NOW that we are coming into spring I can't wait for the days when you can sit in a beer garden soaking up some rays with some good food and a cheeky gin and tonic.

The late nights aren't with us just yet but a pub meal is always on the cards whatever time of year.

I was excited then to review The Victoria Inn in Witton-le-Wear which had just been reopened months earlier after nearly being lost for good.

Under new management then I had high expectations and approaching the building on the main street it certainly gives off that stylish appeal with brand new signage in black and white.

I took my fiancé Ali for date night and as we walked in I notice how cosy the bar was with the regulars seated round it.

We were directed by a polite barmaid to our table up a few steps into the restaurant part of the pub and although I had to swap my chair as the springs had gone out of it I was immediately struck by the glorious views over the countryside out of a large window at one end.

The restaurant was very quiet with a lack of music which could have made the experience much better.

Perusing the menu, I must admit I was a little disappointed as there was not much range on it for me and it was a tad difficult to read with the heavy medieval font.

A polite waitress came to take our drinks order with Ali offering to be the designated driver for the evening with a coke and I was allowed to enjoy a glass of white zinfandel.

For starters I ordered the warm crusty bread, olives and balsamic dressing (£4.25) while Ali went for the warm crusty bacon and black pudding salad (£4.75).

Both came out on big white plates. Mine was presented well with each element in separate bowls although I must admit it was quite difficult to dip the bread in the olive oil with the narrowness of the dish it came in.

Ali was also pleased with the flavours in his starter although I don’t think I could really call it a salad as it was laden with meat with only a few salad leaves lurking underneath. Then again though I imagine this would not be a problem for most people especially if they have the same appetite as Ali.

For main I chose the seared fillet of salmon with a lemon butter sauce (£13.95) while the carnivore in Ali came out again with his choice of fillet steak topped with bacon and black pudding with a whisky peppercorn sauce (£22.25).

Again, both came on huge white plates and although I thought the presentation was not at its best I could not fault the taste with both packing a punch in their different respective culinary fields.

The only issue was that Ali had asked for his steak rare and it came medium for his taste.

He also got a little surprise in that there was haggis on his plate that was not on the menu. Being a Scotsman this delighted him no end but I imagine most people who are not so keen on this Scottish delicacy might have been a bit put off by it.

My salmon was cooked perfectly though and although the vegetables could have done with a tad more seasoning; they certainly ticked every box I was looking for.

Now for that all important dessert which I would probably eat first if it wasn’t frowned upon.

Still being in Lent I was a tad restricted and as there were only a few options to choose from I decided on the syrup sponge pudding with custard while Ali went for my go-to: the chocolate brownie with ice cream.

Now I don’t know whether it’s because I’m mad about desserts but I must say I was a tad disappointed at our final course.

Both again came on big white plates which I felt was unnecessary – especially as it meant I was chasing custard round it while Ali’s brownie was more of a mushy heap as the ice cream had started to melt and he had problems deciphering between the two.

Neither of us felt our desserts were particularly exciting and call me old-fashioned but a bowl would have done to contain them.

I think while the owners are clearly passionate about food; there seems to be some confusion between delivering good home cooked pub grub and trying to make it gastro.

All-in-all I would say I would not give up on this pub just yet and I’ve seen some very good reviews for their Sunday lunch but I think we will give it a while before we head back.


The Victoria Inn, School Street, Witton-le-Wear, Bishop Auckland, DL14 0AS

Tel: 01388-488058

Open: Monday to Thursday 5pm until 11pm; Friday noon until 11pm and all day Saturday and Sunday.

Food offer: Traditional pub food

Cheap and cheerful: Chef’s homemade soup of the day (£3.95)

Top dollar: Fillet steak topped with bacon and black pudding with a whisky peppercorn sauce (£22.25)

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 7, Surroundings 6, Value 7, Service 7