WORD of mouth is one of the most important things for the food industry and sometimes a restaurant can live or die by it.

For my latest Eating Out review then I did what I normally do and asked my colleagues if they had discovered anywhere they thought was worthy.

My colleague Stacey recommended The Bowes Incline, in Chester-le-Street as a venue she’s recently visited for Sunday dinner and as it was my birthday coming up I decided to take my mam as a treat after work.

I managed to pop in a half day as it actually was my 27th birthday and we headed up from Bishop Auckland for an early tea.

That was when we eventually found it as it is hidden down a lane just off the A1.

On first inspection it had that lovely old rustic country look from the outside with hanging flower baskets and the dark wood exterior.

And it was the same coming in as we were surprised at how large it was inside with an entrance and grand bar taking centre stage.

Considering how empty the place was, there was a bit of a queue to order at the bar and I sent my mam to find a seat while I ordered our two diet cokes (no fizz for us unfortunately as we were both driving).

We sat down at a large wooden table next to the window in an attempt to get some light and started to peruse the menu from a giant blackboard on the wall. I can imagine this might be a more difficult task during busier periods as you had to crank your neck to read the different dishes.

For starters, I chose the baked camembert (£6.65) while my mam went for the barbecue breaded chicken strips (£5.95).

We ordered our starters and mains at the same time at the bar and while I was there I enquired as to why the coke was so flat. I was informed it was always like that and only a handful of people ever complained which I wasn’t sure if this was a good or bad comment to make as it basically gave me the impression everyone else is either happy with flat beverages or the owners think it’s fine to offer people it if they can get away with it.

That said, I was offered bottled coke for the same price and returned to my seat to wait for the food.

Stacey had warned me that the portions were on the big side which I thought I had considered by not eating much earlier in the day but I can honestly say I was quite shocked when both starters were brought out.

I was literally served a whole baked camembert, accompanied with a ciabatta and slices of apple which, while gooey and satisfying as warm cheese always is; felt a bit wasteful when I ran out of bread and fruit to dip in it.

My mam’s starter, on the other hand, was probably the best dish of the night, as the chicken was tender and drizzled in the barbecue sauce while it also came with a creamy sauce which gave it a bit of a kick and a side salad to cool the taste buds down again.

Following starters, I was a little worried about the size of the main but thought I would be safe as I’d only ordered the 8oz beef burger with bacon and cheddar and a side of onion rings (£10.85) while my mam went for the pan roasted duck breast with pepper sauce (£15.20).

Again, both came out in huge portions and although the homemade chips and a well-cooked burger smothered in cheese would normally tick all my boxes; if I’m honest the portion size was so overwhelming it actually put me off as I felt like I’d been eating for ages but still not made a dint in the dish.

My mam’s was a tad smaller and the duck beautifully cooked, leaving it pink in the middle spread on a bed of mash and accompanied by seasonal vegetables but then again, there was so much mash potato that she struggled to finish.

For my part, I was embarrassed when the waitress came to take our plates away and felt like saying ‘I tried my best honestly’.

Anyway, at least I’d kept my precious dessert space clear as that is always my bar which I tend to judge by.

In true chocoholic style I went for the chocolate brownie while my mam chose the knickerbocker glory – a dessert that seems to stand the test of time (both £4.80).

And in true sweet tooth style, this was the most enjoyable course for us both as both desserts came out in sundae glasses and looked inviting.

My brownie was tantalisingly warm under a scoop of vanilla ice cream while my mam tucked into her colourful knickerbocker glory so quick I didn’t have chance to take a picture.

No surprise then that these were the only courses where both plates were taken away completely clean and to be honest I’m not sure where the dessert went as I was sure I had been overwhelmed with my main.

On the whole then, I would say this restaurant is definitely worth a visit – especially if you’ve starved yourself for a few days – and the bill wasn’t too bad either considering what we had.

FOOD FACTS

5 Northside, Birtley, Chester-le-Street, DH3 1RD

Tel: 0191-410-2233

Open: Noon til 9.30pm Monday to Saturday and noon until 9pm on Sundays

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