IT’S always good to see a pub that’s stood empty for a while have new life breathed back into it.
Especially when it’s a handsome rustic charmer like the Grade II-listed Bay Horse in the pretty village of Stamfordham, a few miles from Ponteland.
This one is a new addition to the stable for Semore Kurdi (owner of Newcastle Falcons) and his team who are also behind The Angel Inn at Corbridge and the Duke of Wellington at Newton, near Corbridge.
The pub had been closed for eight months before the current owner took it on, turning it around, complete with smart refurb, in a couple of months. It opened with a flourish at the start of the month.
First impressions were good. The characterful pub – with rooms – is in a peachy and peaceful location, on the edge of the village green, just by the church.
To be honest, the kids were just glad when we pulled up outside – for us townies, trips out into the country (this one only 25 minutes!) always seem to take longer than we imagine.
Hanging baskets adorn the outside of the inn, and inside, there was that just-new smell from freshly-laid carpets and wood furnishings.
It’s got an attractive layout, with a smart lounge area with chocolate brown leather sofas and chairs, wood panelling and fireplace at one end, a bar area in the middle with casual dining, and restaurant at the other end with accent colours of sage green, sturdy pine dining furniture and animal watercolours by Newcastle artist Jina Gelder.
It appears no expense has been spared on the revamp which is along the same contemporary lines as their other pub interiors.
Head chef David Teasdale has also moved from The Angel to run the kitchen at The Bay Horse.
We sipped drinks in the lounge, Chilean sauvignon blancs, £4.10 for 175ml, and J20, £2.50, and Diet Coke, £1.60, while we perused the menu.
I liked the look of the compact menu with imaginative offerings freshly prepared. No close association with the fridge freezer here! There were five starters, five mains and five desserts, as well as selection of sandwiches like sliced local ham and pease pud, complete with a gastropub price of £5.25! and hot roast sirloin of beef with gravy, £6.95.
There’s also a daily specials menu of four starters and six mains, including a Stamfordham Old Age Pensioners’ Special of bangers and mash with seasonal veg for £5.95.
The menu states, where possible, most of their produce and supplies come from Northumberland. The children’s menu has five choices, all priced at £5.95, such as cod, chips and peas and chicken goujons, but staff said they could accommodate with smaller portions of other dishes if your little one took a fancy.
The restaurant has a simple country charm, with its beams, chunky furniture, whitewashed, rough-textured walls and dark carpet underfoot.
Annoyingly, a couple of flies found it a homely setting too, and there was much swatting away when our dishes arrived.
I started off with baked field mushroom – deliciously earthy – with toasted rarebit topping and perky spinach, red onion and crunchy walnut salad. £5.95. It was artfully presented – indeed all the dishes were – and very tasty.
Hubby’s starter of Halls’ black pudding, topped with poached free- range hen’s egg with runny yolk, crispy pancetta and Cumberland sauce, £5.95, was another hit.
The flavour combinations, the rich black pud and the soft, creamy egg, with crisped-up, salty pancetta worked well together.
The teenager made short work of her chilli beetroot risotto, with its fetching pink colour, and nuggets of beetroot worked through, right-bite rice with accompanying crispy breadcrumbed Brie, £5.50.
Little one’s home-made tomato and basil soup with granary bread, £4.95, was served up in mini tureen, piping hot, thick and smooth, and full of tangy sunshine flavour, the basil adding interest.
My mains of homemade Thai fishcakes, on a bed of still-warm stir-fried vegetables with bite, mild chilli-flavoured sambal condiment, and cooling chive crème fraiche, £12.95, was a delicious mix of flavours and textures.
The huge knobbly fishcakes were obviously homemade with a delicate chilli warmth and choc-full of chunks of fresh salmon, smoked haddock and cod. It was a hugely filling dish but felt healthy too.
The other half’s char-grilled Northumberland sirloin steak with cooked tomato and field mushroom garnish, huge hand-cut chips – stacked up, criss-cross style – and peppercorn sauce (with generous brandy base) is worth the hefty £17.95 price tag.
The pinky steak, cooked medium as requested, came with a rind of fat, which hubby tucked into with relish.
Mains of roast breast of chicken, neatly sliced up, cooked ‘Tryiska style’ (a mild curry sauce, we were informed, along the lines of korma) was the teenager’s choice. She wasn’t sure of the sauce and staff offered to serve it on the side. In fact, it came served up in a little jug, which was a nice touch.
The dish, £12.95, came with neat timbale of couscous, zipped up with chilli and coriander.
The little one’s ‘own farm’ lamb burger (from South Dissington) and her choice of French fries with salad, from the children’s menu, £5.95, was served up on a wooden platter.
Never mind children’s serving, it would have fed me!
There were no complaints, the quality meat very juicy, the French fries (just slightly on the anaemic side) served up in little metal frier, and the salad crisp and fresh.
Chef really showed his expertise with our dessert choices, all priced at £5.95.
Puddings are home-made, and made with care. Strawberry and mascarpone cheesecake, £5.95, with crunchy biscuit base, was creamy and sweet with a subtle taste of strawberry, juicy strawberries garnish and zig-zags of fruit coulis.
Lemon tart had a creamy lemon curd-like filling with caramelised top; the accompanying slightly tart raspberry sorbet, cooling and cleansing. The only down side was the piped cream garnish on these two puds which tasted sweetened, and really didn’t need to be.
Banoffee ice-cream sundae in a tall glass containing chunks of toffee- enrobed banana, was a sweet finale for the teen.
It was such a gigantic serving, that remarkably, she couldn’t manage it all.
It’s certainly worth a canter out to the Bay Horse with its relaxed, homely setting and stand-out tasty pub food.
Address: The Bay Horse, Stamfordham, Northumberland, NE18 0PB. Tel: 01661 855469
Open: Restaurant, Mon to Thur, noon-9pm; Fri and Sat, noon-9.30pm; Sun, noon-5pm.
First impressions: Rustic, handsome pub, located on edge of attractive village green.
Welcome: Warmly greeted at door and led into lounge for drinks prior to lunch.
Style, design and furnishings: Smart, contemporary interiors in keeping with the pub. Three linked areas, lounge area with leather chairs, bar area and simply furnished restaurant, with sage green accent colours and pine tables.
Cuisine: Gastropub-style modern British dishes prepared with skill.
Service: Informal and relaxed but good. Staff bright and cheery.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.