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Friday, 30 October 2015

A matter of course – food and drink

For this year’s holiday away from Spain, Jen and I flew direct to Newcastle International Airport and stayed with our friends Margaret and Neil, who live just outside that city. We were blessed with good weather for seven out of eleven days and were able to tour the area, driven around by Neil. In the next few days I’ll post a few items about the places we’ve seen.

Whenever we visit the UK, we’ll eat out at several places and enjoy the food, whether that’s Indian cuisine, Chinese, Italian or English. As a matter of course we tend to frequent a couple of Wetherspoon pubs as well. Last year, we enjoyed meals in Hampshire’s The Isambard Kingdom Brunel in Portsmouth and The Star in Gosport; while this year we went to The Red Lion in Bedlington, Northumberland twice.

The structural layout of any Wetherspoon pub will differ, depending on the original building – a theatre, a nineteenth century office, a fire station or whatever. The décor will tend to follow the chain’s furniture and fittings: usually dark wood, though the walls will be adorned with framed pictures relevant to the building and environs, often with snippets of history. All the pubs offer a very wide choice of good quality food and drink.

Accompanied by our friends we went to The Red Lion for Fish Friday. This pub has stood facing the main street since 1902, replacing an earlier inn of the same name; appropriately, perhaps, a police station was next door for some time! J D Wetherspoon refurbished and opened it in 2010.
The Red Lion, Bedlington
We received a warm and cheerful welcome from Emma behind the bar.

The routine throughout the chain is simple: select a table, note the number, and select from the vast menu, and then go to the bar and supply the table number and order.

The choice is huge, but on this day the special deal is good value: fish, chips, peas with a drink – all for £5.49. The drinks can be a standard wine, a real ale pint or a soft drink. Each week there are ‘Guest’ real ales offered, besides those on the menu. For dessert, we indulged in Eli’s salted caramel cheesecake with ice cream and Cartmel sticky toffee pudding with custard (and ignored the calorific values on the menu, since we were on holiday!)

Just over a week later, we were drawn to The Red Lion again, this time for a Sunday lunch (12 noon to 11pm). Emma recognised us immediately, and we took her photograph.
Emma and steel Bedlington terrier
The choice entailed roast turkey, topside of beef, roast chicken, hand-carved lamb rump, or vegetarian wellington; all served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, mashed potato, fresh vegetables and gravy; meat roasts accompanied by pork chipolatas. Appropriate sauces are available – cranberry, horseradish, for example. The meal comes with a drink (beer, wine, water, spirit, soft drink, hot drink) – for £6.49. There are children’s Sunday roasts offered too for £3.99.
Not wishing to pile on too many calories, here are the special meal events we didn’t attend: Mexican Monday, Tuesday Steak, Wednesday Chicken and Thursday Curry, all at good value.

The menu is an A3-sized card, crammed with choice: salads, cheeses, smoked salmon, pastas, noodles, scampi, nachos, grills, sausages, burgers, pork, chicken, chilli, burritos, gammon, hot dogs, soup. Real ales include Devil’s Backbone, Shipyard, Abbot Ale, Ruddles, plus ciders and lagers. Wines include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Rosé, Merlot, Shiraz, Rioja, Prosecco and Malbec, among others. If you’re not tippling, you can have soft drinks, Cappuccino etc., filter coffee, tea or hot chocolate.
Breakfasts are served until 12 noon, and food is served until 11pm.

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