‘Sometimes you come across something so special you don’t want the experience to end.’ Situated in the beautiful forestry of Whickham, The Woodmans Arms has all the attributes to be one of the best bar and restaurants in the North East. Their story states,
‘At the top of the hill, hidden amongst the trees. Don’t drive too quick or you’ll miss us! More than just venue, a destination worth travelling to, real people, real food, made with love of course!’
Therefore, on Thursday 6th September up the hill and through the trees (not literally) we drove and we had made it. On arrival, it was impossible not to be excited by the sense of enticement. The beautiful creative outdoor area is a stylish, unique space. Lit up like Christmas, wheels on the wall, pretty flowers across the garden bed and a large wooden seated area; it was a joy to behold. As you walk in, you can feel its salubrious class. The interior in the restaurant itself is refined with elegant seating areas and a warming wood burning fireplace. Rose, our incredible and inviting host, sat us by one of the stunning windows that offered enchanting views of the forest – we couldn’t have asked for a better table especially as restaurant was packed. We hadn’t even had any food yet and we were already captivated by The Woodmans Arms charm. It was time to begin…
To drink, although there were plenty of options on offer, we were in two minds whether to go with a Shiraz or a Merlot red wine. We tried both and decided on the Inkosi Shiraz at £16.95. It was a rich, plummy South African wine with hints of smoky black pepper and lush, dark fruit.
The Woodmans Arms have an excellent selection of food available. Their food menu consists of a fabulous array of appetisers, light plates, vegan options, mains, log fire pizzas, from the grill, desserts and a children’s menu. The best part was the menu had so many options that clearly stated if they were gluten free or could be made gluten free (including pizza). I was in my element. In a good way, we literally had so much to choose from it took us a while to decide. To start, we finally went for Asparagus and Pea Risotto at £6.50 and King Prawns, pan fried with garlic and chilli served with vegetable stir-fry and chilli jam at £7.25. Both starters were huge portions. The risotto in particular could definitely pass as a main – from my initial thoughts it was fair to say Oliver wouldn’t need to ask for some more. However this was all before I had tasted it. The thick, creamy risotto was an awesome bowl of food. Shamefully, I didn’t leave a grain of rice – it was spectacular. Call me Oliver, I’m asking for more. My colleague enjoyed her prawn starter too – although it had a spicy kick it refreshed the palate. A great introduction. If it was a film, it would’ve been one of those where the opening credits had you gripped from the start and already had you thinking about what was going to happen next… We’ve had a reference to Oliver; let’s have a reference to Oscar… The Woodmans Arms were going for gold!
For our mains, Rose again was lively yet informal and recommended we go with 8oz Fillet Steak, the tenderest steak of them all at £20.95 and Seared Tuna Steak at £14.95. My rare steak was served with Thrice Cooked Chips, Grilled Tomato, and Onion Rings. Yes, I finally had a steak with gluten free onion rings! Result! Succulent and tender and all of its natural flavour bursting out; the steak was outstanding! Washed down with a swig of red, I was in my glory. My colleague’s tuna steak looked divine served pink with a Niscoise Salad, Green Beans, Tomatoes, Potatoes and Hard Boiled Egg – no words were required; I could see her smiling through her eyes…
Even though our brains at this point were relaying gluttonous innuendoes to our stomachs, once Rose revealed that Homemade Sticky Toffee Pudding served with Vanilla Ice Cream was on the menu and it was GLUTEN FREE (let me tell you that again GLUTEN FREE STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING) we had to have dessert. I can safely state I had never been so eager to try a dessert. Finally, it was the moment we’d both been waiting for – the pièce de résistance; our sticky toffee pudding had arrived and I was in decadent heaven. As sticky as can be, a slab of indulgent pudding topped with a shiny, orange cape gooseberry still attached to its papery golden husk like a Chinese lantern ready to be set free, accompanied by a vanilla ice cream orb and lashings of toffee sauce to fill up the bowl like a moat protecting its castle. As soon as the combinations of sweet, dripping textures entered my mouth, it was like my endorphins had a rendezvous with my palate for a pow wow. Sometimes you come across something so special you don’t want the experience to end. It’s been too long since I had a dessert so rewarding – it was worth the trip alone. My mouth’s salivating now reminiscing on it. It was a spectacular finale and great way to end a romantic evening.
The Woodmans Arms surpassed all my expectations and delivered more: a unique tranquil setting, amazing quality food options for the whole family including some of the best gluten free food I’ve ever tasted, a wonderful relaxed atmosphere and a personal service too.
I cannot fault The Woodmans Arms – everything about them was golden. I’ll certainly be back in the near future. Just go and be prepared to be wowed.