St Mary's Inn can be a little tricky to find, but if you drive through the newly-built Stannington Park estate you cannot miss the beautiful red-brick building which stands on the site of St Mary's Hospital.
We were immediately struck with how friendly and welcome we were made to feel. We sat in the bar area and ordered drinks while we waited for a table in the main restaurant. The bar was warm and cosy with real fires, real ales and a very tempting bar snack menu which we have already decided we are going to return and sample at the next available opportunity. Dogs lay happily at their owners' feet and the laid back atmosphere meant that everyone was chatting and making new friends.
Our children were given a colouring sheet which has been especially designed for the inn and some crayons which was a nice little touch. We all enjoyed designing our very own St Mary's Inn (I am partial to a spot of colouring).
Before long our table was ready and we wondered through the restaurant peering around all of the nooks and crannies - there are so many cosy corners, booths and areas to discover. The style is smart throughout and the walls are decorated with pictures which nod to the area's heritage. It is not often I walk around a dining room admiring their art work but it almost feels like you are sitting in a gallery and I couldn't help walking around and admiring the paintings.
The children's menu is extremely good value - all main courses are £5. The boys decided on fish and chips (their favourite) whereas Heidi opted for homemade tomato soup with toasted cheese sandwiches. This dish was a real winner and just perfect to warm her through after spending the morning outdoors.
Myself and Steve really struggled when deciding what to order - everything on the menu sounds so tempting! There are a selection of fresh sandwiches available from £5.50 but as we hadn't eaten all day we were after something more substantial. I opted for Welsh Rarebit (£5) to start and Steve ordered Foraged mushrooms and poached egg on toast (£7.95) and we were not disappointed. Our server asked if we would like our children's meals brought out with our starters which is something I wish all places would implement as it makes for a much less stressful and relaxing experience.
Our starters were faultless and we would highly recommend both dishes.
Steve ordered Chicken, leek and tarragon pie (£9.50) for his main course and I decided to try Maple Glazed Pork Collar with St Mary's Ale Mustard and Mash Potato (£15.50). This was a cut of meat I hadn't tried before and it's always nice to see more unusual cuts on a menu. We also ordered a side of Bone Marrow and Parsley chips - again we have never seen these on a menu before and we were intrigued to give them a go.
St Mary's Inn take great pride in sourcing only the best, local ingredients for their dishes and it really shows. They grow some of their vegetables on site and take deliveries of organic vegetables from local farmer Ken Holland. Their game is from Northumberland and their seafood is from local fishmonger Robert Latimer's fishermen. Our food was generous and full of flavour - it feels weird to say the star of the show for me was my mash potato but I can honestly say I have never had potato like this, it was so smooth, creamy and really perfect for a chilly Winter's day.
After two substantial courses we felt we really did not have any room for dessert however Sticky Toffee Pudding (£6.50) was on the menu and it's my absolute favourite. We decided to order one to share. Heidi and Jack ordered Vanilla Ice Cream (£2.50) which was served with their own pot of chocolate sauce (lovely touch). Harry really fancied a Doughnut (£3) but wasn't keen on the banoffee flavour - our server said she would see what she could do and Harry was delighted when we were informed the chef would make him his very own jam doughnut.
Our desserts ended our meal perfectly and there were clean plates all round.
What really stood out for me at St Mary's Inn was the service. When somewhere gets service right I will return again and again. Our server went the extra mile for us, checked back at the right times, was prompt in bringing the bill when asked and made us feel like nothing was a problem. This is exactly how it should be and it was lovely to experience. I am insanely jealous of the people of Stannington Park who are lucky enough to call this pub their local!
We spent a lovely few hours at St Mary's Inn and would highly recommend as a place to meet with family and friends. They also serve afternoon tea which looks delicious and if you'd like to stay over there are a handful of light and airy bedrooms to rest your head for the evening.