REVIEW: Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, East Durham

Inside Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, near Seaham, County Durham.
Inside Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, near Seaham, County Durham.
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The Inn Collection Group has hit on a winning formula – quality bar food, with a smattering of local offerings at decent prices in comfortable, traditional, rustic surroundings.

Family-orientated meals are the focus of the inns, where local real ales and comfortable lodge-style rooms are also on the menus.

Sea bass at Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, near Seaham, County Durham.

Sea bass at Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, near Seaham, County Durham.

Food is ordered at the bar and each venue boasts a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.

Among the outlets are the Hog’s Head Inn, at Alnwick; The Bamburgh Castle Inn, at Seahouses; and The Lindisfarne Inn, at Beal.

But one from the stable breaks the mould. The Seaton Lane Inn, at Seaton, prides itself on a more haute cuisine menu, a formal restaurant and waiter service from the outset.

The menu may have a familiar ring to it, with pub standards aplenty, but finer dining it was too – quite a treat for foodies like us.

Sticky toffee pudding at Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, near Seaham, County Durham.

Sticky toffee pudding at Seaton Lane Inn, Seaton, near Seaham, County Durham.

We arrived mid-afternoon, a little earlier than we would normally choose to eat, but having spent a veritable fortune at the nearby Dalton Park factory outlet, my wallet had called time on shopping!

It was not what we were expecting. Hugging a busy road, this former blacksmith’s forge was inviting without being spectacular, it’s creamy-yellow walls adding a ray of sunshine to a peaceful village a stone’s throw from Seaham.

Inside, there was a boutique, almost gothic feel, with dim lighting, particularly in the bar area, and blood-red seat covers rubbing shoulders with outrageously patterned cream-and-black wallpaper. Monochrome movie stars gazed down at us from the walls, prompting much nostalgic discussion.

As for the menu, the familiar-sounding courses have a blue-ribbon twist.

Let me give you an example or two. The pan-fried salmon fillet (£14.95) comes on a bed of stir-fried green vegetables with a blood orange and red chilli drizzle. Tempted?

And the shoulder of lamb (£16.95) is slow-roasted and pulled, served with rissole potatoes, crisp carrots and a minted gravy.

I spied with my little eye something that would tickle my taste buds – pork and chilli meatballs, served on a bean sprout, coriander and spring onion salad, with lime dressing (£5.95).

Meanwhile, Mrs L plumped for chicken liver pâté starter, which was described as smooth chicken livers scented with orange and thyme, served with onion marmalade and toasted ciabatta (£5.95).

Both starters hit exactly the right spot – they were beautifully presented and combined flavours that simply worked. The kick of chilli in the meatballs was balanced by the lime dressing on a fresh, crunchy salad. And across the table, the chatter halted while the warm swirl of pâté and generous portions of ciabatta took hold.

I find it hard to resist the delicate texture and taste of sea bass and so my vote went straight to the seared sea bass fillets, served with a warm salad of seasonal greens and new potatoes, with a dill and lime butter (£15.95). Just writing it makes me salivate! And I wasn’t disappointed – it oozed freshness and was cooked to perfection.

So to desserts – all homemade and, at £4.95, all reasonably priced.

I went for the sticky toffee pudding, with accompanying butterscotch sauce and vanilla bean ice cream, which was exquisitely moist and a canny way to conclude what had been an entirely pleasant meal.