In search of a good Sunday lunch, my sister and I booked into The Tuns at Sadberge, near Darlington, not knowing what to expect, seeing as it has recently changed hands and only reopened following refurbishment at the end of July.
It was sold to its current owners earlier this year by Ross Serino, who bought the derelict venue more than eight years ago and turned it into a thriving business. We had never visited under Mr Serino’s ownership so this was not a compare and contrast exercise, just an opportunity to see how The Tuns was faring a few weeks on from throwing open its doors once more.
We were greeted cheerily by the staff, sharing a joke about the clattering door which announces the arrival and departure of every customer, and shown to our table just across from the bar.
The decor was not what I expected from the traditional exterior, with lots of muted greys, pale pinks and enormous mirrors giving off a vibe that was more urban than country pub.
We felt the music playing (some sort of piano-based lounge-type stuff) was a little on the loud side for relaxed Sunday afternoon dining, but to be fair it did fit well with the overall atmosphere.
The Sunday lunch menu offered one course for £13.95, two for £16.95 or three for £19.95, with a good selection of mains including pork, beef, chicken and lamb roasts, beetroot and butternut squash wellington or pan fried salmon (for an extra £4).
For starters, I went for the soup of the day (spicy tomato), which was almost a full meal by itself. I didn’t find it particularly spicy, but it was thick, hearty and entirely delicious. The bread on the side, warmed slices of crusty baguette, went down a treat.
Claire chose the calamari fritti, which came with delicately flavoured aioli that complimented, rather than overpowered, the lightly battered squid rings.
The main courses – lamb for me and pork for Claire – were well presented, with the honey roasted parsnips and carrots built into an interesting construction using mashed potato as a foundation.
Both meats were juicy and flavoursome, the roast potatoes were nicely crispy, and the mash creamy. The green veg was fresh and perfectly cooked – no sign of sogginess – while the Yorkshire puddings were both enormous (big tick) and light, not the dense, claggy creations some places serve up.
Gravy proportions were initially promising, but we did have to request extra two thirds of the way through and were brought a huge jug that even we couldn’t finish off. We did also have to separately request sauces, and some salt, which was the only slight niggle of what was overall a really good meal – an issue easily solved with a bit more consistency of service.
Dessert options included apple strudel and custard, white chocolate creme brulee, and in a nice touch, it being the day before the Queen’s state funeral, a traditional English trifle in tribute to the late monarch.
Sadly we were too full to partake, but the table next door were not, and their creme brulee and sticky toffee pudding looked delicious and again, generously portioned.
Our bill, with a glass of wine, half a lager and two soft drinks, came to just over £49 – decent value for a good quality Sunday lunch with the warmest of welcomes. Less than two months into its new incarnation, The Tuns certainly is showing plenty of promise.
Hillhouse Lane, Sadberge, Darlington, DL2 1RU
Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 8 Service 7 Surroundings 8 Value 8