WE KNEW we were nearing The Chequers because there were a couple of people walking into the village of Dalton-on-Tees carrying empty plates and, outside the pub, a woman was standing in the middle of the road holding a large slice of cheesecake topped with a plump red strawberry.

We, too, had been asked to bring a couple of empty plates for the food to be served on. Being a practical person, my wife sent me out of the door with the plates in plastic trays in case there was any spillage on the journey home.

Being an observant person, I immediately knew the last time I had seen those plastic trays was near the back door where they held the cats’ litter, which left me feline a little queasy.

The Chequers has been doing takeaways for five weeks, and Saturday was the busiest night yet, which led to a 25-minute delay on our pick-up time. It was a beautiful evening and we were entertained by a ghetto blaster pumping out VE Day hits.

The pub appears to be receiving a lot of local support. The village four miles to the south of Darlington has a population of just 300, but plates and cakes were being walked all over the place.

The Chequers’ menu is classic English pub: burger, curry, sausages, fish and chips, scampi and lasagne, served on Fridays and Saturdays for around £8.90.

Three of our main courses were served in pizza boxes, while the Five Bean Chilli came on a plate wrapped in tin foil. It was immediately clear that it was not our plate because it was too big to fit in the cat litter trays.

The Northern Echo:

When our daughter, Genevieve, removed the tin foil, she revealed a large white plate-bowl with the chilli sitting on a bed of rice inside. The chilli had a slight touch of heat to it, and was accompanied by a couple of pieces of herby toast, as she described them, which gave a crunch to the proceedings, plus a portion of thin cut chips. She really enjoyed her meal.

Petra, my wife, was not so sure about her vegetarian chilli, which arrived in a nice little ceramic dish accompanied by a pleasant garlic ciabatta. It had broccoli, aubergine, carrot, pepper, tomato and mushroom in it, but it didn’t seem to have the pasta layers of a lasagne, and was topped by a cheese sauce which rather overpowered everything.

By contrast, Theo’s fish and chips was a success – white, fresh fish, served with a little paper cup of tartar sauce. He’d ordered garden peas and was served mushy, but didn’t seem to mind as he tucked into his favourite deep fried food after a week of sensible home cooking.

I enjoyed my parmo. It was a straightforward parmo – no fancy toppings as are de rigeur in some places – topped with a cheesy smothering.

The Northern Echo:

Before we left the European Union, the Tees Valley Mayor was trying to get the parmo “protected designation of origin status”, and I sat on an advisory committee which tried to define precisely what a parmo was. There was a big debate among the parmologists about how thick the meat should be: some argued that originally it was a very thin, stretched escalope, while others thought it should be a plump breast more than 1cm thick to ensure it retained its moistness.

This chicken was less than 1cm thick, but had retained its moistness.

It was served with a nice green salad and a creamy carrot-and-cabbage coleslaw. A paper cup of garlic mayo completed the classic parmo set-up and, with a large portion of chips, it would have melted the heart of any EU bureaucrat entrusted with difficult decisions about national dishes.

We’d ordered three desserts. The females of the party shared a toffee cheesecake which was pleasant enough without being noticeably toffeey.

Theo and I couldn’t make up our minds if we wanted the chocolate fudge cake or the sticky toffee pudding, but one of the beauties of home dining is you can share food without causing a scene that would be embarrassing in public.

Both dishes came surprisingly cold, but we managed to shift ourselves from the sofa and successfully operate the microwave.

The sticky toffee pudding was very large. It was fruit-free, but with a fine dollop of sticky sauce and a very nice plastic containerful of sweet custard.

The chocolate fudge cake was superb. It fell to pieces in the microwave as the fudgey bit oozed away from the cakey layers, but, once on the spoon, it was a gorgeous gloop of sticky chocolateyness.

The bill came to £44.65 for four mains and three desserts. The vegetarian lasagne hadn’t hit the mark, and the collection operation needs a bit of refinement, but it represented very good value – especially as we had gained one large, restaurant-quality plate-bowl and a ceramic dish.

On the debit side, the pub had kept one of our plates, but when we discovered that the plate-bowl was too large to fit our dishwasher or to go in our plate cupboard, I took it and the dish back and retrieved our plate.

The two cat litter trays have been taken to the garage and will not be involved in any future food transport operations.


The Chequers, Dalton-on-Tees, DL2 2PA

Facebook: @TheChequersDalton

Phone: 01325 721213

Takeaways: 5pm-8pm Friday and Saturday, and 12pm-3pm for Sunday lunch