business lunches, barluga morpeth
Richard Holmes takes a table at one of Morpeth’s newest eateries
The Fluid Group has been quietly and confidently raising the bar in the regionâ€™s hospitality industry over the last decade. The Newcastle-based company, headquarted over its â€˜self titledâ€™ pub on Gallowgate, combines design flair with an operational nous thatâ€™s brought Â great success with venues such as Grey Streetâ€™s Barluga gastrobar and the Central Bean chain of coffee houses.
Last year, the firm opened Barluga Morpeth, a sister venue to its Newcastle site. Found in the stylish Sanderson Arcade, itâ€™s a 120 cover, beautifully designed space that on first impressions, is certainly a worthy addition to the Group.
And Barluga Morpeth seems to be a hit with locals, as on our Friday lunchtime visit, the place was buzzing with families, couples and business folk.
The interior is a sight to behold: huge cabinets are stacked with jars of colourful herbs and spices, wines and champagnes, an ode to bouillabaisse reaches up on a giant pillar from the ground to mezzanine floor, clock faces showing the time in Edinburgh, Bruges and Seattle are projected on to a wall space. Even the old fashioned light bulbs demand attention.
Like its sister venue further south, Barluga Morpethâ€™s menu is diverse and intriguing (the clock faces hint at its multi-national nature).
You can indulge in taster plates (Â£8.95 for a small plate, Â£15.95 to go large) such as the New Yorker (chefâ€™s homemade meatloaf, salami, dill pickle, coleslaw, roast turkey breast, sun dried tomatoes, olives and bread) or take a world tour with the main menu, where youâ€™ll find the likes of moroccan vegetable tagine, lightly spiced quinoa and harissa yoghurt (Â£11.95), mussels classic, thai, or spanish chorizo served with thick home cut chips, or classic french fries (Â£7.45) and the Barluga 8oz Aberdeen Angus burger, served with thick home cut chips, or classic french fries (Â£9.45).
I ordered from the seasonal menu, where the likes of smoked chicken with chicory, walnut and blue cheese salad (Â£5.95) for starter and slow cooked Ingram Valley lamb, wild garlic, served with bubble and squeak (Â£14.95) were on offer.
My starter of pork and truffle sausage roll, with brown sauce and endive salad (Â£3.95) was slightly disappointing, but only because the tangy sauce proved overwhelming. Perhaps a smaller drizzle or separate pot of sauce would have worked better.
However, my main course was truly sensational, a wonderfully fragrant dish of market fish (on our visit, haddock) with crayfish and herb butter, served with aura potatoes (Â£9.95).
Superbly cooked, it served up a wonderful medley of flavours, and the fish was obviously of a high quality.
My companion, who opted for the main menu, was absolutely delighted with his choices: a starter of sesame and soy cured salmon, coriander crÃ¨me fraiche and dill croutons Â (Â£6.75) and pan fried north sea cod, with soft herb crust, tomato fondue, silver skin onions and olive oil crushed heritage potatoes (Â£13.50), which I must admit, had also caught my eye.
Sticking with the seasonal menu, I concluded my meal with a delicious, homely carrot cake served with a generous dollop of orange mascarpone (Â£4.50) while my colleague couldnâ€™t stop himself indulging in the dark chocolate and cherry tart, with mascarpone (Â£5.95) and then singing its praises to our waitress.
Service was friendly, efficient and quick throughout â€“ despite the large influx of diners â€“ and the venue was a pleasure to dine in.
Though Morpethâ€™s centre may have taken a hit from its recent roadwork problems, this didn’t seem to have affected Barluga, which has given the attractive market town a further boost. And itâ€™s proof once again that The Fluid Group sets new standards, rather than simply going with the flow.
Barluga Morpeth is at Unit 3D, Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth, NE61 1NS. Tel: (01670) 505000 or visit www.barluga.co.uk
Wed, 4 Apr 2012 16:15:13 GMT (updated: Wed, 4 Apr 2012 16:20:07 GMT)