Set high on a hill over-looking Houghton and Hetton, there’s probably few people in the area who haven’t had a pint in the Copt Hill.
While the landmark pub’s reputation as a popular watering hole is well-established, it’s fast emerging as a top spot to whet your appetite.
New owners took over the nineteenth century boozer last year and top of their to-do list was to plant the venue firmly on the ‘foodie’ map.
The result is a menu that changes with the seasons offering classic British dishes with a gastro-pub flair that lifts it well above the stereotypical pub grub tag .
The decor in the restaurant area’s also undergone an overhaul. It’s been stripped of its fussiness and nick nacks to make way for cleaner lines, a cream and sage colour scheme and black chandeliers that add a touch of glamour and gives it a character of its own that differs from the pub at the other end of the bar.
But it’s not a wholly separate entity: service was warm, friendly and chatty, in keeping with this venue’s history as a traditional pub. The menu was brand new in the week we visited and the staff, who’d been guinea pig taste testers, were great in advising us of their favourites.
I chose the black pudding stack to start (£5.95).
Service was swift and I was soon tackling a tottering tower of meaty black pudding discs punctuated by caramalised apple and topped off with a poached egg.
The sweet tart of the apple worked perfectly against the denser flavour of the black pudding. The latter’s a staple of the classic English breakfast, but it shouldn’t be written off as such. This starter showed off its versatility with aplomb.
After a heavy starter, I chose one of the less stodgy mains – hake loin (£12.95). This lighter of fishes was given a kick by being perched on a bed of chorizo, kale and patatas bravas.
The Spanish additions of paprika-laden chorizo and spiced potatoes complemented the more subtle nuances of the hake to perfection, a beautifully composed medley of flavours.
The crescendo came in the form of the dessert choices. The usual suspects are there: old favourite sticky toffee pudding and the classic crème brûlée.
But we chose two new kids on the block, which we were informed the chef had tried out just the night before for this ever-evolving menu. I had the vanilla iced parfait (£5.95). It proved to be the cherry on the top of a moreish meal – vanilla mascarpone iced parfait and strawberries, strawberry coulis and meringue sprinkled with crumbles of almond.
Fresh, light and refreshing, it rounded off the meal perfectly without leaving me feeling uncomfortably full.
My friend’s choice of dark and white chocolate mille-feuille (£4.95) was just as picture perfect.
It tasted as good as it looked. Thin layers of dark and white chocolate, topped with a lustrous dollop of homemade pistachio ice cream.
Crumbled pistachios circled the main affair, eager to join in, while a caramalised cape gooseberry provided a splash of colour and zing of flavour.
The new management is also staging a number of themed nights, including pie night on Mondays and French evening on Tuesdays.
With this blend of country pub warmth and fine dining, without the formality, I’m sure this pub has the recipe to be king of the hill.