Bardon Mill Hexham Northumberland NE47 7AN www.twicebrewedinn.co.uk
Gabriella leaves behind the sunny city for a tranquil (and chilly) break steeped in Roman history.
Perched on the cusp of the Northumberland National Park and in the shadow of Steel Rigg – one of the most dramatic parts of Hadrian’s Wall, the Twice Brewed is ideally located for history enthusiasts and intrepid outdoor-types looking to lose themselves in the rugged local countryside.
The Twice Brewed clearly already has something of a global following, with guests invited to put a pin in a map in the hotel’s reception showing just how far and wide they have visited from. You suspect its popularity will increase with the opening of The Sill Landscape Discovery Centre next door later this year.
The Sill is a multi-million pound project designed to enable children, families and disabled people to understand and explore the landscapes, history, culture and heritage of Northumberland.
The Twice Brewed is already taking steps to capitalise on the influx of new visitors to the area and as we arrive we spot that construction work is underway to extend the hotel to accommodate more guests than can be housed in the current 10 rooms.
Travellers from south of Watford should beware Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the kitchen closes at 7pm on a Sunday and Tesco Metros are in short supply in this neck of the woods. With tummies rumbling after a long drive we quickly check in and dump our bags in one of the hotel’s clean and functional bedrooms, before rushing down to the restaurant to sample the menu.
The restaurant uses local produce as far as possible and the hotel’s website gives fair warning that during busy times some menu items may be unavailable. Despite this there is plenty to choose from on both the lunch and evening menus. The bar is well stocked with beers, real ales and wines and is buzzing with guests (and their dogs) filling their bellies and planning tomorrow’s hike or excursion.
For a starter I opt for a Ham Hock Terrine while my dining partner goes for the soup of the day. My terrine – which comes with house pickled vegetables, piccalilli puree and toasted crostini, is a little on the salty side for my taste.
My dining partner’s soup is advertised as White Onion but arrives as hearty Tomato and Pepper. It doesn’t matter – he wolfs it down, saying it tastes like his something his grandmother would make (which I’m assured is a compliment).
Our main courses arrive. I go for the catch of the day Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a generous fillet of cod delivered fresh from the quay at Hartlepool. The cod comes with sautÃƒÂ© potatoes and garnished with salsa verde, and a caper, tomato and saffron dressing.
My dining partner’s original order of lamb is off the menu Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which feels slightly ironic as there are fields of sheep on all sides. He does however enjoys his second choice – succulent chicken wrapped in bacon comes generously stuffed with black pudding and smothered with a mustard sauce.
Neither main course is what you’d expect to find in this kind of setting and would be more at home in a gastro pub in the heart of a big city. It’s all a matter of taste and while some may yean for simpler pub fare that would be more in-keeping with the surroundings, others will be thrilled that the Twice Brewed has opted for a menu that is a little more ambitious.
We polish off our meals with an indulgent sticky toffee pudding and a chocolate torte before an early night to sleep off a long trek and a filling dinner.
In the morning we wake to complete tranquillity. City-types will be either delighted or horrified to find that mobile phone signal is in short supply and the hotel wifi is intermittent at best Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Å“it struggles to get up the hill sometimesÃ¢â‚¬Â the friendly receptionist tells us.
There are plenty of options on the breakfast menu – which needs to be ordered the night before. We go with the generous Northumberland Full English which sets us up beautifully for a day bracing ourselves against the local elements while picking our way around thousand-year-old Roman forts.
The food is good Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and certainly good value for money at around £30 a head for three courses and a bottle of red. If you aren’t a massive enthusiast for hiking or Roman ruins,
The Twice Brewed may suit you better as a stop-over point on the way to or from Scotland rather than a destination in itself but it’s certainly a welcoming and peaceful spot to spend an evening surrounded by history and in the middle of nowhere.