy, although bonus marks for the practice of bringing an extra jug unprompted.

Roast beef
Kasia went for the beef. It should be noted that the above portion had actually been requested to be well done due to current medical factors, but that despite its cremation it still packed impressive beefiness. Vegetables were lovely throughout, all al dente freshness.

Steamed orange and treacle pudding, vanilla ice cream
Puddings were both good too. I ordered a steamed treacle pudding, hoping to evoke memories of those Heinz ones that you steam in the tin. I used to frigging love those when I was a kid. St Mary's version was the right balance of stodge and lightness, athough I found the orange flavour a bit of a worthy interloper which prevented me from concentrating properly on the flavour of syrup. God I love syrup.

Apple and dark forest fruit crumble, vanilla custard
The crumble was lovely, full of fruit which had been sweetened to the point at which it is pleasantly rather than puckeringly tart.

We agreed afterwards that two courses had been enough, and jolly enjoyable they had been too. I can vouch for the Sunday afternoon performance at St Mary's, although as this was the first time we'd been, I can't comment on anything else they do. I've heard wildly varying reports, so let me know what you thought in the comments if you've been lately. Certainly they've had a bit of a to-do about retaining chefs. Shaun Hurrell was, if I remember right, installed as head chef here when it opened, before leaving quick sharp in order to do his Mexican thing (Barrio Comida opens soon TODAY where Riley's on the Quayside used to be, btw, and not a moment too soon).

Anyway, if you fancy a Sunday roast you can rely on in comfortable surroundings, St Mary's seems a good choice. You'd have to be, not worth it.


St Mary's Inn
St Mary's Lane
St Mary's Park
NE61 6BL

01670 293 293


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