Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Community Spirit Is the Key for Pub with a Twist; the Duke of Wellington Inn Is One of the Sponsors of This Year's Journal Taste of the County on May 27. JANE HALL Finds out Why Local Food Is Top of the Menu at the Acclaimed Tyne Valley Gastro Pub

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Community Spirit Is the Key for Pub with a Twist; the Duke of Wellington Inn Is One of the Sponsors of This Year's Journal Taste of the County on May 27. JANE HALL Finds out Why Local Food Is Top of the Menu at the Acclaimed Tyne Valley Gastro Pub

Article excerpt

IT'S exactly three years this month since The Duke of Wellington Inn, standing proud on a hill overlooking the Tyne Valley, re-opened after a refit.

The old country inn just off the A69 at Newton had been closed for two years while owners Rob Harris and stepson Semore Kurdi (who also runs the Angel at Corbridge and the Bay Horse at Stamfordham) turned what had been a no-nonsense village pub into a smart destination restaurant-cum-boutique hotel.

It was a bold move. Rob and Semore had no experience of the hospitality industry when they bought The Duke of Welly, as it is affectionately known, in 2008, and decided to dramatically transform its ailing fortunes.

Like many rural watering holes slightly off the beaten track, custom was dwindling and it was in danger of becoming a historical postscript.

Rob decided it needed saving. His reason was simple: "I live in the village and it's the village pub. I drank there and I didn't want Newton to lose it."

To survive, however, drastic changes were needed. Spectacular views across the countryside is a natural selling point, but patrons expect their pint and pie to come with more than that these days.

So the place was gutted and, in keeping with its inn heritage, seven luxury bedrooms were installed.

The new-look venue opened for business in May 2010.

Throwing money at a venture like this is no guarantee of success, yet three years on and The Duke of Wellington Inn is thriving.

Last month it was awarded a coveted five-star Visit England grading, the only North East inn to enjoy such a high rating.

It also appears in Michelin's influential Eating Out In Pubs Guide 2013.

The high quality of the food on the predominantly British-inspired menu has played a huge part in its triumphs.

Locally sourced, seasonal and traditional dishes such as lamb shank, pork belly, rump and rib-eye steaks and black pudding are just some of the gems designed to whet diners' appetites alongside old-fashioned desserts like sticky toffee pudding, pear and almond tart, rhubarb crumble and local cheeses.

The bar stocks cask ales from Wylam, Allendale, Matfen and Hadrian Border Brewery.

It's fair to say that The Duke of Wellington Inn's star rose substantially when MasterChef: The Professionals finalist John Calton joined the kitchen team (he left for pastures new in 2011).

But the inn has managed to keep the plaudits coming.

Hungarian chef Gabor Pusztai - who last night was named North East Chef of the Year at a gala event in Newcastle - has worked at Copenhagen's famous two Michelin-star Noma restaurant and has been in charge here since December.

He changes the lunch menu every couple of days and has taken the 'local' food ethos to a whole new level, often foraging in the nearby woods and fields for the freshest, in-season ingredients. …

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