The Crown and Anchor, Lindisfarne.
If you find yourself on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, The Crown and Anchor pub is everything you want from a hostelry. The bleak Northumbrian coastline is punctuated with castles full of brutal history and you naturally seek somewhere to warm the cockles. The solidity of this pub’s name is underlined by the provision of traditional local cask ale on tap, a real fire and functional drinking space. Things only get fancier in the backroom dining area. You can tell a lot from a good chalkboard menu I say to the barman as Mr Bite, in the background, bumps our bags upstairs to our room. We are staying for one night only as part of a mini pre-Christmas road trip in the North of England peppered with Lateral Flow Tests. The barman tells me the “chef is on fire”! Thankfully he is referring to her cooking prowess which becomes evident at dinner when Mr Bite bigamously enquires as to her marital status. The prompt is a Pastrami Burger with Emmental and crispy onions. “Has she had a proposal?” he asks as he polishes off the beef with an enthusiastic mopping up of juices from his plate. I had enjoyed Duck with creamed potatoes, roasted veg and a fruity, sticky port and plum jus. A seasonal, well-executed dish. Two solid main courses are book-ended by starters and desserts which also squeeze the best from seasonal produce with imaginative, competent cooking. When I looked at that chalkboard, I knew the starter of Breaded Blue Cheese with tomato chutney and crispy kale was a winner. Sweet stewed fruits are a foil to the tangy, salty balls of melty cheese while earthy sizzled leaves slightly ground these intense flavours. Mr B chooses Hot Smoked Salmon Tart with lemon crème fraiche and dill. A warmed Pecan Tartlet for my dessert also features late orchard fruits of stewed plums and cherry ice cream. Nuts and berries will have been staples on this island for centuries. I visited in the summer once and jam was being sold on the roadside. Chocolate Souffle with creme fraiche ice cream and pouring salted caramel sauce is enjoyed across the table. Lindisfarne is a small island reached by a causeway so you have to check the tides for safe arrival and departure. Everything is within a short stroll; the castle and priory with its statues of Saint Aiden and Cuthbert, the lighthouses and harbour where upturned boats are used as huts. Mead (a fortified wine made with honey and herbs) can be bought at the visitor centre. The word ‘honeymoon’ comes from a Nordic/Viking tradition where newly married couples drink Mead at the full moon. Lindisfarne is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a good place for a short gastronomic jaunt.