[Seahouses, Northumberland] St Aidan Bistro

I sometimes think it’s hard to compare mid-range restaurants in small, mainly rural, communities, with their equivalents in the major urban areas. With the lack of competition, it must be easy for those in places like Seahouses to cut corners and lose their culinary sharpness. But, not so with the St Aidan Bistro. Opening only three nights a week, they offer a perhaps surprisingly aspirational menu of Modern British food, with a quality that would not be out of place for a neighbourhood gaff in any big city. And, in keeping with its coastal location, it’s no surprise that the menu leans heavily towards seafood.

For one of us, there was a starter of dressed crab. It came with shavings of fennel, a few salad leaves and aioli. Of course, you could think of ways to improve the dish – a dressing for the salad or a more garlicky aioli, for example. But, it’s fine as it stands. That was followed by a very generous helping of bouef bouguignon. It’s everything you want from the dish – long cooked tasty meat and a really rich sauce, that would have gone perfectly with the mashed potato that would have come with it, had my companion in life not asked for it to be left off (as one of that rare breed – the mash hater).

Cubes of sweetish squash had been paired with roast shallot as a topping for bruschetta. To add a contrasting flavour, the bread had been “buttered” with a mild goats cheese. More (undressed) salad leaves completed the plate. The main course was a fillet of hake (no crispy skin, unfortunately) with very Spanish style butter neans and a tomato and chorizo sauce. It all worked well. We shared a bowl of green beans, carrots and peas.

Only one of us wanted dessert. It was a special that day and was an absolute knockout. It’s quite a while since I’ve enjoyed a dessert more than the savoury courses. There’s a slice of homemade Rocky Road, so you know this is off to a good start. Then there’s a chocolate sauce. And a really good caramel ice cream. Most of time, I don’t want a dessert that’s too sweet but, just now and again, I want one that’s full blown rich and indulgent and will do my diabetes no good whatsoever. This was it!

A really good dinner at the beginning of a week’s stay in the area