EIGHTEEN months ago, we visited the Otter & Fish at Hurworth for a taste of its new special menu, which offered two cost conscious courses for £18 and three for £22.

The food, we concluded, was a little formulaic and without the finesse of the fine dining establishments down the road at the Bay Horse and Rockliffe, but it was well cooked and tasty and it got an eight out of 10 for value for money – “a little light in these dark times”, we said as inflation raged at 10 per cent and the cost of living crisis howled all around.


It was a pub that understood its place in the world.

The Northern Echo: The new team at the Otter & Fish in HurworthThe new team at the Otter & Fish in Hurworth

In March, the Otter & Fish was taken over and given a £50,000 refit. Front of house, though, looks exactly the same (perhaps a couple of ornamental wooden shapes have been moved) but its name has grown an appendage: it is now the Otter & Fish Bar and Grill.

The menu is very much of the 2020s. In the old days in a pub you’d get rubbery chicken in a basket with chips and be grateful, but this menu is filled with the tastes of today: Teriyaki salmon, Cajun chicken and Katsu curry.

Plus there is the steakhouse grill, which shows a completely different approach to the Otter’s old cost conscious ways: there’s a Chateaubriand for two for £72, a Tomahawk steak for one at £72, and a sharing steak board for £139 for two.

My family were under strict instructions to look elsewhere on the menu.

There was a potpourri of starters, from Halloumi fries for £7.95 to lamb chops for £11.50, but we went straight for mains.

The Northern Echo: Carrot and coriander soup

Petra, my wife, just had soup – carrot and coriander (£6.95) (above) – plus a portion of truffle oil fries (£5.50). The bread with the soup was a little too robust, but the soup itself was fine and the fries were noticeably truffly and very good.

The Northern Echo: Otter & Fish toasted into the top of the Otter & Fish chicken burger

Theo, our son, had a Cajun chicken burger (£17) which had the name of the pub toasted into the top of the bread bun (above). He admired it momentarily before, as regular readers will expect, devouring it rapidly and contently.

The Northern Echo: Caesar salad with added chicken

Genevieve, our daughter, somehow managed to order a Caesar salad (£16) with additional chicken breast (£3.50) (above) plus a portion of fries (£4) – next time, I’ll encourage her to have a Tomahawk just for the sake of economy. The salad, despite crutons which were again described as robust, was nicely compiled with a creamy mayonnaise dressing, and it worked well with the succulent white chicken.

Grandma, not renowned for her effusive reaction to food, was genuinely impressed with her pork chop (£17.50), which came with buttered new potatoes and broccoli in a sweet chilli sauce. She’d hummed and haa’d about ordering it because she feared it might be too dry, but the sweet chilli sauce, which was not mentioned on the menu, solved the problems and gained quite extravagant praise.

The Northern Echo: A "posh parmesan" - but no garlic mayo

I had chosen the Posh Parmesan (£17.95) (above) from the specials board, and it was very well done. Chicken nice and moist, bechamel sauce adding juice, breadcrumbs still crisp and cheese bubbling all across the top.

But, sacrilege: it didn’t come with garlic mayonnaise. When, a few years ago, we were trying to get the parmo Protected Designation of Origin Status from the European Union as being a signature dish that can truly only come from Middlesbrough, when explaining its “defining characteristics”, we put that it had to be accompanied by garlic mayo to be fully realised. Indeed, it was said that on a true Boro night-out, that hearty waft of garlic from the walk-home parmo was the only contraceptive that was employed.

However, the Otter’s garlic mayo, when it arrived, was very pleasant and gave the dish a cheeky lift.

Desserts were, to steal words from an earlier review, a little formulaic. If you had to guess what five desserts you’d find on a British pub menu, you’d put STP – so ubiquitous it doesn’t need spelling out – cheesecake and crème brulee as certainties, chocolate fudge cake would be there or thereabouts, and crumble and custard would be a safe each way bet.

They were all there, priced at £6.95 to £7.95.

The Northern Echo: The cheesecake with a jug of cream

Theo whistled through his biscoff cheesecake (above), enjoying the jug of cream that came with it. Grandma felt that her crème brulee was a sensible size for a dessert, and the salted caramel filling lifted my fudge cake above the mundane (below). Perhaps there is something to be said for giving your customers what they want…

The Northern Echo: Chocolate and salted caramel fudge cake

Service was good throughout, although we were placed in the middle of the room on a table that was too large to be described as intimate and, with other family groups around us enjoying themselves, it was, at times, a little difficult to make oneself heard.

The Otter is no longer as economical as it once was – my two courses cost £25.90 when they probably would have been £18 18 months ago – but it does understand its role as a mid range pub offering the most fashionable tastes, and it cooks rather well.


The Northern Echo: The Otter and Fish, Hurworth

Otter and Fish Bar and Grill,
1, Strait Lane,
Hurworth, DL2 2AH
Phone: 01325-720019
Web: otterandfish.co.uk

Ambience: 7
Food quality: 8
Service: 8
Value for money: 7