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IF I had a pound for every time I explained to Mrs Eats we weren't going to the spiritual home of Harry Potter for our roast, I'd be a rich man.

"So we can't go to Barter Books afterwards?" she'd asked. The culinary experts among you will, of course, know that when I utter the words 'The Rat' I mean the idyllic pub in the Anick a couple of miles north-east of Hexham, and nothing to do with the Duke of Northumberland's Alnwick, 40 miles away.

After all, The Rat Inn has just been named among the top 50 gastropubs in Britain by Estrella Damm. And for those of you who are reading this with bemusement, you're missing out. The Rat is a pub of real character nestled in the Tyne Valley. So remote is this venue, it wasn't the easiest of tasks getting the Eatsmobile parked; the car park is tight and the on-street options limited due to its popularity. However, after a leisurely drive, I was ready for a good real ale. I opted for a pint of the Lakeland Summit from the Great Corby Brewery in Cumbria (PS3.70) while Mrs Eats quenched her thirst with a pint of Estrella (PS4.80).

If you're in need of more booze, the Rat offers a 'takeout' option served in a container. No wonder there was a gin menu featuring 18 varieties handily positioned on the table.

We were seated in the front conservatory, overlooking the beer garden. It was light and airy but managed to retain a homely feel, as it is only big enough to accommodate roughly 10-12 people.

After a glance at the dessert menu (more on that later), starters were skipped. For the main course, I ordered the leg of lamb (PS14), which came off the bone, and She Who Must Be Fed went for the pork belly (PS13).

The chicken and bacon combo, and the rib of beef - which the menu promised came medium rare - were overlooked.

Both meals came with four roasties, a Yorkshire pudding and gravy, while the pork came with stuffing and crackling.

The rest of the veg - seasoned cauliflower, new potatoes, mashed carrot and swede and cabbage - arrived separately, alongside a jug of extra gravy and condiments of our choosing. For what are considered to be two fatty types of meat, these were anything but. Both were delicious and helped by the good portion of veg.

The grub was so good, no additional salt or pepper were required. Though, whisper it quietly, I may have had food envy looking at Mrs Eats' plate.

After the demolition job - not a speck of food was left - it was time for pud, the cornerstone of many Sundays.

Mrs Eats could barely contain her excitement when she spied the sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (PS6.75) on the menu, and that's what she duly ordered. I, however, opted for the chocolate and ale steamed pudding with a helping of Guinness ice cream (PS7).

Both arrived with a helping of sauce - chocolate for me and butterscotch for Mrs E - and again the bowls left the table almost licked clean as we were sent to melt-in-the-mouth heaven. The Guinness ice cream was a particular highlight.

On its website, the Rat boasts it has developed an "enviable reputation" for its "award-winning food".

It's safe to say, in us, there were two very satisfied customers who'll be sure to sample its wizardry all over again.

CAPTION(S):

The Rat Inn, just a couple of miles from Hexham, nestled in the Tyne Valley

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Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 9, 2020
Words:595
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