On a rare sunny autumnal day we had our first experience of Vallum Farm. I was excited to visit the self proclaimed ‘Foodie gateway to Hadrians Wall’, which has been steadily gaining momentum since David Kennedy was brought in to set up and run the restaurant alongside owners Vicky and Peter Moffitt in 2012.
Set about 20 mins outside Newcastle on the old military road to Edinburgh, Vallum has cleverly become a destination where you can happily spend an afternoon or day. There is a tearoom, icecream parlour, deli, playground, and of course the restaurant and chefs room.
Since Kennedy’s departure last year the head chef baton has been passed to Nick Allen, former sous chef who trained under Kennedy.
We were greeted in the restaurant by the very friendly Darren and Alan, Restaurant Manager and Assistant Manager respectively. They explained that at Vallum they wanted to create an informal, relaxed environment – no airs or graces, just good honest grub. That’s just the way me and the Mr like it, especially with a noisy and messy 10 month old baby!
The first thing you notice upon entering the restaurant is the view. The restaurant and Chef’s Room are cleverly situated on the first floor, affording stunning views across the rolling Northumbrian hills. The restaurant is stylishly rustic and cosy – think lots of exposed wood, oak beams and chalk boards detailing the specials and upcoming events. Hot off the heels of hosting the Universal Cookery & Food Festival aka ‘Glastonbury for chefs’ the week before the guys were buzzing and rightly so.
We were keen to try out some of the food on offer so we quickly studied the menus before settling on the Caramelized goats cheese, squash & lentil salad, heritage carrots for myself and the Mr ordered Chef’s terrine, Vallum Bakery toast, house pickles & chutney. Keen to pacify a hungry baby we also asked for some bread while we waited. They have a lunchtime a la carte menu, which offers 3 courses for a very reasonable £15.75.
A huge bread platter was promptly delivered to our table, with a selection of artisan breads and oils from the in house bakery. Crusty, soft white and wholemeal bloomer were served alongside crunchy walnut bread and croutons. The walnut bread was my particular favourite – thinly sliced, lightly fried and deliciously moreish.
With Little Dude happily munching on a chunk of bloomer we tucked into our starters.
Both were beautifully presented, served on wooden boards and utilising the kitchen gardens. The Mr’s ‘substantial’ terrine was packed full of delicious game, had good flavour and texture and came wrapped in bacon with a nice chutney and more walnut bread.
My goats cheese salad centred on a big slice of said cheese, lightly caramelised and was served on a bed of puy lentils, butternut squash, watercress and carrots (grown in the Vallum kitchen gardens). I would’ve liked to see a few more of the interestingly coloured carrots in there, and perhaps slightly larger chunks of butternut squash but overall I enjoyed it, and ate most of the massive slice of goats cheese!
A quick trip to the baby changing facilities (which were perfect for people with small children!) meant I could have a nosy at the ‘chefs room’ a beautifully snug private dining space – think tartans, more oak and fur.
We returned as our mains were being served, and what a stunning sight they were.
I went for charred loin of Allendale venison from the specials board, which comes pink and was tender and succulent, cooked simply to focus on the quality of the meat. It came with roast potatoes (which LD had most of); celeriac purée, wild mushrooms and rainbow chard. The sautéed chard from their gardens was delicious, and the wild mushroom medley although not home grown is locally sourced and a great mix of fungi.
The Mr had panfried salmon, king scallops, samphire and cauliflower textures also from the specials. In keeping with the rustic theme it was on a different style plate to mine, and didn’t have quite as much wow factor but the taste made up for it. His scallops were lightly marinaded and pan fried to perfection (he let me have one). The salmon fillet was perhaps cooked a tad longer than the Mr would’ve liked but was flavoursome and the piece de resistance was the cauliflower ‘textures’ that accompanied it. They offered a contrast of flavours and delighted the Mr. He had some double dip fries on the side which were cooked in beef dripping and very tasty, not quite as crisp as triple cooked fries but nice, chunky and fluffy on the inside with a delicious coating.
While the Mr was stuffed I still had room for dessert and opted for one of their ‘coppas’ which is basically an Italian ice cream sundae – I went for banoffee.
The vanilla ice cream is made in their very own ice cream parlour and was creamy and moreish. The next layer contained homemade fudge, then banana, salted caramel and peanut crumble and it was topped with cream and cinder toffee.
This was my idea of heaven, and I quickly delved in. It could’ve perhaps lost one of the sweet layers or had slightly less and still been delicious, those with a sweet tooth will be delighted! Luckily I have one so I ate most of it (I didn’t need any dinner that day…!)
After lunch we had a look round the kitchen gardens and indoor ‘marque’ event space – this place really has it all. The gardens were set up by local veg hero Ken Holland and they recently hosted the first meal inside one of the poly tunnels, with marshmallows toasted on the fire pit afterwards. LD had a play in the sun – they have a great little play area and even a football pitch to keep the little ones amused. Plenty of people were making the most of the weather and sitting out on the decking by the tearoom and ice cream parlour. Sadly our time at Vallum was up, we were loathed to leave and tempted to offer to stay and work the gardens in return for bed and board! I get the feeling they would’ve been cool with that.
Pics courtesy of Andy Hudson Photography. Vallum Farm is located on Military Road, East Wallhouses, Newcastle, NE18 0LL.
The Mr and I were provided with a complimentary meal for the purposes of this review. However the opinions expressed in this article are honest and true to experience.