It's not all been plain sailing, but Hartlepool restaurateur Krimo Bouabda has made a splash at the marina.
FROM the pages of any self-respecting dictionary of quotations flows the wit and waspishness of Ms Dorothy Parker, described in one of them as "American critic and humorist". It was she who supposed that the actress Katherine Hepburn ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B, that you could lead a horticulture but you couldn't make her think and, after her abortion, that it served her right for putting all her eggs into one bastard.
Perhaps the lady's most debatable aphorism was that men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses. Some of us have been doing it for years - at least we think we have, you know what myopia's like - and there was another at the next table last Wednesday.
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Blonde too. Gentlemen prefer them, as another female American humorist first observed. The Boss looked on with characteristic indulgence. What you see. . .
It was the sort of wondrous May evening on which half of Hartlepool would once have been sitting on its doorstep - or on its hunkers, were no doorstep available - putting the world and its wastrels to rights.
Now they were lolling in fancy deckchairs on the born-again Marina, watching the bobbing and the bibbing and wondering where the next gastronomic port of call might be.
There's a Japanese ("Hartlepool's newest"), a Thai, an Indian, a Chinese, several pasta places, a wine bar called Vibes and umpteen others. Only the chip shop was shut.
The Marina - "a Marina and much more, " say the slogans - is also home to rather a lot of call centres, including one called Tranquility House, which may not be the most obvious name for such a voluble establishment.
It was nonetheless the sort of evening upon which John Masefield supposed that he must go down to the sea again and on which it was impossible to resist the tangle. We weighed anchor for Casa del Mar. Sub-titled "The Med's not that far" - it could as easily have been "Okay, yah", such was the youth and the apparent affluence of new Hartlepool - it's a tapas bar owned by Krimo Bouabda, whom we knew when he had nowt (or to be exact, when he had £250).
The menu outside bills it as "Another Krimo creation", the gentleman happily resisting the temptation to spell "Creation" with a K.
Tapas, the menu also explains, were originally little saucers which Mediterranean folk put on top of their wine glasses to keep the Spanish flies away.
There are no flies on Krimo.
He's an agreeable Algerian; his wife Karen an engaging lass from Easington.
They met when she was on holiday, set up here, opened Krimo's in Seaton Carew in 1985. That's where the £250 went out; all he had left in the world.
Now he owns three buoyant restaurants on the Marina, the others the stilleponymous Krimo's and a pasta/pizza place called Porto Fino, up a lot of stairs.
Launched in January, Casa del Mar also welcomes non-drinkers - Mar's bar, as it were - but majors on around 50 tapas dishes, simple and generally spicy little bowls of this and that for around £3-£4 apiece.
The restaurant manager repeated the order in pretty passable Spanish, though with what seemed a Seaham Harbour accent. "Horden, " he corrected, for it was Krimo's 24-year-old son Adam, dad having opted to watch Middlesbrough v Sevilla on television and - better Med than red - to support the Spaniards.
Krimo did the mosaic tiling in the new place, and is very proud of it. The Boss liked the brightly coloured flower vase, supposing it to have been imported from some distant shore. "TK Maxx, " said Adam. "Fabulous place, almost everything round here's from there."
The match had reduced the attendance, no need for the lasses in glasses to be seated so close, but that's where they were directed.
We ordered half a dozen tapas between us, plus a bowl of well dressed salad and another of much-too-salty chips. The lamb sausages had a particularly zesty chilli and tomato sauce, the broad beans with chorizo and black pudding were fiercely contested, the sardines sang.
With three bottles of beer - one for her - and two perfectly agreeable puddings, the bill reached £42.
Having tied up half the Marina, Krimo doesn't know if he'll push the boat out still further. "Adam's only 24, it's up to him and his generation. I'm available if they need a good tiler."
Thereafter we took a sunset stroll around the pontoons, the moon in the sky simultaneously. The Marina abundantly warrants further investigation; we can be quoted on that.
Casa del Mar, 24 Navigation Point, Hartlepool Marina (01429) 222223.
Happy hours Tuesday-Saturday lunch (three tapas dishes, £6.95) and 5.306.30pm Tuesday-Friday (Three tapas dishes, £7.95). Closed Sunday and Monday.
THE Falchion, named after the sword with which Sir Someone of Sockburn slew the great worm, was once one of Darlington town centre's more agreeably unspoiled pubs.
Many's the time we've played dominoes there, many the defeats, many the sinuous pints of real Strongarm.
Now it's rebranded as Avalon - "Bar, kitchen, terrace" - though the sword still hangs, Damocletian, from the top floor masonry outside.
The town centre is having its innards ripped out, too, in the name of what's called the "pedestrian heart" scheme.
The surgery seems at best invasive, at worst utterly unnecessary.
We looked in last Thursday lunchtime, so quiet that the barmaid made an impression by sitting on the counter reading a book. It appeared not to be what the Victorians called an "improving" book.
Why Avalon, we asked? "I don't quite know, " said the barmaid, a euphemism meaning that she hadn't a clue.
It's wholly altered, heaven knows where folk are supposed to spit. The music's irksome, the beer Creamy, or perhaps crummy, the menu perfectly reasonable for its needs.
Burger, chips and salad with a little pot of relish was £5.95. There were other burgers, a couple of pasta dishes, paninis, club sandwiches, mostly with chips.
The "terrace" is out the back, lovely if you close your eyes and think of Ingoldmells and not least because the music's inaudible. It'll still never take the place of 5s and 3s nights at the Falchion.
THE Falchion is thus not going to feature in Darlington CAMRA's new 24-page guide to real ale in the Darlington and Teesdale district, a splendid publication made better yet because it's free.
The guide's reckoned to include 130 outlets, two of which - act of faith - aren't even open yet.
It's also a fount of little known information. Who might have supposed that the Model T was designed by "1960s architect and fraudster" John Poulson, or that the Fighting Cocks at Middleton St George can claim to be the world's first railway ticket office or that the Central Borough near North Road railway station - "a classic terraced pub" - is 100 years old this year.
We shall have a beer there soon. The guide's available from the usual CAMRA outlets, or from the tourist information centre.
. . . and finally. The bairns wondered if we knew what was blue and fluffy.
A piece of pink fluff holding its breath.
AFTER 42 years in the celebrated care of the Pagendam family, the much acclaimed Black Bull at Moulton, near Scotch Corner, has been sold - as the Eating Owt column foretold a couple of weeks back. The new owner is Philip Barker, who owns several pubs and restaurants in further flung parts of Yorkshire. "I think this is very much going to be his new baby, " says Audrey Pagendam, pictured right.
"For the moment everything's staying the same, no changes, everyone's keeping their jobs. We had a big bunch of flowers this morning. I think everyone's going to like him."