Food – Northumberland: The Bay Horse Inn. Great home cooked food in a quaint coaching inn.

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The Bay Horse Inn is located on the A68 and is a former coaching inn.

The Bay Horse Inn is a typical olde worlde country coaching inn located on the A68 at West Woodburn near Hexham in Northumberland. It epitomises all that is good about these types of local country public houses, the heart of the community as was evident on the 3 separate occasions I visited.

Their website reads: “The Bay Horse Inn, West Woodburn, is a delightful 18th-century coaching inn built in mellowed sandstone, nestling by a stone bridge over the River Rede in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland. This is the place to stop on your journey to rest, drink, eat well and relax in a warm friendly, informal atmosphere.” I couldn’t have put it better!

There is plenty of private off-road parking available for diners, those simply stopping off for refreshment, or for those who are staying, as the Inn also offers accommodation. This review will focus on the food and drink as we were staying elsewhere. They are also dog-friendly. Dogs are welcome in the bar and accommodation.

Disabled access is great and from the car park to the front door is on the level. There are no steps to negotiate at the main entry, and internally the open plan areas are all on the level, permitting access to all areas including the toilets.

On first entering you will see the locals seated at the bar, which for some might appear off-putting – what you need to remember is in West Woodburn, the village this Inn is located, it’s one of only two public houses, so it’s their local as well as you’re chosen restaurant. Internally the furnishings and fittings are as one might expect, mahogany beams, lots of old wood, whitewashed walls, pictures of local hunts, horse brasses, plates and assorted bric-a-brac everywhere. Just as it should be for a place like this. Sometimes with this amount of ‘stuff’, you can end up with a dirty and dusty environment. Not so here and it appeared to be well cleaned and looked after.

The staff are a friendly bunch of people. Polite, funny, interacting with their guests as much as the locals, showing interest in why you are there. It really was a pleasant and refreshing change to find staff that enjoys their work and are prepared to reflect that in all aspects of what they do. They’re also a busy bunch of people, running a bar, taking orders, delivering drinks and food to tables and clearing tables. There’s no time for slacking in this place. Yet they always make the time to check everything is OK with your order. Well done people, you’re a credit to the Bay Horse Inn.

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The Inn offers tables in and around the bar area, alternatively, they also have a dining area separate to the bar which offers a more formal eating experience. We chose to eat in the bar. Although the obligatory fruit machine and jukebox have found their way into this establishment, they’re not obtrusive in any way. In fact, we were asked on one occasion if we’d like the music turned down. The Inn also offers a pool table, dart board etc, and it was nice to see these being used by the locals. This really is a working pub which offers food.

The menu offers several starters, mains and desserts as well as the specials board. On our visits over one week, the specials didn’t change. This is the type of place one expects home cooked food, and you won’t be disappointed. There’s not a frozen or pre-packed item on this menu, which means you might just have to wait a little for your order to arrive. Don’t be concerned, sit back and simply soak up the atmosphere.

We had a selection of food over the visits we made. These included the seafood platter starter, the “pig on a plate”, the home-made chicken liver pate and the butterfly king prawns. Everything, with just the one exception, was absolutely fine. The pig on a plate was a selection of belly pork, crackling, and black pudding with an apple compote. A couple of pieces of the pork was very tough on the bottom and had to be left as it just couldn’t be chewed. Please remember this is not fine dining and doesn’t pretend to be. Its rustic home cooked grub and all the better for it.

Our mains were the haggis, neeps and tatties with a whisky sauce – (well it had to be being Scottish after all), Northumberland sausages, mash, and onion gravy, beer battered haddock and chips and pizzas. Again these were absolutely fine, served piping hot, great portion sizes, and all served with a side order selection of vegetables.

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The menu pricing structure is as you would expect. We were paying approx. £40-£50 for a three-course dinner with drinks for two people. I’d rate the food quality compared with the price as being good value for money.

Desserts are priced at £5.25 which is probably slightly more expensive than I would normally expect to pay, but again are all home-made including, bread and butter pudding, spotted dick, chocolate fudge cake etc.

All in all, if you’re in the area, stop off and try it, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a lovely warm, welcoming and friendly place, and they’re few and far between these days.

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