Dalton Park is a go-to spot for out-of-town shopping. Katie Richardson tries eaterie The Dancing Betty

I AM often amused by pub names and our long history with naming establishments after certain animals, everyday items or even the reigning monarch.

But the Dancing Betty, at Dalton Park, Murton, definitely made me pause for thought after visiting for my latest Eating Out review.

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Originally hailing from nearby Peterlee, I can remember when Dalton Park was first opened.

My Mam took my sister, Caroline, and me, teenagers at the time, and we watched fireworks on the site of the very pub I was reviewing when it was nothing but an artfully landscaped field back in 2003.

As a recent addition to the retail park, along with companies such as Prezzo, Frankie and Benny’s and even a cinema, it has really established itself as a go-to destination for out of town shopping.

I must admit I’m always a little wary of reviewing pub chains as I find myself biased towards the independents with the home cooking – normally with passed down family recipes.

But I found myself pleasantly surprised as I walked into the Dancing Betty, which is named in honour of Dalton Park’s mining heritage, as a Dancing Betty was a gadget that miners used down the pits to get the tension just right on their haulage ropes.

The modern décor and warm colours give it a welcoming feel while the pictures of North-East landmarks and places give it a bit of personality – especially as some frames were wrapped around wall corners.

I decided to take Ali for tea after work as we are still in the mini moon phase while he is on leave after getting married at the end of July.

Being politely informed there was no table service, we perused the menu and I sent Ali up to order at the bar.

Not knowing what to choose for starters, we finally decided on the Classic Combo sharer with homemade potato wedges, chilli chicken wings, breaded mushrooms, beer battered onion rings and garlic bread and all served with garlic mayonnaise and BBQ dip (£8.25).

Presented on a long white plate, the elements were artfully stacked with an even amount on each side.

We heartily munched down the wedges and chicken wings – which had quite a spicy kick – while the onion rings were crispy.

We even tried the breaded mushrooms, which are not our favourite, but a word of warning – when you bite into them as we both got caught with some of the rather hot juices spilling out.

Mains were much easier to decide as Ali had starved himself for most of the day in anticipation and as soon as he set eyes on the "Carnivore Burger – a meat lover's dream" (£10.65) he was there.

The prime steak burger with turkey, gammon and beef comes sandwiched between two Yorkshire puddings and is topped with pigs in blankets and mustard mayonnaise.

I, on the other hand, have a soft spot for a Sunday carvery whatever day of the week and as soon as I spotted their carvery station on the way in, I knew that’s what I fancied.

I decided on a large carvery – to test how much meat I would get – and didn’t think the price was bad at all at £8.25 with the option to add on three little pigs in blankets “to keep the wolf from the door” for just £1.

As the carvery is served buffet style, a kind waitress came over to let me know when was good to go so Ali’s burger would be coming out at the same time.

I dutifully picked up my large plate – which was already on a non-slip tray – and asked for gammon and turkey which the server kindly carved for me.

The real test was with the choice of vegetables as I have been before and there was, shockingly, no mashed potato, but I was happy to find this time that there was mash as well as other vegetables including peas, carrots, green beans, cabbage and roasties.

If I’m honest, my eyes were bigger than my belly on this one, but I did manage to eat all the tender meat that was hiding under my veg.

By the time I had returned Ali was into the swing of his burger which looked rather comical with Yorkshire puddings for a bun but actually worked really well.

I had a bite and found it bursting with the different flavours and textures but I imagine it really is only suitable for a meat lover and I was surprised he didn’t have "the meat sweats" by the time he was finished.

Despite us both declaring we were stuffed, the dessert menu looked far too tempting, especially as we spied the cabinet with a cake the size of your head as we walked in.

So after I managed to locate my dessert space, I ordered the Melt in the Middle Chocolate Pudding while Ali went for the Chocolate Brownie Sundae (both £3.95).

We were served by a waitress with the biggest smile I have ever seen as she looked pleased as punch to deliver our puds.

Mine was rich and gooey and although not quite melting in the middle still satisfied my sweet tooth, especially with the vanilla ice cream on the side.

Ali practically devoured his too with heaps of chocolate and vanilla ice cream topped with gooey chocolate brownie cubes, whipped cream, chocolate flakes and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

I’m always saying if I could have dessert first I really would and I think I would probably return here just for three courses of dessert alone.


The Dancing Betty

Dalton Park, Murton, SR7 9HU

Tel: 0191-580 4791

Open: 11am until 11pm, seven days a week.


Food: 4/5

Surroundings: 4/5

Value for money: 4/5

Service: 3/5