[Hexham, Northumberland] Beaumont

Every small town should have a place like the Beaumont. A place that’s buzzing with the conversations of folk having a nice time. A place where service is entirely on the ball (of which more later). A place where the kitchen cooks food that’s seasonal and local. OK, there is a downside that pricing is somewhat aspirational – but that can be a feature of good places, in small towns, where there isn’t much competition.

A cheese soufflé is usually a good bet as a starter and so it is here. They use a Northumberland cheese , packed full of flavour. Maybe a Doddington from Wooler? It’s twice baked so not light as a feather and it’s surrounded by a puddle of cheese sauce. Really delicious. A small portion of North sea crab sat on a sourdough crumpet and was decorated with a couple of slivers of radish and a gooseberry, cut in half but, sloppily, not topped an tailed.

For mains courses, a heritage breed sirloin steak was accurately cooked as requested. It came with a wodge of well made Pommes Anna, char grilled globe artichokes and, bang on for summer, a pea puree and a scattering of broad beans and sugar snap peas.

Serving two very thin lamb chops does not fulfil the menu description of “rack of lamb”. It’s disappointingly miserly – even if they are perfectly pink and from Cumbrian Herdwicks (to my mind the most flavoursome lamb you’ll come across). To accompany, there’s braised Little Gem, asparagus and pommes boulangere. It works.

The server spotted that we’d been waiting a while for desserts and first came to apologise and then returned to offer a freebie coffee and liqueur. Now that’s the sort of customer service of which any restaurant should be proud. And, when they did arrive, they were well worth the calories. There was a buttermilk pannacotta, perhaps a tad overly set, decorated with early blackberries, honeycomb and a honey crisp. For the other plate, strawberries had been macerated in an elderflower syrup and served with Italian meringue and a grain biscuit.

We finished with the freebie espresso (the liqueur had been declined, with thanks). And it was excellent coffee – they understand that strong does not have to mean bitter.

An all-round lovely evening.