HOW many girls and a sat-nav does it take to find The Church Mouse?
On this occasion, it took three of us nearly an hour to find this country pub.
It’s not a difficult place to find and is usually only a 20-minute drive from Sunderland, but my friend Alex’s duff sat-nav took us on some bonkers route and we were too busy gossiping to notice.
After our mini road trip, the sight of this rustic restaurant proved quite an oasis.
It’s a picturesque place that oozes rural charm, inside and out, with its brickwork, stone flooring, open fire and exposed beams.
We visited on a Tuesday night, but there were scores of mid-week diners pouring through its traditional doors.
We were told to seat ourselves and we found a cosy little spot in the corner where we could talk about boys, work and pregnancy (my friend is with bump) without feeling like we were sharing our talk with the other tables.
Our table needed a wipe down and we were told there was a half-hour wait for food, which wasn’t a great start to the meal.
However, the menu helped the mouse to redeem itself. There’s some cracking options to whet your appetite. They’re unusual options to boot.
Take the starters menu. Here you can choose from smoked mackerel with celeriac and fennel slaw (£4.95); oyster and flat mushroom vol-au-vent (£4.95) and more.
We were in a picky mood so went with the sharing mezze platter (£9.95) which consisted of eastern spiced houmous, mixed olives, tzatziki, cajun and coriander mayonnaise, warm falafel and grilled flatbread.
It was a treat, the houmous in particular tasted homemade and was laden with chunky chick peas.
You’d be hard pushed to find something you don’t like on the main menu too which has a great selection of English classics and seasonal favourites.
There are also daily specials to mix the menu up.
After much deliberation, I went with the smoked haddock risotto (£9.95) with baby spinach, garden peas and spring onions, topped with a curried crispy poached egg.
It was divine. I savoured every bite, and the egg was poached to perfection.
Alex had wanted to get her teeth around the rib eye steak, but we were informed there was none left.
There was also no balsamic vinegar to go with her substitute choice of shredded duck salad (£9.95), but she enjoyed it all the same.
Helen too raved about her choice: lamb shoulder (£12.99) which was slow-cooked in a rich jus with fennel, dauphinoise potatoes and buttered pea, broad and green bean medley.
It was beautifully presented and was bursting with flavour.
After our belly-busting main meals we couldn’t be tempted by the dessert board, but it too boasted British classics such as apple and gooseberry crumble, Kentish Bramley apple pie and summer pudding.
The Church Mouse is a pub too. And a good one at that.
There’s a vast range of wines on offer, on a drinks menu designed to complement the food on offer.
For the pint-suppers, there’s also a host of cask-conditioned beers and regularly-changing real ales to whet your whistle. Brewers stocked include Marstons Beer Company and Black Sheep Brewery.