I'd originally been booked in to return to the The Angel at Hetton at the end of March; a year on from my very enjoyable previous visit, but unfortunately like so many of all our plans in 2020, the big C put paid to that. Nonetheless, despite those difficult times, the last year or so has brought a triumphant amount of guide recognition for this long established stalwart of the Northern dining scene; as well as a precious Michelin star (as I predicted after my previous visit), the AA bestowed an impressive four rosettes too. I was therefore fully expectant of an excellent meal as I ventured back for a socially-distanced lunch with my wife and two young children on a gloriously sunny August Thursday.
We arrived slightly early for our reservation and there were plenty of free parking spaces at the front of the restaurant. There have been a few renovations since our last visit, including a new porch area and of course, a certain red plaque being affixed next to the front door (and why not). The welcome on arrival was warm and suitably COVID-safe (all the staff were wearing masks), and we were shown to our table in the main dining area. There's been some refurbishment inside too since our last visit, but the decor is still clean and modern (nice toilets too) and it's certainly a perfectly pleasant space to enjoy a high quality lunch.
On offer at lunch are a full carte menu, a tasting menu and what is still probably the best children's menu we've encountered at any restaurant. Due to the COVID restrictions, the menus are accessed via your smart phone (with the exception of the children's menu), but it was all fairly straightforward and thoroughly explained by the information provided on the table. There's a solid wine list and a good range of other drinks; I enjoyed a couple of decent Defiance gin's and my wife and children were perfectly happy with orange and apple juice respectively.
Lunch began with some decent sourdough bread (include a piece each for the kids), served with a very nice whipped butter and a Bovril infused meaty equivalent. To start, I opted for the scallop which consisted of thinly sliced pieces of scallop ceviche served with caviar, apple and frozen buttermilk. It was absolutely delicious and a perfect dish for a warm summer's day. My wife very much enjoyed the veal sweetbread (too much to let me try any) and my daughter happily tucked into a delicious little bowl of tomatoes and ricotta cheese; it may have been a children's dish but the flavours were excellent. They were also happy to bring a portion of chips with the starters for my toddler son; whilst the children's menu here is fantastic in many ways (due to being based on the full carte dishes), it is perhaps a bit challenging for very young children.
For mains, I had the venison with parsnip, kale and bilberries. It was another very good dish, the venison was perhaps a tiny bit chewier than I would have liked but the flavours overall were very enjoyable. My wife had a very tasty turbot dish whilst my daughter's lamb main was again delicious. It would be so easy to just serve a generic lamb dish for the children's menu, but some real effort had gone into this dish including the lamb having a lovely BBQ style char; it was delicious and my daughter thoroughly enjoyed it, as well as the accompanying hash brown and peas.
Service up until this point had been very good, but the restaurant had by now become a fair bit busier and there was a longer-than-I-would-have-expected wait for desserts to arrive. When they did arrive though, they were definitely worth the wait. My strawberry based dessert of various goodies inside a meringue shell was technically flawless and tasted great; yes, the flavours had a classic edge, but that's no bad thing. My wife went for the opera dessert, an impressive and suitably delicious layered slice which she thoroughly enjoyed too.
My daughter's strawberry dessert was a scaled down version of mine, and she loved it as much as I did. For my young son, they were happy to provide a not-on-the-menu bowl of chocolate ice cream, but even then, you could see some care had gone into plating it when it arrived, they hadn't just dumped two scoops in a bowl. He likes ice cream of course (what three year old doesn't) but I've genuinely never seen him so delighted with a serving in the past; the glee on his chocolate ice cream covered face was clear. Each dessert was really without fault, and I'd go as far as to say desserts were the highlight of what had already been an excellent meal.
My wife and I had a cappuccino each to finish which was fine and (after a bit of a delay) was accompanied by a couple of little slices of a chocolaty cake. I've certainly had better p4 experiences but I think this fitted with the meal as a whole. And that was pretty much that for the meal; the bill came fairly promptly on request and due to the COVID restrictions, payment is made when leaving the restaurant. They had made a bit of an error by charging the full children's menu price to my son (the fries had been charged separately so in effect, they charged the full menu price for just his ice cream), but this was quickly rectified with an apology and without fuss.
I suppose one noticeable negative is that the meal was considerably more expensive than my previous visit, but that's always inevitable when the star arrives (not to mention the COVID factor) and comparing to restaurants of a similar standard, I thought the pricing was fair. And I have to say, I do think the quality of the food has improved since my last visit also.
Overall, this is an outstanding child-friendly restaurant, with excellent food and service, fully deserving of all the accolades received (and a full dining room for a Thursday lunch); I for one would happily venture back in future and look forward to doing so.
|Ratings||Michelin Guide||AA Guide||Good Food Guide|
|At time of review||5|