THE Beamish Park Hotel, if you’ve never been, is a little gem of a find. Sat in the smart Conservatory Bistro, with its views of rolling hills punctuated by the little puffs of steam coming from the train chugging by from Tanfield Railway, it was like being in some rural idyll.
The hotel is situated about a mile from Beamish, tucked just behind the Causey Arch pub. It feels like you’re in the depths of the countryside but in fact it’s less than 15 minutes’ drive from Newcastle city centre.
We’d been meaning to try it out for a while but I think we imagined it was further away from home. Anyway, I can say we’re very glad we made the effort.
It’s privately owned by Bill Walker (of Walkers nightclub fame, for those with very long memories!) and his son Chris is currently making his name as head chef.
In fact, Chris and his dad have just brought out a splendid cookbook to celebrate the hotel’s 30-year anniversary, featuring some of the Bistro’s favourite recipes.
The restaurant’s got two AA rosettes, an accolade it’s held for 16 years. The awards are proudly on display in the Bistro. There are so many our daughter noted they would be running out of wall and shelf space if they picked up any more!
We were out en famille and sampling Sunday lunch. There was a tasty selection of 10 mains with a good few roasts on offer, including hand-carved rib of beef, roast leg of Beamish lamb, medallions of beef and tandoori monkfish.
These were priced from £12 to £16.95 but it is restaurant food in a hotel so you will always pay more.
The Bistro is modern in style, a light and bright comfortable space.
The tables were smartly dressed with white table linen and the cutlery was sparkling.
The hubby and younger daughter were in the mood for starters while the teen and I were saving ourselves for dessert.
Olivia’s deep-fried goat’s cheese with figs, parma ham, hazelnuts and honeycomb, £6.50, was prettily presented, the figs and the ham artfully displayed, the big ball of toasty cheese so tempting.
It tasted good too, and was deemed the nicest starter she’s ever had in her life! Praise indeed, as she’s sampled a few starters in her time, aiding me with her critiques.
The combination of flavours just worked so well, the delicate ham and the tangy, creamy cheese with the sweet figs. Heaven on a plate!
Hubby chose the Chinese slow-roast bbq pork spring rolls with mango salad and chilli dip, £6.50.
It was a fresh-looking, attractive dish with colourful garnish. Two giant spring rolls, beautifully toasty on the outside, gave way to soft meaty fillings. And the chilli dip with its touch of warmth was very good.
Our meaty mains were all very good and presented with care too. My rare-breed Chopwell pork loin, topped with half-baked apple and black pudding, £12.50, was a really tasty, thick piece of meat, beautifully cooked with all-important crispy pork crackling; the apple adding complementary tang, the black pudding earthy richness. The three roasties were light and crispy, the Yorkshire a mini marvel, and the gravy rich.
We all delved into accompanying bowls of veg ... tasty al dente broccoli and mange tout, sweet swede and a dish of cauliflower cheese, obviously homemade, creamy and toasty on top. Absolutely delicious.
Hubby’s roast leg of Beamish lamb, £12, also with Yorkshire pud, and three roasties, consisted of slice after slice of tender, sweet lamb.
The younger daughter’s choice of hand-carved rib of English beef with dripping Yorkshire pud, roasties and roast gravy, £16.95, was a worthy follow-up to her excellent starter. She opted for a child-size portion, very reasonably priced at £6.50.
The meat, cooked through, was exceptional ... one thick, juicy slice that took up half the plate. While the teen’s roast silverside of beef with Yorkie, roasties and rich gravy, £12, was presented as two thin slices of beef, no fat visible, and deemed delicious. We really appreciated the care and the attention taken with all the dishes. There is a real pride in the kitchen and it shows.
It’s worth noting, too, the service from start to finish was exceptional. Every member of staff we encountered was committed, professional and friendly. Nothing was too much trouble. And you can’t say that about some top-class hotels.
After a short rest, the desserts beckoned. Oh my word, we were spoilt for choice, and all homemade offerings. Again, slightly more on the pricey side, but my goodness they were impressive.
My Italian Bakewell tart with lemon meringue ice cream, £6, was a picture; the tart was just excellent, from its jammy layer, its polenta- based cake, to its flaked almond topping; and the ice-cream was a refreshing treat.
Teenager’s golden syrup crème brulee with warm flapjacks, £5.75, and little garnish of syrup-soaked raisins, was also good.
The crispy caramelised top was just perfect, giving way to a custardy, creamy centre. The homemade flapjacks were laden with syrup and choc-full of oats and still warm. Just perfect for dipping. And I’ll have your recipe please, chef!
Stand-out food in a stand-out setting and the service really made it for us.
Address: Beamish Park Hotel, Beamish Burn Road, Marley Hill. NE16 5EG. Tel: 01207 230666
Open: Lunch Mon-Sat 12-2pm, Sunday 12-3pm, Dinner, Mon-Fri 6-9.30pm, Sat and Sun 7-9.30pm.
First impressions: Smart contemporary hotel in attractive rural spot with nine-hole golf course.
Welcome: Warm and friendly greeting.
Style, design and furnishings: Conservatory Bistro has wonderful views of rolling hills. Smart, comfortable decor.
Cuisine: Modern British with smattering of global dishes.
Drinks: Santa Serena Sauvignon Blanc £3.30 per 125ml, Coke £1.50.
Service: Second to none. The staff exceptionally well trained, professional and friendly.
Value: Hotel prices but good value for excellent dishes.
Disabled facilities: Fully accessible.