“ Anick, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 4LN. Tel: 01434 602814 „
I love eating out although can't afford to do so very often. One of my favourite venues has to be the Rat Inn. I have now had the pleasure of dining there on several occasions both at lunch time and in the evening, so thought it was time I shared my experiences in this review!
Where is it?
The Rat is situated in Northumberland about a mile to the north east of the historic market town of Hexham. It is about a 30 minute drive from Newcastle along the A 69.If you are coming from Newcastle then you will need to take the fourth exit from the Hexham roundabout. From Carlisle you need the second exit. The road is signposted for the small hamlet of Anick and is a minor road with plenty of twists and turns. Follow the road until you reach the sign for the Rat on your right.
There is a very small car park to the side of the Inn with further parking possible on the road opposite. There are no designated disabled parking bays.
The Rat is situated high above Hexham and has gorgeous views over both the town and the Tyne valley. There is a garden with tables and chairs so you can sit outside and soak up those views when the weather allows!
Before I tell you about the modern day Rat (as its known locally) let me tell you a bit about its history. The Rat was built in the 1700's and was originally used by drovers on there way to the market in Hexham.
The origins of the unusual name are not clear but there are several theories. One theory is that the inn was used by local rat catchers in the area with another theory stating that the largest known rat was caught here. However I prefer the historical explanation that during the Jacobite rebellions of 1715 and 1745, the Innkeeper was passing information to government spies about local Jacobite activities. As Northumberland was largely sympathetic to the Jacobite cause this seems likely. This earned the Innkeeper the name of the Rat.
Today the Inn still has the original flagstone floors and large black cast iron range in the main bar. The counter is an interesting features and looks more like a large sideboard that a typical pub counter! The walls are covered with local prints and pictures and many are well worth a closer look.
There are lots of local interest books and magazines for you to browse through as well as a copy of Alistair Sawdays best pubs and Inn book, featuring the Rat. Walking through from the bar is an area with comfortable seating.
There is a small conservatory where you can eat. This is by preferred place to eat as its quiet and very private. There are picture windows giving a view of the garden and views beyond. I also like the fact that you can open the windows if things get too hot! I have had many meals spoilt by overheated restaurants and pubs! The only downside of the conservatory is the horrible white plastic replacement windows!
In the evening there is a small dining room. The room has a cosy feel although when its full it can be a bit noisy. The dining room is only open in the evenings as far as I'm aware.
The Rat is well known for its great beer and has 5 local ales on offer, some from the nearby Hexhamshire brewery. However the Rat is probably best known as an eating place and this is why I usually visit!
The dining experience.
I have experienced both lunch and evening meals at the Rat with my latest visit being just a week ago. On that occasion I visited for lunch with a female friend. We were warmly greeted and shown to our pre-booked table in the conservatory. The menu is chalked up on boards in the bar and changed daily. Most of the ingredients are locally sourced with a separate board telling you the names and locations of the different suppliers. There is a board with a list of bar snacks including such things as soup, sandwiches and chips with aioli. Sandwiches are made using local bread and include a delicious steak sandwich that is a meal in itself! I can also recommend the chips, a generous bowl of the best chips I have ever tasted!
There is another blackboard with a list of starters and main courses. There is usually at least one vegetarian option every day. I chose a warm goat's cheese salad worth red onions. The goat's cheese was locally sourced from near Rothbury if you are interested! My friend chose home made pate with red onion marmalade. Our starters arrived fairly quickly and were beautifully presented. My goat's cheese salad consisted of various salad leaves, sweet tomatoes and softened red onions dressed in balsamic vinegar, topped with a generous portion of party melted, warm goat's cheese. The flavours were lovely. The goats cheese wasn't too strong but had a very subtle flavour that I loved. My friend was equally impressed with her starter that came with salad and lots of wholemeal toast. We both ate in partial silence as we were savoring every delicious mouthful!
