The Northumberland Pub Company Steps Into Spring

Issue 78

Three North East venues share their plans for the changing seasons.

With the long winter nights behind us as we move into the warmer weather, the teams at the Blackbird at Ponteland and The Northumberland Arms at Felton are looking forward to welcoming back outdoor diners with new dishes on the menus.

And with sister business Kennedy and Rhind’s foray into foodie events quickly building a strong reputation for evening dining alongside their impressive brunch selection, each of the three venues are entering the new season in their stride.

While the Blackbird’s popular tipi is now open year-round for diners and drinkers to enjoy, it certainly comes to life in the spring and summer. Open on one side, it allows visitors to make the most of the good weather but – because weather in the North East is always unpredictable – it also provides cover from any rain or wind that might be on the forecast.

When the venue made the decision to keep the tipi as a permanent fixture, they also went the extra mile to offer a fantastic al fresco food selection too. This means that outdoor diners have a wide range of pizzas and street food to choose from – and the tipi is even home to its own bar.

Not only does separating indoors and outdoors mean better waiting times for food and drinks but it also means visitors can make the most of the spring and summer weather too, however fleeting it may be. Speaking of food, the Blackbird prides itself on its popular seasonal menu with head chef Ralph Hellens making the most of locally sourced ingredients to create delicious dishes for diners to enjoy.

Pub classics like burgers and beer battered North Sea haddock and chips sit alongside main dishes including lamb rack cutlets, steaks, saffron and Jerusalem artichoke risotto and duck breast, with a new light bites menu also recently introduced.

And while the venue is a great place to visit for lunch or dinner, it is also known as a brilliant location for events.

With its charming Minstrel Gallery upstairs, home to a number of original features, and the huge tipi space outdoors, the team can accommodate large or intimate parties for every occasion. Travelling further into the Northumberland countryside to the picturesque village of Felton, The Northumberland Arms is another venue which has won over visitors from across the region with its impressive food offering. Michelin trained head chef Adam Westgarth heads up the kitchen team, bringing culinary flair to the menu without taking anything away from the charm of the pub environment. Parmesan chicken, moules frites and even the Northumberland favourite truffled pan haggerty have made it onto the menu, along with a wide variety of small plates and light bites. And as the warmer weather and lighter nights creep ever closer, there’s no better time than now to plan a summer holiday. The last few years have reminded holidaymakers of all of the joys of the UK break and it’s not difficult to see why The Northumberland Arms has remained a popular destination. With six boutique bedrooms offering stunning décor, luxury bathrooms and top brand toiletries, the most difficult decision is choosing which of the rooms to book. Not only is the venue surrounded by Northumberland countryside – making it a great base for keen walkers – but many of the region’s finest attractions are just a short drive away.

Guests can explore all that Alnwick Castle, Belsay Hall and Gardens, Northumberlandia and Northumberland Country Zoo have to offer, among others, before retiring to the venue for an evening tipple. However, if the weather is fine then drinkers can also make the most of the outdoor spaces, which received huge investment during the pandemic. With tables, seating and lighting to both the north and south of the building, guests can enjoy a stunning view of the River Coquet and a 16th century bridge. #And offering something a little different to the pub group’s other two venues while keeping to the same high standards, is Jesmond artisan bakery, café and shop, Kennedy and Rhind. Launched during the pandemic by North East chefs David Kennedy and Murray Rhind, it wasn’t long before demand led to them opening a retail space alongside their Newcastle production kitchen.

The venue has quickly become a favourite with both Jesmond locals and visitors from further afield, as well as supplying a number of the region’s businesses with their pies and loaves – all freshly made each morning. Along with a delectable brunch and lunch offering, the pair have recently opened the café to evening guests with a number of themed nights.

Burn’s Night, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day are just some of the occasions where the team have prepared special set menus, with a variety of wines, beers and cocktails on offer. Stuart Young, of the Northumberland Pub Company, is looking forward to an exciting year for the three businesses.

“While the Blackbird, The Northumberland Arms and Kennedy and Rhind are all linked to the wider pub group, we work really hard to make sure each venue has its own strong identity,” he said. “We’ve had a fantastic few months settling into the new year and celebrating a number of special occasions with our customers and we can’t wait to welcome drinkers and diners to enjoy all the venues have to offer during the spring and summer.

“And, of course, all three venues remain connected through providing the same, excellent standard of service across the board.”

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