There's a Tiger at Roseberry Grange Golf Club, but he spends most of his time in the kitchen, not on the course.

WHAT for 16 years has been the municipally owned Roseberry Grange Golf Club was until 1968 West Pelton colliery, known to its hoary handed habitues as High Handenhold.

Unaccustomed to turning pit yards into golf courses, sow's ear into silk purse, Durham County Council called in the school playing fields section. It proved an object lesson.

The course plays magnificently, the views are stupendous and now our old friends Maurice and Linda Pastorello have pitched up in charge of catering and of clubhouse, where once the gasometer stood.

He's from Italy, she from Peterlee. The column once described them as the happiest Anglo/Italian alliance since bolognese and chips.

Maurice is also an old pro - a final golf pun - though the nickname Tiger is not (he says) because of any comparison with the supremely successful Mr Woods but because of his Saturday night rendition of Wild Thing.

Out of the kitchen, he dances and tells jokes, too. "Maurice is a bit unique," said Linda, affectionately.

About four miles west of Chester-le-Street, Roseberry Grange is operated by the district council. The clubhouse, officially No 19, is emphatically open to all.

Maurice had been head waiter at the Royal County in Durham, married Linda in 1971, ran the Crown at Brompton-on-Swale - immersing himself in village life - and was last at The Bistro in Richmond.

His accent, said an enthusiastic reviewer in one of the Yorkshire magazines, was like a Mafia hitman auditioning for a part in Last of the Summer Wine.

After declining a couple of golf club steward jobs - "they wanted a bootler as well" he protests - he and Linda are now entirely at home on the Grange.

We went on a sunny Sunday lunchtime, options from roast beef to ravioli but with surprisingly few diners. Most of those were sandwiches - Maurice offers 18 sorts - presumably on the grounds that they had to be home for their dinners.

"It was a bit of a struggle for them at first," confided a chap in the locker room. "People around here divvent like change."

Believing that when in Roseberry Grange you do as the Romans do, we ate chiefly from the Mediterranean end of the menu - a titanic Tuscany bean soup with lots of garlic bread and olives, ravioli stuffed with mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes, prawn risotto, smartly dressed salad, two spoons and a tiramisu type confection with which to finish.

One course Sunday lunch is £4.95, three courses £8.95. Our three course bill for two was around £20: above par in any accent.

* Roseberry Grange Golf Club, Grange Villa, Chester-le-Street - 0191-370-0670. Open seven days.

THE 2004 Good Beer Guide, a title which tells just part of the story, was launched last Thursday at the incomparable Victoria in Durham.

As always, it is an essential companion. As always, still more valuable to those able to read between the lines. (Much the same may be supposed about the Eating Owt column, spaced out as always.)

Whilst real ale remains the Guide's staple, readers who had signed the pledge in kindergarten, become Crown Prince of the Rechabbites and whose Sons were all of Temperance could still find instruction and entertainment within its 830 pages.

It's a guide not just to well kept beer and proper pubs, but to their cuisine, character and curiosities.

How else might anyone have known that the landlord of the Bird in Hand in Trimdon Village was once a trainee cosmonaut, that the Green at Wardley, near Gateshead, is modelled on Gary Player's front room or that there are pot belly pigs in the field out the back of the Cross Keys at Bellerby, near Leyburn?

Inevitably the Guide's pubs are also stowed out with spectres, though the ghost at the Board Inn at Lealholm, near Whitby, may be the only one visible to the stone cold.

Officially it was to be launched in the North-East by our extravagantly bearded old friend Alastair Downie, now CAMRA's deputy regional director, whose doughty dependence upon public transport is regularly reflected in the book's cask cast of thousands.

The 101 service up Weardale may never have been mentioned so much since Durham County Council last published its bus timetable.

Alastair wore a tie, unusually for him, a jester's hat (more familiar) and proved not so much to be a man of few words but of hardly any at all. "If you want a speech, read page 25 of the Good Beer Guide," he said, and since it succinctly sums what we've been saying, we reproduce the opening with an undistilled recommendation:

"For thirty one years the Good Beer Guide has been produced with one overriding belief: that if a pub landlord cares about the quality of beer in his cellar then everything else - the welcome, the food, other drinks, accommodation and family facilities, even the state of the toilets - will also be top notch.

"Microwaved food, stale sandwiches and supermarket plonk are usually synonymous with pubs that also sell keg beer and lager." Hear, hear.

* The 2004 Good Beer Guide, published by CAMRA Books, is £12 99 from good book shops. Eating Owt has a copy to give away, however, to the first reader out of the hat correctly to identify what CAMRA stands for. Entries by October 10.

AS if to emphasise that man shalt not live by real ale alone, the Good Beer Guide also makes numerous comments on pub food. Experience suggests that they're usually not far wrong there, either.

The Smiths Arms at Carlton, near Stockton, has "excellent value meals" and even a children's tuck shop; the Daleside at Croxdale, near Durham, has "unbeatable, waist-expanding food"; the broth at the Queens in Gilesgate, Durham, is reckoned a "mist".

There are "high quality fish dishes" at the Moorings in Pelton Fell, Chester-le-Street, "fine dining at pub prices" in the Hamilton Russell Arms at Thorpe Thewles, Stockton and "outstanding home cooked food" in the George and Dragon at Heighington.

With credits where they're due, some of those will be followed up very shortly.

ALES with an animal theme, the Bay Horse at Heighington - midway between Bishop Auckland and Darlington - holds its first beer festival from Friday to Sunday this week.

"Big boys beers" include Wobbly Bob, in honour of a steadily unsteady regular, and Black Bat - in honour, says landlord Mark Reynolds, of Wendy the Witch. She's the head barmaid.

Other four-legged friends include Wild Weasel, Top Dog, Stallion - from the Hambleton Brewery - and the copper coloured No Eyed Deer. Free food throughout.

RECENTLY and reluctantly in the news, Lau's Chinese buffet in Durham has reappeared as the Elephant - "That and Chinese" - and with something called "Baby Elephant specials" for children aged over two and under 4ft 11ins tall.

Since our own junior jumbo was five feet tall on his fifth birthday, the poor little pachyderm would presumably have had to starve.

...and finally, the bairns wondered if we knew what's green and bounces.

A spring onion, of course.

Published: 30/09/2003