REVIEW: Oldfields, Claypath, Durham City

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OLDFIELDS prides itself on its proper chefs who whip up proper British food.

And its formula of fuss-free dining seems to be a winning one.

I visited on a Saturday afternoon and the place was bustling with people tucking into afternoon teas and hearty grub.

The decor is in keeping with its approach to food and is clean and simple, yet effective.

Your eyes can’t help but be drawn to a food map: clotted cream from Dorset, pease pudding from the North East, jellied eels from Essex – this is a where’s where of British dishes.

None of your pan-Asian, Tex Mex mash-ups here, there’s no mistaking that this a venue which aims to put seasonal, local produce on the map.

Even the place mats tell the culinary tale of local food heroes, such as Joan Oldfield, the owner Bill’s mum, who sparked his love of food.

The menu too doffs its cap to local suppliers and ingredients, from the doorstep to your plate.

The lunch version pleases your purse too, with two courses for £13 or three for £15.

In keeping with the regional theme, I chose pan haggerty to start – not to be confused with Sunderland’s panackelty which offers a slight variation on the theme.

I was presented with a huge slab of this Northumberland classic – thinly sliced layer upon layer of potato and onion.

I’ve had this served with crisps of bacon before, but this version came topped with a perfectly runny fried egg which made a valiant effort of seeping through the stodgy layers. It was a meal in itself.

Other choices include soup of the day; spiced onion fritters and cauliflower yoghurt; belly pork, beetroot and shallots and chilli squid with scallions and fennel– it’s all hearty stuff, this is not lunch for waistline watchers.

After a between-courses breather, we got stuck into mains.

Again, there’s plenty of belly-filling options: slow braised shin beef with creamed mash; curried cauliflower with potato and home made flatbread; mussels, bangers and mash, as well as daily specials.

I went with smoked haddock fishcakes in white wine sauce. They were whoppers - two hand-made discs of pure fish and potato. It was perhaps a little heavy on the potato after my starter choice, but if it’s a good feed you’re after this one is sure to reel you in.

The sauce was a rich addition to the dish and was perfectly mopped up by the chunks of fishcake.

My friend chose the seabass from the specials. It was served whole, with a tasty pea and pancetta concoction, and certainly looked delectable, though she struggled to pick out all the bones. This is a dish for people with patience.

You can’t fault the atmosphere at Oldfields. The clink of wine glasses and chatter filled the air as diners whiled away their Saturday afternoon over a leisurely lunch.

As an added bonus, this menu runs until 7pm on week days so is perfect if you’re heading to the Gala Theatre, just a stone’s throw away.