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The Black Bull, Etal
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The Black Bull ,
TD12 4TL
01890 820200

There are some restaurants I wouldn’t travel 5 minutes for but when Chef Stefano  Stevanin invited Bite to visit the only thatched pub in Northumbria to taste his menu we promptly set off on the 1.5 hr drive from Edinburgh.   

Etal delighted us. It's a chocolate box village ten miles south-west of Berwick on Tweed, with a post office, The Lavender Tea Rooms, thatched cottages, English heritage castle and the River Till. An idyllic setting for The Black Bull.

Stefano is Sardinian and known by Mrs Bite for cheeses and charcuterie imported from his home island. Nonetheless, we expected standard pub fare so were immediately intrigued and excited when the menu revealed Stefano’s Sardinian stamp. 

To be authentic, some ingredients (saffron, honey) and some kitchen gadgets (brass pasta machine from Venezia) are used, but Stefano also cooks dishes made with ingredients incurring zero food miles. Take bread. 

Canapés come on Su Zichi a type of ancient wheat bread from the North of the island, and Mr Bite’s plate of pecorino, ricotta, cured pork and lamb has sheets of snappy 'pan carasau’. But chunky Peelham sausage with rosemary is served on bread Stefano has made himself with flour from the nearby Heatherslaw mill and Black Bull signature beer made by the Cheviot Brewery from a recipe he and his colleague provided.  

Sips of said beer immediately elicit oohs from me and Mr Bite. It’s a red amber colour with an ultra smooth crema and is fruity and hoppy with caramel, toffee and vanilla undertones. Very impressive.  Fish and saffron are key ingredients in both my starter and main course. Scallops have a lemongrass and saffron sauce, and next, moist oven-baked monkfish is seasoned with samphire, drizzled with a langoustine sauce and sits on a bed of crocus yellow risotto made with carnoli rice.

Mr Bite follows his charcuterie plate with corn-fed chicken, which is every bit as moist as my fish. We finish our meal by sharing 'Seadas' a dessert tipico from Sardinia where fresh young pecorino is stuffed inside a semolina raviolo which is then fried and drenched in honey and citrus. 

Stefano studied at Alma, the international school of Italian cuisine, whose rector was the famous Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi.  Now Stefano is an unofficial ambassador for Sardinian cuisine based in the sleepy village of Etal. (S. Wilson) 

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