The Lambton Worm, Birtley

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I was recently invited to review The Lambton Worm – a pub we’d visited in the earlier days of the blog. With a newly installed chef, ‘who has already worked at some of the leading restaurants across the North East and Cumbria’, we thought it was a good idea to return to see if there had been improvements since our last meal there. Having been underwhelmed on everything other than price last time round (see post here), sometimes a change in the team can breathe a new leash of life into a kitchen.

imageIn Mr. Canny’s 8 or so months of veganism, I’ve usually telephoned ahead if I’ve been unsure whether an eatery would accommodate or not. In places like Super Natural or The Green Room it hasn’t been necessary of course, but I’m finding we’ve exhausted the options on veggie-vegan dining in Newcastle. Many people ask if I ‘warn’ ahead of a visit that I’m a food blogger and the answer is no. The only advance notice I give is about the veganism. This time round I decided to test out how restaurants and bars respond normally to those who walk in with dietary requirements. It was risky to do so, but interesting from the point of view of many of this blogs readers who face this issue.

imagePresented with the menu, and with nothing that we felt could be easily adapted, Mr. Canny made a bold statement to our waitress. “If the chef is happy to cook something vegan for me, I’ll have whatever that is”. Contrary to popular opinion, veganism isn’t fussiness. He’s prepared to eat anything… just so long as it contains no animal products. She returned with an affirmative; he’d prepare an off-menu starter and main for him, no problem at all. Whether this would be the case during a busy service, I can’t be sure, but it was positive for vegans and vegetarians who read the blog and aren’t sure whether ‘mainstream’ places will cater for them.

imageHis starter of Mediterranean Tomato Salad was well assembled, but there wasn’t much to it. A couple of slices of tomato, some bits and pieces of pepper and olives, and a dollop of guacamole. Dining in a pub you expect hefty, carb-loaded portions, which this was not. All this taken into account, he loved it even though there wasn’t much substance to it.

imageThe vegan main of Mixed Bean Chilli was more substantial, and it was packed with flavour. Acknowledging that legumes can be bland, there was a needed kick from the spices to enliven the dish.

With a very meat-orientated menu, I was the one who struggled for options. With new starters like Pulled Pork Croquettes and Devilled Squid, and Hanging Kebab mains, it didn’t seem to dissimilar to what was on offer last time round. The veggie-friendly dishes of Halloumi Salad and a Bean Burger didn’t really tickle my tastebuds so I opted to try the Cheese Pie, which I asked to be served with chips instead of the recommended creamy mash.

imageThe chips were in need of another few minutes in the fryer, as my photo shows. The pie was a puff pastry-topped affair, which meant it disintegrated the moment I stuck my fork in. Its lava-hot contents were nice, although I was a bit confused why new potatoes had been added to the mix. I only do double potatoes on a Sunday – roasties and mash are essential parts of a roast dinner, right? – and felt the pie would have benefited from a padding of extra veggies instead. That said, I was hungry and I ate.

imageWhile dessert was clearly going to be non-existent for Mr. Canny, I didn’t suffer in the same way. I’d purposely shunned a starter to enjoy a pud, and opted for their Churros. They were actually really good. Note the surprised tone! I personally think it should have been served with a warmer sauce than a chilled chocolate mousse, but maybe that’s just my opinion.

Food is currently served in the restaurant at The Lambton Worm from noon until 2.30pm, and again from 5pm until 9pm Monday to Saturday. A number of dishes are also available outside these times in the adjoining bar. Prices for restaurant dining start at around £4.95 for a starter, £8.95 for a main course and £3.95 for dessert. As we’d previously encountered there are special offers, with two courses at £8.95. Some of the Sonnet 43 ales are suitable for vegans, and Mr. Canny enjoyed Abolition alongside his meal.

I felt like our visit to The Lambton was a mixed bag. While the Mr was super happy with his meal, especially as the chef gamely took the challenge, my main was no more than standard pub fare. I personally feel the menu could reflect the local seasonal produce we have an abundance in this area, which I’m sure many will agree with. Mr. Canny was impressed by the off-the-cuff riffing that occurred in the kitchen that day, when they simply could have said there was nothing other than chips available. Credit where its due, we were told by our waitress the chef was happy to have been asked to cook something a bit different. Service was clearly attentive, and I’d definitely recommend the Churros for dessert, on the plus side.

Thanks for reading,

Pip x

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