After any confusion is put to bed, Mark Tallentire finds that the food disappears without trace

OUR trip to Beamish Park Hotel nearly started very badly.

“So is it Beamish Park or Beamish Hall you’re going to?” a friend asked, a few days in advance of the trip. I must confess I hadn’t realised they were separate establishments.

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Sarah and I were reasonably familiar with Beamish Hall, having visited its Stables Restaurant several times over the years, including on opening weekend, back in May 2009. But we’d never come across Beamish Park.

After a brief panic, we were able to confirm it was the latter we had been authorised to visit for these pages – and I’d booked the right place.

In my defence, the two very similarly named venues are a little over a mile apart, in what is a remarkably well-equipped area when it comes to restaurants. The “Beamish Triangle”, perhaps?

Driving there on a beautifully balmy Friday evening, we passed: The Shepherd and Shepherdess, Beamish Hall, The Stables, The Black Horse and the Causey Arch Inn within three miles. I was blissfully unaware of this culinary cranny, but I think we might be visiting Shield Row more than might be otherwise expected in future.

On arrival at Beamish Park, we were initially fearful. A noisy wedding party was filling the front function room and pouring out onto the steps and into the car park.

Thankfully, our table was in a restaurant area on the opposite side of the venue, less than half the tables were occupied and we were by far the youngest guests – just what the doctor ordered for a couple of sleep-deprived, peace-and-quite-craving new parents.

The dining area was very pleasant – light wood, low-hanging lampshades, album covers by soul greats on the walls (and their artistic endeavours on the PA system) and one-and-a-half sides of the room boasting full-length windows, allowing diners stunning views over the valley.

Sarah and I were greeted by a colourful gent in his 50s (at a guess), who would be our main waiter for the evening. He seemed to run the place, and did so like an old Italian pizzeria – friendly, chirpy, nothing too formal.

But I’ve dallied far too long without getting to the food. It was superb. Possibly the best restaurant we have visited for these pages since we started reviewing for the Durham Times back in 2007. I couldn’t believe such a gem existed and I had never heard of it. Well, that’s sorted now. I will certainly be back. And I recommend you go too.

I could have chosen half a dozen options from the mouth-watering starters section. In the end, Sarah chose the Bang Bang 2017 Smoked Chicken Salad, which came with Asian Slaw and Peanut Satay (£6). It was superb – a wonderful heap of Oriental adventure.

But I was equally happy with my choice: Deep Fried Yellison Goats Cheese, served with poached peach and hazelnut (£6). The cheese was spot on: crumbly, yet thick – and wonderfully flavoursome.

For main course, Sarah and I both chose fish. Sarah reported her Natural Smoked Haddock (£14) to be superb – the mustard cream thrilling the taste buds.

I chose the Wester Ross Salmon, Prawn and Leek Fish Pie (£13). What more can I say? I’m running out of superlatives. It was a dream of a dish.

After a long break, during which I enjoyed a wonderful glass of Portuguese Dao, I felt ready for the dessert menu. Options were more limited, and for me there was only one: the Sticky Toffee Pudding (£6), which was, again, excellent. The ice cream melted tantalisingly as it succumbed to the butterscotch sauce, which came by the gallon and was piping hot.

If I had to find fault, it would be this: on clearing our main course away, a waitress asked if we would wish to see the dessert menu. I replied that we would, but we would like to relax a while before ordering. She said she would bring the menu, and we should shout up when we were ready.

Unfortunately, the menu never appeared – leaving the waitress’ colleagues confused as to our wishes. It was not a major issue – and certainly wasn’t going to come between me and my Sticky Toffee Pudding. But the Beamish Park Hotel is an excellent restaurant and will, I’m sure, want to improve further – so I offer this as constructive criticism.

Our total bill was under £70 for virtually a three-course meal for two. Clearly, not a cheap night out. But very good value for what we’d enjoyed. I can imagine several other venues in the area where the equivalent meal would have cost £100-plus.

As we retired to the lounge bar to finish our drinks before heading back down the valley and home, we reflected upon a wonderful evening and wondered what excuse we could find to return as soon as possible. It had been a pleasure. Get there as soon as you can.

FOOD FACTS

Beamish Park Hotel

Beamish Burn Road, Stanley, County Durham, NE16 5EG

Tel: 01207 230666

Web: http://www.beamish-park-hotel.co.uk

Food served: Monday to Friday, noon to 2pm and 6pm to 9.30pm; Saturday noon to 2pm and 7pm to 9.30pm; Sunday, noon to 3pm and 7pm to 9.30pm. High tea served throughout the day

Food quality: 5/5

Service: 4/5

Surroundings: 5/5

Value: 4/5