I chose the vegetarian option of wild mushroom pasta in a creamy sauce for my main course whilst my friend opted for a fish dish of coley with brown shrimps, baby new potatoes and vegetables. My pasta dish was perfectly cooked and the sauce very rich and smooth. The pasta looked good too, with tiny flecks of green herbs adding colour and interest. I was also impressed that all the food was served piping hot just as it should be, something that doesn't always happen in other restaurants I have visited!
My friends large. Plump portion of coley was served sitting on vegetable including new potatoes and small onions. She had been expecting the shrimps to be whole but in fact they had been used to make the sauce. She reported that the dish was delicious and didn't even find any bones in her fish!
We were both too full for any pudding but there is another board listing the daily delights if you can cope! I can highly recommend both the sticky toffee pudding or for something different try the wonderful white chocolate and coconut bread and butter pudding! All puddings are priced at £4.50.
I paid just under £17 for my meal including a cup of freshly made coffee. My friend's meal was slightly more expensive at £23. I think that the food is well priced given that everything is cooked on the premises using high quality ingredients.
There is a good wine list including wines from around £12 a bottle to much more expensive and unusual wines.
This is a small Inn and there is only one ladies toilet accessed down two steep steps. The room is quite small and it is not suitable for anyone using a wheelchair. The room is decorated in an interesting comtempory style with taps that slide to operate! I love the classy black tiles! The toilet has always been spotlessly clean and tidy when I have visited.
The main entrance is to the side and there are steps down into the bar area. Again this would be difficult for anyone finding steps difficult. However there is another entrance to the front of the Inn. Just follow the level garden path round to the front. I am mentioning this because when you arrive it really isn't obvious!
Children are welcome and the owners are happy to provide a smaller portion of anything on the main menu, so much better than so-called children's menus offering poor quality food! There are high chairs available but it is advisable to request one if needed when you book.
The Rat Inn is owned by Phil Mason and Karen Errington who took over the Inn in 2007 having previously run a Michelin starred restaurant in Hexham.The Inn is very popular so booking is always essential especially in the evening and at weekends.
The Rat is open from 12-3pm for lunch and from 6-11pm for evening meals. It is usually closed all day on Mondays with the exception of bank holidays. The Rat has a web site giving precise opening hours and a sample menu. They can be contacted on 01434-602814.
Overall I can highly recommend the Rat. It is a warm, friendly Inn serving great food using local quality produce. I think the food is well priced too. The only real negative I can think of is that it's not very disabled friendly due to the steps at the main entrance and in the ladies toilet.
The Rat Inn was built around 1750 and can be found in the scenic hamlet of Anick, which is approximately 1 mile from the historic market town of Hexham, here in Northumberland.
It is easily reached from the A69 which runs from Newcastle to Carlisle, and I have enjoyed a few meals there since my partner introduced me to it a few years ago.
After leaving the A69 you drive up a hill to reach The Rat Inn, and because of its location, there are stunning views over Hexham and the Tyne Valley. There is a car park and roadside parking available.
A Little History
Just how the Rat Inn came by what is probably one of the oddest names for an Inn in Britain remains shrouded in mystery. The locals have some interesting theories, from it once being a regular meeting place for all the local rat catchers, to a theory that the largest rat ever seen was caught here.
Perhaps the most intriguing tale tells of the then ale keeper who gave information to the crown during the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 45 and thus became known as "the Rat". Historically, Northumberland had a strong network of Jacobite sympathisers who met under cover of games of bowls and horse races at local pubs and alehouses. Government spies were posted across the county to gather information. Who knows, perhaps the Rat Inn was host to some of these meetings!
Whatever it's past, it has been at the very heart of life in Anick as a welcoming local village tavern for over 200 years and has became very popular in Northumberland, with visitors travelling often a fair distance to eat and drink there.
The Rat Inn
From the outside, I would describe The Rat Inn as having a country pub look. There is a lovely beer garden outside with amazing views, and a cosy roaring fire inside, where the country feel of the pub continues with its stone floors, wooden beams and furniture. In the bar area, pots hang from the ceiling and plates sit along the high shelf. It is small, welcoming and cosy, especially in the colder months when the fire is blazing away in the black cast iron range.
