Meal review: Our verdict on the Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge
The Anglers Arms, Weldon Bridge, Longframlington, Northumberland NE65 8AX; website http://www.anglersarms.com; tel: 01665 570271 or 01665 570655.
Wind the clock back a couple of years ... if you were to walk into a bar where all the staff were shielding behind face masks, you would have thought you’d stepped into a scene from a sci-fi movie, at best.
Your next move would probably have been to turn around and scuttle off as quickly, yet unobtrusively, as possible.
Yet in 2021, that self same scene is one of the most reassuring sights there is in this almost post-apocalyptic planet we find ourselves inhabiting.
This was our first venture into the brave new world of eating inside a restaurant since the Covid rules were further relaxed on May 17 as part of the Government’s roadmap out of the horrible pandemic lockdowns.
It also happened to be our wedding anniversary and we had refused to inflict yet another session of washing-up on either of us on such an auspicious day.
So we headed for a reliable haunt of old – The Anglers Arms at Weldon Bridge. The setting was glorious, particularly when the sinking evening sun added a certain glow of normality.
It must be difficult, nay impossible, for bars and restaurants to offer the same warm welcome as previously, without the ability to add a kindly smile, but we immediately felt at home as soon as we’d sanitised our hands and pushed through the door with our fingertips.
The fact we’d pre-booked a place we were told was “music to our ears” and we were led to our table in the main bar.
Some things don’t change – and the main bar at the Anglers Arms is one of them! It has steadfastly stuck to the same look that has served it well through the years – dark, wooden panelling, ornaments and knick-knacks aplenty, stuffed animal heads, luxurious red patterned carpet... old-fashioned, maybe, homely and comforting, definitely.
The menu is also packed with all the favourites that pub tradition demands – steaks, mixed grill, scampi, steak and ale pie, cod and chips, belly pork, lambs liver, with a few delicacies thrown in (Coquilles Saint-Jacques – scallops in a white wine sauce with duchess potato … mmm).
Armed with a pint of Tyneside Blonde ale and a glass of Chilean Merlot, we decided to go for starters and main course and gambled on there being enough room for desserts. As we were ordering, the table next to us was delivered its king prawn and steak sizzler in a seething cloud of steam and heavenly aromas.
Mrs L hit the tempura king prawns, plus garden salad and sweet chilli sauce (£9.45). Me, I went for the black pudding Scotch egg, with tomato and chilli sauce (£8.95).
They arrived with not quite the same drama as next door, but just as welcome and, judging by the comments we overheard, just as delicious.
Opposite, the king prawns were colossal and the batter light, not at all greasy. The sweet chilli sauce was bitingly delicious, while the side salad was all that a side salad should be – fresh, crunchy and colourful;.
Before me was a delightful combination of flavours, with the tangy tomato-based sauce perfectly complementing the crunchy-coated Scotch egg, which was given a special depth of colour and taste by the black pudding.
As it was a special occasion, we went straight for the specials menu, where Mrs L spied the 16oz Porterhouse steak (£25.95) and I plumped for the trio of fish (seabass, salmon and scallop on crushed potato and asparagus, £17.95).
The steak, given a spot-on medium-rare blast, was joined on the plate by a pot of skinny fries, a field mushroom, a grilled tomato halved, a couple of onion rings and a decent quantity of pepper sauce – this was pub grub at its most iconic, no messing!
It barely touched the sides opposite, although there were the obligatory few fries left for me to hoover up.
My fish was also ideally cooked, although the crushed potato was more buttery mash – I love both, so minded not. Samphire seemed to replace the baby carrots from the menu description, but probably gave the dish a more appropriate flavour.
The creamy sauce stitched the whole plate together in heavenly unison.
Both meals hit the right gastronomic notes and accompanied our chatting until the sun went down.
Needless to say, thoughts of desserts had long since been abandoned. The service throughout had been sharp and the staff bright and chatty – not an easy feat hidden behind those masks.
We left all aglow and grateful for such a fulfilling evening among other folk again. The hint of normality that we all crave was in the air.