I don’t dine much in Chester-le-Street, but this new pub-cum-restaurant was definitely worth the 20-minute drive from Wheeler Heights.
Half-a-million pounds has been invested into this much-loved pub by regional leisure firm Tavistock, the chain behind Roker Hotel’s Retro restaurant, transforming it into a “brewpub.”
As such it focuses on-cask ales and there’s plenty to wet your whistle in that respect.
It’s the brewery tap for Sonnet 43 beers, Tavistock’s brewery in Coxhoe, and serves a broad selection of its limited-edition brews such as Blonde Beer and Bourbon Milk, alongside tipples from other breweries.
Admittedly, I’m not a great lover of beers. It was, instead, the food which lured me here.
Through the Union Flag-painted door you enter into a Wonderland-esque pub packed full of dried hops on the wall, twisted vines, vintage trinkets and English countryside-inspired decor. There’s also some nods to the pub’s mythical namesake.
If it’s charm you’re looking for in a pub, then this has it in bucket-loads.
You can choose to sit in the pub area where you can munch on dishes from the bar food menu such as steak and Sonnet 43 pie (£5.95) and breaded lobster tails (£8.95).
We had booked ahead in the restaurant area to the rear of the pub – and I’m glad we did. Though it’s only been open a matter of weeks, word must have got around about the worm and it was heaving.
The restaurant menu is an English-inspired feast of locally-sourced produce such as eight-hour smoked shoulder of Charlie Hird’s rare breed pork (£12.95) which come from the Durham schoolboy’s pig herd.
There’s side notes about other suppliers too, so you know exactly where the grub on your plate comes from. Also useful is the beer suggestions as to which would complement each dish.
Everything sounded divine and we struggled to make a choice.
To start, I eventually went with the breakfast stack. For my £4.45 I was presented with a delightful culinary concoction of black pudding, crispy smokey bacon and roasted tomatoes with a perfectly-prepared quail’s egg perched on the top.
I felt like I was having a posh breakfast in a top-notch hotel and savoured every bite.
My mate date for the night, Jodie, ordered one of the mussel pots – there are four to choose from.
She was faced with a huge pot which was a bargain at £5.95.
And its tomato passata, fiery chilli and garlic sauce was so delicious that we had to order bread to ensure we mopped up every last drop.
The main meal is a carnivore’s paradise with plenty of meat and fish options. But I went for the home-made wild mushroom ravioli with rocket and parmesan (£9.95).
Portion-size was again substantial and the al dente pasta was complemented well by a light, yet flavoursome cream sauce.
Jodie’s choice of pan-fried chicken breast on braised puy lentil and potatoes with green beans and red onion (£12.95) was also a tastebud triumph.
We’re not usually ones for dessert, but we were so impressed by our previous courses we wanted to try more. Jodie managed to find enough space for a deconstructed rhubarb crumble which comes in at £4.95.
We expected the dish to be, well, deconstructed, with each component occupying its own space on the plate. But she was presented with what looked like a regular rhubarb crumble. Still, it tasted good.
My choice of cheese board rounded off my meal to a tee, though I would have liked a bigger portion of the Sonnet 43 brown ale chutney to enjoy it with.
They were small quibbles for a meal which I’m sure will be my first of many at Lambton Worm.