Lakeside Café,

Ellerton, Scorton DL10 6AP

Tel: 01748-818382


Open: Weds to Sat, 9am to 5pm; Sun, 9am to 4pm.

The Northern Echo: In the garden at the Lakeside cafe, the tables are dotted among the mature shrubs

IF ever there were a day for the word ‘dapple’ it was last Sunday.

The low, golden September sunshine filtered through the shimmering, glimmering leaves of the birch, dappling our food on the table. As the gentle breeze tickled at the tree, the dappled shadows may it look like an ever-shifting shoal of fish, turning and twisting, was flickering through my bowl of garlic mushrooms!

Fearing last weekend might be the last comfortably sitoutable Sunday of the year, we decided to go to the Lakeside café at Ellerton, near Scorton, between Darlington and Richmond. The lake is a flooded gravel pit dug into the old bed of the Swale, and it is not visible from the Lakeside café.

The café itself is in a large agricultural building with a large garden, the tables hidden among the buddleia and mahonia bushes. We sat beneath a spreading cherry, enjoying the last warmth of the summer, as the first fallen birch leaves skittered across the well worn grass.

Children played on the large climbing frame beside the garden, and in the distance a shoot popped away at clay pigeons.

I was intending to have the ploughman’s lunch (£9.25), but as I went to order, my eye was caught by a tray of large looking desserts going out. From previous experience, the ploughman’s – lots of ham and cheese – is pretty large, so I changed the equation of my consumption and opted for a bowl of garlic mushrooms in a blue cheese and cream sauce (£5.75) (below).

The Northern Echo: The bowl of creamy, cheesy garlic mushrooms glinting in the sun

Served with a warm, white baguette, it was quite gorgeous. There was no sockiness from the blue cheese, instead just a creamy glow with chunks of soft mushrooms swimming about in it. It went especially well with the side dish of chips we had ordered.

The Northern Echo: Theo's pork and apple burger and a bowl of chips

The Lakeside’s menu largely consists of sandwiches, baguettes, baked potatoes, but Theo, my son, decided he wanted the pork and apple burger (£9.95) (above), while Petra, my wife, went for a plain egg sandwich (£5.50). The burger was a little kizzened on the outside, if truth be told, but nice and juicy in the middle.

The Northern Echo: Petra's egg sandwich, with crisps, salad and coleslaw

There isn’t a lot to be said about a plain egg sandwich (above), except that, feeling a little dicky, Petra hadn’t fancied the egg mayo sandwich on the menu. However, as all sandwiches and fillings are made to order, the mayo was easily omitted.

Both burger and sandwich came attractively presented with a portion of homemade coleslaw. Coleslaw is a ubiquitous accompaniment these days, and I think it is becoming increasingly calm and creamy, but this coleslaw had a strident edge of vinegar, from the mayonnaise, to it, just to remind you it was there.

The Northern Echo: The cheese-free Caesar salad

Grandma chose the chicken and bacon Caesar salad (£7.50) (above), and there was a moment of horror when it arrived to see that it had been topped by parmesan. Grandma resolutely refuses to have any truck with any form of cheese, but the staff very kindly took it away and rustled up a cheese-free bowl.

However, the Caesar salad is said to have been first created in 1924 by restaurateur Caesar Cardini in Tijuana, Mexico, when he had a run on the kitchen and so threw in whatever he had left – oil, eggs, Worcester sauce, garlic, mustard – to make up a dish. In an attempt to make it look more than leftovers – he threw in some old bread and called them ‘crutons’ – he tossed it theatrically at the table and finished his performance with a couple of flourishes: a twist of black pepper and a shave of parmesan.

The Lakeside, therefore, was correct in its approach to Caesar, but the cheese-free version was pronounced very good, with nice pieces of chicken and bacon, plus croutons that were crunchy without breaking the teeth, hidden among ample salad.

Theo and I had been holding ourselves back for desserts (£5.95 each).

The Northern Echo: The tempting dessert board at Ellerton

There was Raspberry Pavlova, banana and toffee pie, hazelnut meringue, fruit pie (rhubarb) and custard on the menu so we had plenty of opportunity to breakaway from our usual choices, but in the end, we chose a sticky toffee pudding and a chocolate brownie.

They arrived promptly and we didn’t regret our choices.

The Northern Echo: The sticky toffee pudding in the sunshine

Both were fine puddings served with plenty of hot sauce and melting vanilla ice cream. My brownie (below), with its molten middle and dark chocolate sauce, was particularly good.

The Northern Echo: An al fresco chocolate brownie

So the café is not the most sophisticated of dining experiences, but the food is fresh, clean and tasty and, still in my shorts in the garden, I enjoyed soaking up the last rays of summer in the dappled sunshine.

Lakeside Café,

Ellerton, Scorton DL10 6AP

Food quality 7

Surroundings 8

Service 8

Value for money 7