RESTAURANT REVIEW: The Sirloin, Hoghton

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A welcoming pub where you can tuck in to a feast full of history

Holidaying in the wilds of Northumberland recently, we took our Harry Potter-mad 11-year-old to Alnwick Castle, the location of many a broomstick training class.

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While in the area, we also paid a visit to an aunt of mine, who admitted that while she had lived merely minutes away from the fantastic fortification for the best part of 30 years she had never actually been inside.

This made me realise just how often I overlook what is right on my own doorstep.

When I go out (as rare as it is) I want work, school and the dull domestic, out of sight and out of mind. A change is as good as a rest and all that.

But what could I be missing out on? To find out, when a celebratory meal was required recently, we headed just down the road to The Sirloin, in the shadow of Hoghton Tower, the place where, legend has it, in 1617 King James I was served a piece of beef of such quality he promptly pulled out his sword and declared it “Sir Loin of Beef”.

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And so the fine cut – and later this former coaching inn – was named.

And these days the chance to ‘feast like royalty’ is open to everyone in this pretty pub set just off the old road between Preston and Blackburn.

Surrounded by neat planters and with a decked areas to both the front and rear, The Sirloin offered us commoners a friendly welcome with a warm atmoshere and a large, well-stocked bar, offering a selection of craft beers, local ales and premium spirits.

Busy with locals enjoying an early evening pint or two (reassuring to see in these challenging days for pubs) the interior is that of a proper traditional inn – stone-flagged flooring, a huge stone fireplace and all the delightful nooks and crannies that only a historic building can convincingly provide. Brought up to date with muted grey paintwork and old, black and white photos of Hoghton Tower and its surroundings, the feeling is cool but cosy.

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The menu too is a blend of classic and contemporary – haddock and chips, steak and ale pie and chicken kiev sit alongside pizza, pasta, burgers and vegan Buddha bowls.

But what of those steaks? Commanding their own website (see below) they also get the first floor of the building with The 1617 Steakhouse.

Unfortunately, this part was closed when we visited on Tuesday, which was a bit of a disappointment but the full steak menu was available in the bar – and offered no less than nine options ranging from an eight ounce rump to lamb, swordfish and a 28oz Tomahawk!

Intrigued by the Tomahawk, but bound by the budget, my carnivore companion opted for the 10oz sirloin with a peppercorn sauce. TheYounger went with her staple spag bol but unfortunately for me, my first choice of swordfish wasn’t available as their delivery had been below standard and promptly sent back – but the crispy seabass seemed a good alternative.

And it was. Soft, flaky and juicy, the skin was suitably crispy and the accompanying parmentier potatoes were waxy and firm with a lovely roasted flavour. Lemon butter lifted the fish and cut through the bed of creamed spinach which added a bit of salty depth.

The Younger meanwhile, was beaten by a huge portion of bolognese, which while brimming with plenty of beef, could have done with a little more tomato-ey sauce.

As for the ‘main event’ however, the honoured sirloin was cooked exactly as requested and had an added chargrilled flavour. It’s substantial size was matched by some very chunky chips and a side of Mediterranean veg added both texture and taste with roasted courgette, red pepper, red onion and mushrooms.

The latter were a little tough, however, and the peppercorn sauce he thought tasted quite overwhelmingly of lemon, but on the whole, he was a very happy man.

With us all having declined the good range of starters for some smaller nibbles to share – deliciously sweet and sticky chipolatas with garlic mayonnaise and a mild and crispy garlic bread – the puddings we’d left room for provided a beautifully tart palette cleanser, with a zesty trio of sorbets and a rich chocolate fudge cake for The Younger and I to both have a go at, and a Belgian waffle with summer berries and chocolate ice cream for The Steak Man.

The bill came to £79 which included two good pints, a glass of very nice rosé and three soft drinks. Quite a midweek treat, but good value for the amount and quality nontheless.

So will I be making the most of our new found ‘local’? Definitely. I hardly dare say it during this fantastic summer, but I can’t wait for winter to settle in next to a huge log fire with a big glass of wine....

Food: 4/5

Service: 5/5

Value: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

The Sirloin, 01254 852293

www.the-sirloin.co.uk or www.1617steakhouse.co.uk.