USUALLY when I get warned about a restaurant I stay well clear but when the warning is ‘don’t eat for a day beforehand’ I’m usually straight there.

This was the ‘warning’ of my colleague Dani who recommended I visit The Blue House, in Haswell, County Durham, for my latest Eating Out review.

As soon as I looked it up I realised I had been on many occasions before, usually for Sunday lunch as a child, and soon clicked about the portion sizes being very generous.

Making sure not to eat too much that day, I booked a ‘date’ night with my mam Judith, as my husband Ali – who is usually first in line for a free meal – is stuck in camp in London until Christmas – feel free to join me in the pantomime boos as we prepare for the festive season.

Anyway, the first thing I noticed about the Blue House is that it really is a blue house – just in case you got confused trying to find it.

Situated on the main road just passed Shotton, this pub and restaurant looked inviting from the off.

The entrance is actually ‘round the back’ in the car park but some landscaping and a water feature at the entrance made it feel just that little bit high class.

Stepping inside, I don’t think I could say much had changed in the years since I last visited.

The restaurant was still as I remembered it with dark wooden tables, a small ‘reception’ desk next to the kitchen and some décor in need of a good makeover (unless you particularly like the 90s style of contrasting colours with a border rail round the room).

Nevertheless, we were greeted by a friendly waitress and showed to our table where we happily perused the extensive menu while sipping on our drinks.

It took me a while to decide what to order – nothing has changed there in the three years I’ve been on the team – but I was struck by the range of dishes on offer with everything from your traditional country pub dishes to vegetarian options, curries and stir-fries.

In the end I chose the breaded chicken goujons with BBQ dip to start (£4.50) while my mam went for the dish which equates to my quality test in chocolate fudge cake: the traditional prawn cocktail (£4.75).

When both dishes came I really wished I’d skipped lunch as the portions were as big as mains.

My three goujons were tender and contrasted well with the crispiness of their exterior while the BBQ dip was a perfect accompaniment.

I did have to leave a hunk of a bread roll which was served as an accompaniment though if I was going to stand any chance of getting through to dessert.

Mam’s prawn cocktail was equally as large and I’m happy to say there were plenty of prawns in there amid a rich cocktail sauce. It was also missing the tradition bowl or sundae dish I’ve seen this dish served in before but I don’t think mam was complaining as it saved her chasing it around a separate dish.

Mains were easier to choose. I opted for the 10oz sirloin steak (17.95) – always a good measure of a chef’s competency I feel – while mam chose the house favourite of chicken in white wine cream (£11.95).

Again, plates laden with food were placed before us and I started to wonder about my ever-shrinking dessert space.

My sirloin was perfectly tender and cooked only so slightly more than I would have liked as I asked for medium rare. It also came with the biggest onion rings I have ever seen along with thick chips presented in a separate mini bucket, mushrooms, fried tomato and a separate gravy boat of peppercorn sauce.

I managed to eat the whole steak but felt a bit overwhelmed by the chips and onion rings, especially as the batter on the onion rings was so delicate it hardly stayed in one piece when you cut into it.

Mam, on the other hand, gave her chicken her best shot along with a generous ‘half-and-half’ serving of rice and chips when either could have been a full portion on its own.

Her chicken was smothered in sauce and piled high with the mushrooms and bacon pieces which created a rich and creamy flavour but, despite her best efforts, she was eventually defeated and had to ask for a doggy bag to take home.

Owing to my strategic eating up until this point, I decided I just had to test out the chocolate fudge cake (£3.50) which – as anyone who has ever gotten this far in any of my reviews will know – has become my standard base test of how good a restaurant is to the chocoholic in me.

Unlike the other dishes, I knew I would not be defeated by this one and the light sponge with rich, warm fudge sauce was demolished all too easily with the warm custard which made it look like a little iceberg popping up from underneath the ‘sea’ of it.

I can heartily recommend this restaurant for its food and its great if you want generous portions but I must admit there was a risk of being put off by the sheer volume – and hence wasted food – put in front of me.

I was also slightly disappointed with the lack of atmosphere as I spent half the night staring at a fake wall of books and listening to Smooth FM adverts – something I would expect to find in a café rather than a restaurant.


The Blue House, Haswell, Nr Shotton, County Durham, DH6 2AP

Contact: 0191-5260307 or

Open: Monday to Friday: noon until 2.30pm and 5pm until 9pm; Saturday noon until 9pm; Sunday noon until 5pm.

Cheap and cheerful: Mince and dumpling (£8.50)

Top dollar: 10oz sirloin steak (£17.95)

Food hygiene rating: 5 (Very Good)

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8, Surroundings 5, Value 7, Service 7