REVIEW: The River Bar, Bonemill Lane, Washington

River Bar
River Bar
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“Is that how you eat a hotdog?!” exclaimed our waiter in disbelief of my technique.

Granted, I tend to dissect my food before devouring it, but this version of the classic American grub was a challenge.

Ultimate Cheese Dog

Ultimate Cheese Dog

A brioche bun, which added a hint of sweetness, was bursting with a hotdog that had been doused in spicy chilli, cheese and jalapeños. There was no way I’d be able to eat this ‘properly’, clutched in both hands, without incurring some kind of food face plant.

As I tucked in with a good old knife and fork, smatterings of mustard and ketchup added some extra colour to the dish which looked so good it was immediately committed to Instagram.

Meats are smoked here, which gave the hotdog an extra layer of flavour. In true American style, this dish is served on a silver retro school canteen-style tray with a satisfyingly crunchy slaw and skinny fries, served in a mug. (The mug business must be booming now a swathe of restaurants have decided to use them as a food receptacle.)

The ultimate cheese dog was fairly priced at £6.95 and is reflective of the ilk of dishes you’ll find at this riverside bar. It’s one in a small string of pubs that hug the River Wear at Fatfield. Its scenic location is more serene than other ‘trendy’ bars and on a sun-drenched day it’s hard to believe you’re only a few minutes drive from the throng of the A19.

Waffles at River Bar

Waffles at River Bar

Upstairs in this venue is Fiume, a well-established Italian restaurant. Downstairs, the River Bar has an identity of its own.

Like the menu, the decor doffs its cap to our cousins across the pond, particularly the Prohibition era. Think upturned barrels for tables, exposed brickwork, distressed wood, studded and quilted leather seats - you get the picture.

Back to the menu, this is not food for weight watchers, but if you’re after some satisfying fare to fill you up, this is the place to go. Those not afraid to get their digits sticky can get stuck into chicken wings, which start at £4.95 for eight and come with a range of flavours from Tennessee bourbon BBQ to sweet chilli.

The ribs selection sounds just as gloriously messy and starts at £8.95 for a half rack of hickory smoked BBQ ribs. No American menu would be complete without the obligatory burger and here there’s a whopping 11 versions from which to choose, priced from £5.95 - £9.95.

We were feeling full, but the waft of waffles emanating from the kitchen was too strong and we succumbed. We chose the toffee waffle crunch (£4.95) to share.

Two sweet waffles arrived accompanied by ice cream, squirty cream and a pot of teeth-cracking cinder toffee pieces. It was moreishly good and though it’s only meant as a single serving, there was plenty for two.

The drinks menu is as sinfully tempting as the food. Some of the heavier cocktails are puddings in themselves. Such as the Mississippi mud pie (£6.95) which comes with Baileys, Oreos and vanilla ice cream.

But there’s also the classic zingy tipples including mojitos from £6.50.

As this is primarily a bar, there’s plenty of choice, as well as deals on selected days, such as Happy Hour pints from £2.20 and two for £6 on selected world beers and ciders.

I may not know how to eat a hotdog, but I had no such problems navigating the vast drinks menu.