Wake up an Appetite – The Journal: December 26 2008
After a morning spent exploring Warkworth’s
magnificent castle, church hermitage and Norman
bridge, or trekking along part of the Northumberland
Coast Pathe, the second stage of which starts in the
village, you can head for one of the friendliest and
quirkiest restaurants in the world.
The small dining room and closely set tables make
for a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Although the room is
small, the menu is packed with dishes and the
servings are huge so it’s best to take a hearty
appetite with you.
Topsey’s is running a special Christmas menu
featuring turkey and all the trimmings, game,
venison and locally caught seafood…
Best of British will suit the biggest of appetite
Country living and exercise produces healthy
appetites. That seems to be the maxim at Topsey
Turveys in Warkworth, and they do everything in
their power to satisfy their customers.
By comparison with urban bistros and restaurants,
the servings at this Northumberland eaterie are
humungous. For example, the starter of duck spring
rolls with chilli dip was the size of a main course.
Not two but four crisp-wrapped parcels, full of
shredded meat, came on a bed of lettuce,
understandably a little bit weary under the weight
of this burden, and with a bowl of mild chilli dip.
My fresh crab was another gigantic dish, with light
mayonnaise missed with robust flavoured brown meat
and more delicate pink claw meat curling up and out.
Freshly buttered triangular sandwiches created
stepping stones to another bowl of Marie Rose sauce.
Good seafood flavours.
Not having done much exercise that day, I was
advised not to finish everything because my
companion had spotted my next dish at another table.
I glanced over and saw a steak and kidney pudding
reminiscent of the dome of St Paul’s cathedral. This
diner had obviously been mountaineering all day and
tackled it with gusto, but to me it seemed the more
she ate, the larger it got.
The Tardis pudding presented an Olympian challenge,
until mine arrived and I cut into the steamed suet
to release a rich wave of gravy and huge chunks of
feathery steak and edgy kidney. I thought the best
one I’d ever eaten, and would ever eat, was at
Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant but this one was
nudging his laurel wreath. It’s hard to imagine
anything more typical of the best of British.
My companion had gone for the opposite end of the
spectrum with her order of lemon sole with Bearnaise
sauce. The slender fillet, sensitively cooked, came
away easily from the skin. The delicate, ivory flesh
was swathed in herby sauce that jostled for star
Main courses came with an array of fresh vegetables
and earthy new potatoes, each one cooked to make the
most of its flavour. Just to ensure nobody leaves
hungry, there was also a dish of potatoes
If I had any hope of managing dessert, restraint had
to be the order of the day. It pained me to leave
any of the delicious pudding, but I resisted the
lure of the fluffy suet and turned my attention to
Passerbys had been stopping to look at the
Matterhorn of meringue on the lemon pie in the
chiller cabinet in the window. It had lured several
in to ask for a table but, unsurprisingly, the
restaurant was fully booked.
At the next table the victrix of the S&K pudding had
chosen the apple pie, a huge slice piping hot and
surrounded with scoops of ice cream. Her companion
wisely eschewed dessert and went straight for
coffee. My heart faltered. I thought about
rescinding my order, but it was too late. The die
was cast and the kitchen had acted on the chocolate
éclairs. I was expecting no less than a mountain of
cream-filled choux pastries, but mercifully it
turned out to be one éclair. There was still enough
sugariness to finish me off and guarantee a few zeds
in the car on the way home.
My driver/companion had chosen the treacle pudding
and custard. A bold choice in light of what had gone
before. She received a rather chewy-edged sponge
smothered in a thick layer of syrupy topping in a
pool of sweet custard. This sugar intense challenge
proved too much for her and she admitted defeat
Servings of these sizes would easily satisfy obese
icons Billy and Bessy Bunter. Nouvelle cuisine
hasn’t come to Warkworth, and with traditional
British food of this quality, why should it?
Dial Place, Northumberland, Morpeth NE65 0UG
Tel : 01665 711338