Black Horse Beamish, Red Row, Beamish

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THE Black Horse Beamish is in many ways a reflection of the man who has transformed this history-steeped inn into an eye-catching gastro pub.

Owner Bob Fountain was once a sheep farmer who turned his hand to car restoration and now owns an Aston Martin business, boasting a healthy workforce and a multimillion pound turnover.

His country roots, restoration skills and appreciation of classic looks have been applied to the Black Horse Beamish in spades.

While retaining the country feel, the interior blends the modern with the rustic and boasts fantastic views across the Durham countryside.

Beamed ceilings and an open fire add warmth while the light airy feel is heightened by the large glass windows overlooking the countryside. In our case, they overlooked torrents of rain pummelling Durham.

Having negotiated the country road that snakes through to the Black Horse, passing on our way Mr Fountain’s Aston Workshop, we pulled up in the courtyard and dashed through the rain into the building.

We were greeted at the restaurant entrance by a buxom wench in full pirate regalia.

She was not a waitress, but a bizarre life-size pirate mannequin, that I can only presume is a nod towards the Black Horse’s past.

The estate the pub is built on dates back to the 18th century and was owned by Bobby Shafto, the former Country Durham MP immortalised in the song Bonny Bobby Shafto.

Apparently he legged it to a life on the ocean wave after jilting his lover.

Thankfully that was the end of the pirate theme as we were shown to our table overlooking the stair rods of rain beating down.

The building is impressive, and the food proved to be equally so. The Black Horse Beamish boasts 10 acres of vegetable gardens and orchards so you can guarantee that the food on your plate is home cooked and organic.

It was a Sunday when we visited so it was traditional roasts all round. For starter, however, I went for a tempura of black pudding. A twist on the traditional country dish, which was an absolute delight.

A crunchy crispy batter coating, breaking through to the soft pudding, with a side serving of horseradish cream giving the dish bite. A great start.

The main course of roasted sirloin Scotch premier beef was just as formidable.

There was no stinting on the beef which arrived in thick slabs across the plate with two mountainous Yorkshire puddings.

The veg too was full of flavour with roast parsnips, roast potatoes, carrots, swede and a creamy cauliflower battling for space on the plate. A gravy boat was also supplied. Another nice touch.

The desserts were interesting and included farmhouse apple pie with Chantilly cream, carrot cake with carrot coulis and a blueberry fromage tart with blueberry compote, but I kept things simple with a chocolate tart with crème fraiche.

With starters beginning at £4.95 and the roast beef costing £11.95, the Black Horse is not the cheapest meal you’re ever going to enjoy, but for quality food, with great views in super surroundings, it’s worth a visit.

Bob Fountain has proved he’s not just a dab hand at restoring Aston Martins, he’s also has a fair talent for souping up gastro pubs, though I’ll reserve judgement on the buxom pirate wench.