the north face outlet Bishop Auckland
When deciding on a meal out, groups must first take virtual tour of the world debating whether they fancy Thai , Japanese, Caribbean, Indian, Greek, Italian or Mexican.
All of these options are delicious in their own way and the choice of venues in the North East is plentiful.
I am still weaning my children, slowly but surely, onto spicier things so having glanced at the menu online I reckoned we would be on safe ground at The Punch Bowl in Satley, not far from Hall Hill Farm, near Lanchester.
We got there about oneish on the Saturday of the August bank Holiday weekend and found a couple of other diners in the smart, charming, rustic dining room.
Deciding the kindest thing to do, given my two, a boy of three and a girl of four are no respecters of ambience, we sat in the bar area, near the toilets prepared for the disproportionate amount of ‘comfort’ breaks needed for a two hour sitting.
We were given a warm and friendly welcome by young woman who ran me through the list of kids’ meals on offer.
The eldest went for a simple fish goujons with chips and peas, but the youngest threw a curve ball; his face contorting with disappointment which became etched with sadness when he realised he wanted the same but could not have sweetcorn instead of peas.
“I don’t think we have any” our host offered as he went into full on toddler meltdown, and I looked for a hole in the ground to swallow me up.
Mercifully, we were the only ones in the bar and the lady returned having conjured up some sweetcorn for his lordship.
Settled with a fizzy apple and OJ for the kids, I enjoyed a Cumberland ale shandy and looked over the menu, which boasts a good range of starters and mains as well as traditional pub meals, fish dishes, vegetarian and grills.
I went for garlic mushrooms in cream and white wine on baguette (3.95) to start with, which came showered in rocket leaves. It was tangy, full of flavour and just right.
At 3.50 each, the kids’ meals consisted of beautiful pieces of white fish in a light batter, cooked gently and not at all overdone.
The chips were of the golden brown home cooked chip pan variety, once a staple in households across the country and now the preserve of gastro pubs where their arrival is greeted with gasps reserved for fine delicacies.
As I was in a traditional sort of mood, I chose the gammon, (8.50) which turned out to be the biggest I have ever seen.
It must have been about an inch thick and was nothing like the wafer thin supermarket steaks.
It was served with those great chips, a runny egg and baked tomato.
There was a thick rind on it, which had to be left, but did give it flavour, and I would have preferred the pineapple grilled, but other than that it was a really enjoyable meal.
To round things off we ordered a bowl of ice cream each for the children (2 for strawberry, chocolate or vanilla) while I went for the delicious and indulgent chocolate chip cookie ice cream cake. (3.95)