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Artist Charles Evans dines at The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick, Northumberland

One of Alnwick's most famous watering holes, The Dirty Bottles, once officially Ye Olde Cross, has cleaned up its act

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The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick, Northumberland
The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick, Northumberland

The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick is under new management and what a transformation!

The place had been open for 10 days when I visited and it’s super-trendy – and a little confusing for an old country hick like me.

There’s an iPad on each table so you can cut out the middle man and order online, and also order your drinks here and pull your own pint at the table. My word! You can, of course, do as I did and use the extremely pleasant dining room staff in the old-fashioned way!

The menus, however, are fairly straightforward, with a small but nice choice of starters. The main course selections are laid out in different sections: burgers – build-your-own – grills and smokehouse specials, with an ample choice for vegetarians.

For my starter I ordered the homemade Scotch egg with black pudding and spicy ketchup, priced at £5.95, and for my main course the smokehouse three meats of pulled pork, smoked sausage and brisket.

These come with a choice of side orders so I went for the corn on the cob, coleslaw and pit beans. All priced at £12. That should be enough for now!

Food at The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick, Northumberland
Food at The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick, Northumberland

It has to be said, there’s an excellent choice of music in this place and a very buzzy atmosphere. The inside of the restaurant is all barrels, exposed brick, stone and walls that look as if they’re made of old packing crates and railway sleepers. Very well done.

The starter was lovely – a very smooth and well-seasoned black pudding surrounded by big crunchy breadcrumbs sitting on top of a leaf salad which had the merest hint of dressing.

The spicy ketchup was certainly that. Gosh! All in all, a very nice starter. If I were to make one criticism, it would be that the egg inside was a bit of on the hard and rubbery side, but that was the smallest bit of it anyway.

As you walk into this place you’re greeted by a stainless steel wall with beer pumps sticking out of it. Again, serve yourself. Where have I been all these years?

When the main course arrived I’d by now rotated the iPad on its stand. Thankfully you can do that, because you just can’t help looking at it flicking its messages backwards and forwards.

I was defeated by meat! The main course was spicy, sweet and sticky, all of my own choice. The pulled pork and brisket – very well cooked, tender and full of flavour – was only bettered by the spicy sausage, which was a banger to behold.

Pit beans: I’ve never had them before, but they were a meal in themselves, bound with a cracking smooth and spicy sauce with slices of bacon inside. Lovely but far too much. As my mother says, my eyes were bigger than my belly!

Food at The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick, Northumberland
Food at The Dirty Bottles in Alnwick, Northumberland

Yes, they do treble espresso – soon on its way.

There is a very interesting story as to how this place came by its name and I’m not going to tell you. That would be a bit like telling you what happens at the end of the film, but there are curses involved. Mmm!

I’ve had a lovely evening, a different evening, in surroundings that would be difficult to replicate. Well worth a visit.

THE PAINTING

I think this street in Alnwick sums up the town – old, quaint and picturesque.

I put more detail than usual in the initial sketch because the subject matter demands it.

For the sky I used my ¾in wash brush. Dampen with clean water then pop in some ultramarine blue, stronger at the top. Wash and squeeze out the brush and ‘suck out’ a few clouds.

Once this had dried I changed to my No 8 round brush and concentrated on the distance. First I did the roofs, using a mix of ultramarine and light red to give a slate grey colour (and, for a couple of them, just weak light red).

Now to the buildings. I left a couple very light, with a weak stroke of blue, but for the brown ones I used raw umber with a touch of light red.

No need for much detail here because from that distance you can’t see windows and curtains.

I then turned my attention to the big central building, using the same round brush. I dropped in a little Charles Evans Sand before adding a bit of yellow ochre to the top and some raw umber to the bottom, letting the colours blend.

For the windows I used blue and burnt sienna mixed and, for the darker brown detail of the stonework, raw umber with a touch of blue.

For shadows I used a mix of ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and burnt sienna.

Notice how I put a weak mix to the bottom of the building to indicate shadows coming from the other side of the road.

Now to the buildings on the left of the street. Use the same colours but leave the building in the centre of the row white.

Drop the colours in and let them mingle, stroking them together to give a lovely soft stone colour.

Drop a little weak blue onto the white building because anything white and in shadow will have a blue tinge.

Charles Evans Painting of Alnwick by artist Charles Evans
Painting of Alnwick by artist Charles Evans

Once all this had dried I put in a bit of detail here and there, painting the windows with the same mix as before.

For the shop front surrounds, I used a bit of raw umber mixed with burnt sienna, again using my No 8 round brush.

For the signs sticking out here and there, use any colours you like. Strong colours add vibrancy.

Use the same shadow colours but a little stronger this time.

Over to the other side of the road and again it’s all the same colours and process, but make sure you get plenty of yellow ochre to the top of this building to capture the light.

I took my ¾in wash brush for the road and, in broad horizontal strokes, applied ultramarine and light red with plenty of water.

Finally I applied more shadows from left to right. Notice how some of them go up the buildings on the right.

All art materials by Winsor and Newton. For more free projects, courses and art materials at up to 50% reductions visit charlesevansart.com or, on twitter, follow @charlesevansart

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