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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 billing.

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 Dauphinoise!

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 dessert.

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 halfway through.

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?
 

Topsey Turvey, Dial Place, Northumberland, Morpeth NE65 0UG     Tel : 01665 711338