The Cook and Barker at Newton on the Moor was the first place I reviewed nearly three years ago and it’s always nice to see how things have changed, if at all.
It still has the same fabulous atmosphere and is the kind of place that lives up to everything you would expect of a good country pub/hotel – old wood, benches and a snug, vibrant bar and palatial dining room.
I went for the snug.
It really is in one of the best positions imaginable, just off the A1 with views over to the sea from the front and up to the Cheviots from behind.
I ordered the Danish egg and tuna hors d’oeuvre and, for my main course, supreme of chicken stuffed with goat’s cheese and red onion. Must admit, the mention of it makes me hungry.
After a day spent in traffic jams either side of a painting demonstration in Rotherham, it’s nice to get back on familiar territory for my dinner!
The house red was a Merlot and a very fruity one at that. The problem with a very palatable wine is that you want too much of it! Now bring on the starter.
I chose well. The eggs were soft and runny, oozing their yolk on to the twirls of smoked salmon, the tuna made into quenelle mixed with mayonnaise and fresh prawns and very simply but classically presented. A very well thought out starter without a cluttered plate.
It has to be said, the main course couldn’t be faulted either... although actually, yes it can. Too much.
When I chose the chicken I expected it to be a little dry because goat’s cheese can be. But none of it. Juicy, tender and succulent and with just a twist of crunchy salt on it, all sitting on top of a mix of beautifully fresh vegetables, baby carrots, green beans and sautéed new potatoes – all cooked just so. The red onions did their job of adding sweetness as they were slightly caramelised.
I really don’t want a pudding but I’m going to have one just so I can comment. Oh my word, look at it! Warm chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and a huge dollop of cream on the top all sprinkled with chocolate. I’ve put five pounds on just writing that! The brownie was crispy on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside, the whole a delight.
The service and friendliness of the place is only matched by its food... all in all, everything just right.
The presentation is sublime but without stupid little portions that leave you looking for the nearest McDonald’s when you leave. These are Northumbrian portions with plenty of class.
A lovely night in a very convivial atmosphere ends after two treble espressos.
In this painting of the Cheviots I tried to capture the light coming in from the right.
After the usual outline drawing I turned to the sky, using yellow ochre in the bottom, weak burnt sienna above this and, for the blue, ultramarine with a touch of burnt sienna mixed in.
I wet the paper first with my 1.5ins flat brush, then dropped the colours on nice and wet and let them merge, washing and squeezing out my brush and shaping the clouds.
Once this had all dried, I painted the distant hills with yellow ochre first, light red gently mingled in here and there, then a little weak ultramarine blue in the bottom. I gently stroked this upwards while everything was still damp.
I didn’t wait for that lot to dry completely.
It was still damp when I used my ¾ ins flat brush to dampen the areas in the middle distance. Now I quickly dropped in some yellow ochre on the top of the slopes, then yellow ochre mixed with Hookers green underneath this. I popped in a little watery light red and again stroked the colours together.
The light red added a little warmth here and there. Now this did have to be dry before the next stage.
Using my No. 8 round brush, I went back into the middle distance and painted all the trees, bushes and field lines.
I didn’t fiddle with this lot too much. Firstly Hookers green and yellow ochre were mixed, followed by a few touches of light red and then, to the left of the bigger bushes, I dropped in some ultramarine blue for a darker side. I did exactly the same for the foreground fields, but then stippled on some burnt sienna, nice and strong, for the redder grasses.
For the rocks in the foreground I used an old credit card to get the shapes. With my ¾ ins flat brush dab in some yellow ochre, then raw umber finally ultramarine blue mixed with burnt sienna all into the rock areas, then quickly whilst wet scrape the card through the colours to get the shapes of the rocks.
This technique – and many more – is in one of my books, Charlie’s Top Tips in Watercolour. For the trees in the foreground I used my No. 3 rigger brush and a mix of raw umber and ultramarine for the twigs and trunks and Hookers green mixed with burnt sienna for the foliage, stippled on with a fairly dry ¾ ins flat brush. Job done – one of the many stupendous views in beautiful Northumberland.
All materials were by Winsor and Newton. For more free projects, courses, holidays and art materials visit charlesevansart.com or follow me on Twitter @charlesevansart