There are plenty of tables in the dining area, which also includes a small conservatory which can be booked for private parties, or if you prefer, you can eat in the cosy bar area.
The restaurant seems to have got more popular over the last couple of years following the arrival of new owners, who had previously owned a very successful restaurant in Hexham.
The owners have a commitment to use as many locally sourced ingredients as possible and create dishes to capture both regional and classic British cooking that are in line with the seasons. As well as the menu which offers meals and snacks, there are daily specials written on blackboards.
I have not pre-booked a table on our visits here, but I would advise you do if you fancy visiting here for Sunday lunch, as it gets very busy!
On my recent visit, the menu had a very 'local' flavour to it, with main courses such as Braised beef in Allendale bitter , Tom Stephensons Northumbrian Sausage with bubble and squeak cake, (which I enjoyed very much !) or Roast Northumbrian rib of beef. Other alternatives included Braised Pork with Cider and Leeks, Pan fried Cod, or Bruschetta with balsamic roasted beetroot to name but a few.
The prices of the main courses average between £8 - £11, and the portions are generous, well-presented and taste delicious.
My Northumbrian Sausage with bubble and squeak cake was delicious and came served with onion gravy, costing £8.95. My partner opted for the Pan Fried Cod on our recent visit, and this came with leek mash, smoked bacon and parsley sauce for £11.50. It looked lovely, and my partner thoroughly enjoyed it as it was something a little different to the usual chips and peas you tend to get with Cod in restaurants.
We didn't bother with starters on our last visit but have enjoyed them on previous visits. I can recommend the Cumbrian air dried ham with pickles which is £4.95. Other starters include Rillette of Craster kipper, horseradish and wholemeal toast which is also £4.95, and Cream of celeriac and apple soup for £3.50.
As you can see, the dishes served at The Rat Inn offer something a little different.
I have never had a dessert at The Rat Inn, despite being very tempted by the white chocolate and coconut bread and butter pudding! We have always been too full, but there are some very tempting desserts on offer from Northumbrian Ice Cream to Sticky Toffee Pudding. All are priced at £3.95 - £4.50.
The Sunday lunch menu consists of a choice of three different roasts and also a vegetarian option priced at £7.95. As I said before, it gets very busy on a Sunday so I would say it is essential to book a table or you may be disappointed.
The Rat Inn is also just a nice little cosy pub to drop in for a drink. They have a range of ales available which are rotated regularly, as well as quite a large wine menu. There is a lovely atmosphere in The Rat Inn which makes it an ideal place just to drop in for a drink.
Bar snacks are also served, ranging from a mug of soup to sandwiches, homemade scotch egg, or even hot pork crackling with black pudding and apple sauce. They are all priced from £1.95 - £3.95 and make an ideal lunch option if you don't fancy a main meal.
Tues-Sat between 12-2pm and 6-9pm
Sunday lunch 12-3pm
Bar open every day:
Mon-fri 12-3pm and 6pm-11pm
Sat/Sun bar open all day-12-11pm
No food served Mondays except for Bank Holidays when food is served from 12 midday- 7pm
You don't just have to take my word for it how nice the food served here is, as The Rat Inn is featured in the Good Pub Guide 2008, Good Beer Guide 2008 and also the Michelin Guide to eating out in Pubs 2009.
I have always received a friendly and warm welcome from the owners Phil and Karen, since they took over The Rat Inn. They always seem to go out of their way to greet their customers, who must have got quite a shock one day last year when Rowan Atkinson walked through the door! He had booked the dining room for a family meal and his McLaren F1 car in the car park caused quite a stir!
Overall this is a lovely pub, which serves delicious food, and also offers something a little different to the pub grub you usually find, which in my opinion, makes it worth a visit for that reason alone.
Since the new owners took over, the pub has gone from strength to strength, and still doing well despite the credit crunch. And as it is just 20 mins drive along the A69 from Newcastle, it is one of my favourite places to visit for a meal.
I can highly recommend it!
The Rat Inn
Tel. 01434 602814