Ahead of my visit to St Mary’s Inn at the weekend, I knew two things. The first, they apparently do a lovely Sunday dinner, and secondly, it’s a converted hospital turned pub that’s currently being built around by a new housing estate. I was invited to try their rustic afternoon tea, so on Saturday afternoon I took my mum along with me to see what it was like.
It took us about twenty minutes to drive up there, which was mostly spent with Viv telling me how she had been before last year, when her and my dad stopped off for something to eat after a day trip up to Alnwick.
Disclaimer: We were invited by St Mary’s Inn for complimentary afternoon tea, all opinions are my own.
It was really easy to find, more Stannington than Morpeth, and on driving into the car park I realised it wasn’t the ‘random pub in the middle of a housing estate’ that I’d wrongly assumed. I’d kind of imagined a characterless pub in the middle of a building site, but that’s not at all what it was like.
It is a proper pub, and walking up to the big wooden bar, finding lots of rooms, old brick walls and quiet corners to enjoy food and a drink I can safely say it does have that British pub character that people enjoy. There’s even country styled rooms above too, and a conservatory at the back.
We were shown through to our table, a big booth to ourselves which was laid out for afternoon tea and the menu for us to choose our options. We were offered tea or coffee for while we decided, and both went for tea. It was served in our own tea pots, complete with cute little cosies to match.
Rather than finger sandwiches, instead you choose from one of three fillings, and you get a big bloomer filled with your choice. I went for cheese savoury and iceberg lettuce, and Viv went for ham and pease pudding with mustard. Other options included smoked salmon with pickled cucumber and cream cheese, or crushed avocado with onion, tomato and rocket.
Then you choose which savoury option to go for, mince and onion or warm cheese and onion quiche. Scones are either fruit with jam and clotted cream, or cheese with butter, and sweet is carrot cake with cream cheese icing or warm chocolate brownie.
So obviously the main difference here compared to most afternoon tea experiences I’ve had is you choose one of each, rather than getting a selection, but what you do get is a really generous portion. My sandwich was so good, but I had to leave the second half or I’d have made my usual mistake of filling up too fast.
I’m glad I did because the minced beef and onion pie, which was heated up was my favourite bit, it was so good. The fruit scone was also warmed up, and tasted delicious with big dollops of jam and cream. No guilt here. Despite trying my best I was still way too full to eat the brownie I chose there and then, so had to take it away boxed up.
We both really enjoyed the food, it was good quality and I actually really liked just choosing one of each rather than trying to sample lots of different things and mixing up flavours that don’t really go together. The service was also great, with friendly staff that didn’t try to rush us through.
The only comment I would make is we weren’t offered a top up of tea or hot water, which I usually find you get when that’s your only drink of the meal. You can also get prosecco, for a small additional cost.
We had a lovely afternoon, and it was a nice change to spend time with Viv somewhere a bit different. There were plenty of tables, despite a lot of the restaurant and bar area being full – it’s obviously popular for both sections, and there were private rooms available for private parties, as well as bigger tables for big parties too. There were one or two in and they didn’t impact on our experience at all, despite there being quite a few kids!
I had a brief look outside before we left, and there are tables and umbrellas out there too, which would be really nice in the summer. I think I’d like to return to try the Sunday dinner sometime too, I bet it gets packed.
If you’re interested in visiting for the rustic afternoon tea yourself, take a look at their site here where you can book online. It’s £15 per person usually, which I’d say is really reasonable considering the quality and amount you get, and £20 if you add prosecco.
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