THE cult of the gastropub is developing apace. The combination of restaurant quality food with the informality of a pub reduces any dress-code starchiness, while offering potentially fine dining experiences.
Sadly, some pubs that have long offered “pile ’em high” plates, now call themselves gastropubs, so maybe a reasonable guide to the true nature of what’s going on in any establishment is the price. The Angel at Corbridge charges restaurant prices and we sat down looking for a just return on that investment.
Starters of cullen skink for me and pan-fried wood pigeon for her set the tone. My soup was delicious. This soft and subtle version of the creamed smoked fish soup had fragments of fish in a good rich stock. Some hunky granary bread was made for dunking and, by the time I saw the bottom of the bowl, I was one very satisfied customer.
The wood pigeon dish was not so successful. The two tiny breasts were overcooked and while one was just about soft enough, the other was so firm it had no life in it at all. Velvety raspberries dotted among salad leaves and fine-sliced red onions, came with a wholegrain mustard dressing. I found this mix too astringent, but my companion rather liked the combination, so we agreed to differ. Maybe main courses would produce closer harmony.
Having been disappointed that the local rabbit dish was “off”, she’d chosen oven roast duck breast with chateau potatoes, baby corns and chestnut jus. Sounded great and she got exactly what it said on the tin, nothing more, nothing less!
Five baby sweetcorn fanned around a jug of gravy, while the sliced duck breast layered its way across the plate, with three warm, deep-fried potatoes sitting to one side. The uninspired presentation was matched by the ingredients’ lacklustre taste. You’d reasonably expect more for just under £17.
My beer battered cod with chips and mushy peas was a much better experience. A crunchy cloud of bubbly batter swathed a handsome, juicy cod fillet. The stack of log-like chunky chips offered structural splendour to the dish, but they were more of a visual than a taste treat, because they lacked that crunchy outside and fluffy inside that defines chips. The glow-in-the-dark peas tried to outshine the cod, but the fish held its own and was the star of the show.
My companion’s crème brulée with shortbread lifted her spirits. The glazed sugar top varnished rich vanilla custard that was full of creamy goodness. She delighted in every spoonful and munched her way through both biscuits telling me how buttery they were. Apparently, sharing the experience was not an option.
My apple and cranberry cake, a light, crumble-soft sponge laced with cinnamon with sliced apple and sweet cranberry nuggets, was also delicious. A ball of butterscotch ripple ice cream came in a robust brandy basket that resisted all approaches other than the mason’s chipping away technique before it collapsed into crunchy shards.
The price of the food, £61.15, put it into the restaurant category, but the quality kept dipping in and out.
Maybe we need to put in a mezzanine level called “bistropub” that enables would-be “gastro” chefs to hone their skills before launching into the restaurant arena. What do you think?
Address: The Angel of Corbridge, Main Street, Corbridge, Northumberland.
Tel: (01434) 632119.
Open: Monday-Saturday noon-6pm; Monday -Thursday 6pm-9pm; Friday and Saturday 6pm-9.30pm; Sunday noon-4pm.
Where is it? As the address suggests, on the main street through Corbridge.
First impressions: Comfortable, confident country pub leading through to a surprisingly large dining room at the rear.
Welcome: Warm and busy.
Style, design and furnishings: A bold, beamed space with big features. Chunky tables, upholstered chairs and dramatic flagstone floor. Huge, gilt-framed landscapes and twinkling chandeliers for a refined finishing touch.
Cuisine: Modern British.
Wine: Darien, Rioja Tempranillo 2006. Lightly oaked, with red berries in a well-balanced bowl. A good dinner companion.
Service: Informal meets naïve. The young team have a fresh charm.
Value: £61.15 is a restaurant price but it was a ‘mezzanine’ experience overall.
Parking: Car park to the rear and spaces opposite on the street.
Disabled facilities: Fully accessible.