Review: Copt Hill, Houghton

The Copt Hill, Houghton.

The Copt Hill, Houghton.

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ANYONE for zebra?

Not a phrase that crops up often, but zebra, camel, kangaroo and other exotic meats make dining out at the Copt Hill a walk on the culinary wild side.

The fact that this pub/restaurant is run by the rather flamboyant Lord Trevor Davis, who has cooked for the likes of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Princess Anne and Margaret Thatcher, indicates that this is going to be a place offering something different from the norm.

Perched on the top of a hill on Seaham Road and surrounded by rolling fields, it’s hard to believe that the pub’s only a short drive from Sunderland.

With colleague Jane as designated driver, we visited with pal James and were met by an oasis of country pub-style interiors meets sleek bistro features.

There’s some cracking views from the Copt Hill, but to be honest you’ll end up totally engrossed by the menu.

There’s masses of choice to get your mouth watering from classic dishes such as garlic mushrooms (£4.25), scampi (£7.25), lasagne (£6.95) and beef burger (£6.95), to the more adventurous kangaroo rump steak (£14.50), goat curry and the delicious-sounding game trio – medallions of wild boar, venison and hare served on a parsley and sage potato cake with a raspberry foam, watercress salad with a whisper of Port jus – for £15.95.

It’s all very carnivorous, but fear not, there’s a vegetarian menu for the non-meat eaters out there.

Feeling brave, but not brave enough to try it on our own, we decided to share a portion of frogs legs to start as well as our individual starters of goats cheese tartlet (£4.95), Panama Jack’s platter – houmous, cheeses, olives, salads, peppers, chutney, and warm pitta bread – (£5.95) and garlic mushrooms.

I peered at the little frogs legs, laid out all prettily in a sea of garlic, before leaping in with my fork.

They weren’t what I expected at all and are best described as fishy chicken. All in all, they were pretty inoffensive, and I wouldn’t object to eating them again.

My main starter was a more run-of-the-mill affair; a pleasantly-presented goat’s cheese tartlet with leeks that went down a treat. It was ever so light which meant I wasn’t too stuffed going into my main course.

Jane, on the other hand, put her waistband to the test with her platter, which is meant for two. Again, the presentation was spot on, even the pitta bread was charmingly presented in some mini-ceramic wellies, and we all tucked in to help her out.

James too enjoyed his ever-so-garlicky mushrooms.

For my main course, I chose from the specials board and was presented with a perfect-sized portion of meaty skewered prawns and lobster for £18.95.

It was divine, cooked to perfection, one of those meals that leaves you feeling good inside.

Jane gave her camel steak the thumbs up too. It’s tougher than other steaks, and is a lighter version of classic steak, but is still loaded with flavour.

James, meanwhile, tried the lovely-sounding grandma’s heaven.

The dish is inspired by Lord Trevor’s grandmother who would cook for U.S. Forces stationed near her home in Dorset during World War Two.

Their favourite foods were Caesar salad, cajun chicken and fried onion rings. She combined all these with a few local bits and pieces such as fried fish and homemade chips.

This dish, priced £7.50, is a throwback to her creation and it’s topper, definitely one worth trying.

As this is a pub, there’s plenty of booze to choose from including Ward’s Best Bitter, which is brewed at the nearby Maxim Brewery in Rainton Meadows.

Lord Trevor is quite the character and he likes to keep busy, so there’s a host of events and special nights to look out for including a seafood extravaganza on March 30 and a Real Ale Festival over Easter weekend.