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The Bay Horse, Brandon
Sunday lunch is a little bit special.
SUNDAY lunch menus are fairly standard in most pubs and hotels across the region – but between the promised fare and what arrives on the plate often lies a culinary chasm.
Disappointment at repeatedly overcooked roasts, far from fresh vegetables and soggy Yorkshire puddings has prompted me to stay clear of restaurants on the day of rest.
It was therefore with some trepidation that we decided to give the traditional Sunday repast another try and headed off for the Bay Horse Inn at Brandon Village, on the outskirts of Durham City.
An old hostelry, the Bay Horse has been under new management since just before Christmas, and a row of cars outside signalled the first signs of a possible good meal.
The new owners, Lynn and Gary, are still in the throes of singlehandedly refurbishing the small hotel, but despite their hard working schedule, the welcome was warm and polite.
Shown into the recently upgraded restaurant, we were given immediate attention by charming waitress Becky, who was friendly but not intrusive and knowledgeably explained the dishes of the day.
The main courses were straightforward Sunday lunch offerings, including roast topside of beef, roast leg of lamb, roast loin of pork, roast chicken breasts and stuffing with the addition of poached fillet of salmon with a tarragon sauce and a vegetable pasta bake.
I chose the pork, Trevor selected the beef, but first we had to decide on a starter, from home-made soup – either cauliflower or carrot and coriander – or seasonal melon with fresh fruit, garlic mushrooms or a prawn cocktail.
I selected the cauliflower soup, which was flavoursome, clearly home-made, piping hot and served with crusty bread.
Trevor’s choice of melon came with fresh pineapple, orange and apple and was, he said, refreshing and light.
On to the main courses and Trevor’s roast beef was tender, succulent and tasty, while my pork was moist and full of flavour.
Both roasts were served on a bed of crushed potato with roast potatoes, a side dish of fresh vegetables and scrumptious Yorkshire puddings, all accompanied with a fine, rich gravy, with extra supplied in a jug at the table.
Could we really manage a pudding, all made fresh on the day according to Becky, who regretfully told us they had already sold out of apple crumble?
I decide to try the cheesecake, which was delicate and delicious, while Trevor went for sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream – the pudding was moist and light, he said, and the toffee topping yummy.
In the space of a couple of hours, I had changed my mind about eating out on Sundays and wished the Bay Horse was located in my home village.
Our lunch had been quite simply delicious, well presented, carefully served, quality food, and it was no surprise to learn that there had already been a full earlier sitting before we arrived.
It was all exactly what we wanted – fresh produce, well cooked and expertly served.
Compliments were flying around the room as diners expressed their satisfaction to the staff.
There was no pretence here of haute cuisine – this was just honest, skilfully-cooked good food which will certainly see us returning to the roadside inn.
Congratulations to chef Dominic, who turned out consistently good food time and time again and who will be key to establishing the reputation of this burgeoning hotel.
A quick guided tour of the excellent en-suite bedroom facilities revealed that this is more than a watering hole and good eating place, and will no doubt soon feature on good food and accommodation guides for the county.
In these days of economic hardship, the prices at the Bay Horse are also modestly and sensibly pitched. Three courses for two of us, with two drinks and a filter coffee, cost just over £24.