Fox & Tree, Dalton-le-Dale, Seaham

It must have been around Autumn 1967, I was 15, and I bought my first pint of beer in a pub, yep, I was too young, and I don’t suppose I looked any older than I was either so God knows why they served me. It cost 11d, that’s old money by the way, the modern-day equivalent is just under 5p. I bring this up because my first pint was in a pub called the Times Inn, Dalton-le-Dale, it’s now called the Fox & Tree.

Over the intervening years I have had further pints in the Times Inn, albeit not that many, but I occasionally found myself in there with a family member or three on the odd occasion when I was home for Christmas. Then when I moved back to the region 2 years ago it had closed down and was looking very sorry for itself.

Recently I noticed it had re-opened and my sister and her partner had been for Sunday Lunch, they said it was quite good so I made a mental note to give it a go but didn’t really expect much from it if I’m honest.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that we popped in last week, on a Thursday night. I booked in advance via their web site just to be safe as I had noticed a few Sundays prior that there were a lot of cars parked around there so assumed it was doing okay.

Back in the day it used to be very much just a pub, but they all were back in the 60’s of course, then as the 80’s and 90’s came it started serving food but I never ate there, now it is much more a restaurant and less of a pub as all the tables were set for dining.

Sad to say it was very very quiet, ourselves (2), a table of 2 with a little girl and a further table of 3 and that was it. Happy to say someone there can cook! I also have to say how pleased I was to find a local pub where there is a chef that can cook, I’m cock-a-hoop about that! 

I started with the Chicken Liver Parfait as it’s always a great indicator of kitchen quality and it wasn’t bad, giving me hope for what was to come. My wife didn’t have a starter but asked for bread. As seems to be the case in almost every restaurant we visit these days a charge is now made for bread and butter. In my day bread was always included, and to my mind should still be! Mind you if the bread is good and homemade then there is an argument for charging. The bread was good and I think, homemade too. 

I ordered the Tronçhon of Halibut on Hispi Cabbage with Mushrooms, from the blackboard menu. the fish was cooked nicely if a little over done but not so that it detracted from it. While the dish was good it would stand a bit of refining. My wife chose the Belly Pork, again good but too big a portion for her. Its skin could/should have been a bit crisper though as it was very chewy in places. I then followed with a Warm Orange Financier served with Chocolate Mouse and it was superb. Jane chose the Cherry Tart and it too was very nice although could have done with a few more cherries!

There were a couple of downsides, firstly the wine list, there isn’t one, not to speak of anyway, the choice was both poor and almost non-existent. The other, front of house staff need some training, improve their skills and the place will run better, oh and one other thing, a spoon and fork should always be served with a dessert not just a spoon, especially when eating off a plate, it is not so necessary when the dessert is served in a bowl though.

The walls are covered in arty photographs and real artwork, believe it or not one wall was covered in work all by my niece! All for sale by the way!

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