ONE of the joys of being reviewing restaurants is the vastness of different types of food you can try.

The other great thing is discovering brilliant little places that you never thought were there.

And that’s exactly what happened with my latest review at The Red Alligator, in Bishop Auckland.

Situated just off the Bishop Auckland bypass, in South Church, I have driven passed this country-style pub many times.

But it was only on the recommendation of my lovely colleague Lizzie that I decided to see what it had to offer so I thought a little dinner catch up with my mam was in order.

I must admit from the outside it doesn’t have much kerb appeal but once I walked through the doors there was an instant warmth in the atmosphere.

A few regulars were sitting at the bar chatting to a gentleman behind it while a young waitress showed us to our table.

So far so good.

The only comment I will make at this point as I perused through the varied menu was actually how uncomfortable my seat was – it was one of those wooden ones with bars up the sides. Totally fine if you’re a size 10 but my UK-average derriere did not find it so comfortable.

This aside – and a chair swap later ¬- we happily made our choices and what choice there was.

For starters my mam went for the prawn cocktail while I chose the fishcake (both £3.95).

My mam’s prawn cocktail came presented in a dessert dish with the generous amount of prawns smothered in the sauce and on a bed of crispy lettuce.

It was also accompanied by a bread roll and butter on the side which made it very filling.

My fishcake was a bit of an ugly duckling in comparison but as soon as I cut into it the tender fish with a mixture of haddock, salmon and crab oozed out satisfied my taste buds while the bed of lettuce and balsamic vinegar complimented it beautifully.

For mains I chose the corned beef pie (£6.50) as I always have a soft spot for it having made it with my grandad from a young age.

My mam on the other hand went for the Scottish salmon with a parmesan and parsley crust, white wine and parsley sauce served over crushed new potatoes, from the specials board (8.25).

Both were beautifully presented and the large portion sizes did not disappoint.

My pie had a well-made pastry shell which contrasted with the softness of the corned beef centre which went down far too easily.

This, along with the handmade chips and gravy was everything I could hope for in a good, wholesome, meal.

My mam’s salmon was also tender and flaked away with each bite which the sauce and bed of potatoes gave all the right elements to complement each other.

Now for dessert. That one word that is never refused if I can help it. I have often referred to my dessert space and that evening was no different in keeping it for the most important course.

The kind waitress brought over the little blackboard with choices on front and back and it took me all of about three seconds to decide on the hot chocolate fudge cake (£3.95).

My eyes lit up as the fudge cake came out, the warm sauce oozing from each layer of cake and gooey in texture. It was also complimented with some vanilla ice cream in a small pot next to it. I don’t think it necessarily needed the pot as it was a bit fiddly to get out but I happily mopped it all up anyway.

My mam on the other hand went for the toffee apple crumble (£3.95). It came in a little square dish with a boat of custard on the side ready to dribble over.

You could see where the toffee had soaked through the middle and combined with the sharpness of the apple and crumble on top, again all the right boxes were getting ticked for a dessert that satisfies the sweet tooth.

It’s safe to say by this point I was bursting at the seams and just looking at the choice on the menu I will definitely be going back.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the bill as it was much cheaper than I was expecting.

All-in-all if you’re looking for good pub grub with a friendly and relaxed atmosphere then go find this hidden gem!

FOOD FACTS

The Red Alligator, Auckland Road, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, DH14 6SP

Contact: 01388-605644

Open: Open Monday to Friday: noon to 2.30pm and again from 5pm until 11pm, Saturday and Sunday: noon to 11pm.

Food offer: Traditional pub food.

Cheap and cheerful: Soup of the day (£2.45)

Top dollar: Surf and turf (£11.95)

Specials: Steak night every Tuesday with two steaks and all the trimmings and two complimentary glasses of house wine (£13.95)

Scores on the doors (food hygiene rating): 5 (Very Good)

Ratings (out of ten): Food 8, Surroundings 8, Value 8, Service 9