WHAT do you do when you get a dedicated carnivore and a vegetarian round for dinner?

Go to the pub I say, which is how we ended up at the Brawn’s Den, in Brandon, one Saturday night in December.

Formerly the Morley Wood, the pub recently underwent a £100,000 refurbishment and reopened in November.

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I have to confess I hadn’t been in under its former guise but I was eager to have a look to see what they had done with the place.

It’s named for the legendary Brawn of Brancepeth – a fearsome wild boar which roamed the countryside between the Wear and the Gaunless, allegedly a terror to all who lived there.

The vast boar ¬ said to have had his lair on Brandon Hill ¬ came to his downfall at the hand of medieval knight Sir Roger de Ferie in 1208.

The brawn, whose favourite haunt was the marshy vale between Croxdale and Ferry-wood, was tracked by the knight, who dug a pitfall, covered it with branches and baited it to lure him to his death.

In the words of Robert Surtees, in The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham, “At length the gallant brute came trotting on his onward path and seeing the passage barred, rushed headlong on the vile pitfall.”

All this explains the boars adorning the place, not least on its sign. There’s a particularly fine (pewter?) model in a little cabinet of curiosities which has a bit of an old-fashioned feel.

The other décor is intentionally eclectic – including two portraits of dogs dressed in morning suits.

But all this chat of pigs and fancy dogs doesn’t tell anyone about the scran.

The menu is fairly broad and a bit more interesting than a bog standard pub menu.

Carlo had soup of the day, a vegetable broth (£3.95) served in a bowl made out of bread. The broth was very good and bread bowl ended up being beautifully soggy which was delightful .

I was torn between the black pudding and bacon stack with poached egg(£4.95) and salt and pepper king prawns (£5.95). In the end I went for the prawns, which were very tasty but I thought could have been a bit juicier. They went down perfectly fine with the chilli dipping sauce but could have been a little more luscious.

Meanwhile, Jesse, our vegetarian guest, had the gruyere cheese and beer croquettes (£4.95

Which he said was ‘ok’ if a little dull.

Moving on to thee main course and we’re back to boars I’m afraid.

Though I suspect now a rarity in the area, the chef’s special is wild boar goulash, served with a herby dumpling and adorable mini loaves of bread (£10.95)

I couldn’t resist. Several holidays to eastern Europe have installed in me a love of goulash and dumplings .

Meat and stodge – what could be better on a frosty midwinter’s night, when you’re still feeling slightly delicate from the previous night’s trip to the pub?

A truly heart-warming dish. A bowlful of thick, rich gravy soaking into herby dumpling. The meat was really tender, my only complaint would be I could have done with a bit more of it. It felt just a tad stingy, which was a shame as everything else about the dish felt generous.

If I thought mine was a bit low on meat, the same could definitely not be said of Carlo’s dinner of a chicken and black pudding parcel (£9.95).

It certainly wasn’t small. Served alongside a creamy peppercorn sauce and chips it made for an impressive plate of food. The chicken was lovely and soft and black pudding nice and peppery.

I nicked a couple of chips and can confirm they were pretty good too.

There were three vegetarian options, of which Jesse went for the lasagne Verdi (£8.95), made with roasted veggies and served with garlic bread.

Again, he felt it was good but not overly exciting.

Between us we sloshed down a bottle of rioja which was quite fruity and infinitely quaffable.

The menu also boasted a selection of burgers, items from the grills and “guilt free” dishes

For dessert Jesse had a “not for the faint hearted” monster shake (£5.95).

It pretends to be a milkshake but comes with a pretty full on combination of chocolate brownies, marshmallows, chocolate buttons, chocolate sauce and a mini doughnut. As they say, not for the faint hearted.

Carlo and I both went for the selection of luxury ice creams.

Usually something I consider a rather unexciting option but the flavours sounded so good I couldn’t resist.

My three were white chocolate and Malteaser, Belgian chocolate and chocolate and orange, while Carlo had two of the white chocolate and one of the Belgian chocolate.

They were really good ice creams – the proper kind that you know is made of full on cream and you can almost taste the calories.

Overall I was pretty impressed and went home with my belly bearing somewhat of a resemblance to the vast brawn of Brancepeth’s.

Food: 7

Service: 9

Atmosphere: 7

Value: 7

The Brawn’s Den

Winchester Drive, Brandon, DH7 8UG

Contact: 0191 3781999, info@brawnsden.co.uk

Food served Tues-Thurs 12noon-2pm and 5pm-8.30

Fri – Sat 12noon-8.30pm

Sunday 12 noon-4pm