One of the North Eastâ€™s most experienced and respected chefs has swapped the city for the coast, to take the helm at an historic Old Hartley venue. After 20 years with Newcastleâ€™s Vaulkhard Group, as head chef at the cityâ€™s Barluga and Bealim House, David Blackhall has joined the recently renovated Delaval Arms at Old Hartley as executive chef.
The pub â€“ which dates to the 1700s â€“ has been fully restored by new owners, the Bartlett family and combines traditional Georgian features with modern, Soho House-style chic. And David has followed suit with his menu, which marries classics with highly contemporary dishes such as Japanese spiced squid with sriracha mayo.
But while the menu takes its inspiration from around the globe, David sources the majority of his ingredients locally with fish coming from Taylor Seafood at North Shields, vegetables from Hillheads Farm Shop at Killingworth and meat from Newcastleâ€™s Warren Butterworth.
â€œThat was always my intention,â€ he said, â€œand the fact is that not only do we have superb food producers in this part of the world but sustainability and provenance matter more than ever â€“ to us and to our customers. They want to know where their food came from and it gives me great pleasure to say â€œit was landed this morning at the Fish Quay at Shields.â€
Unsurprisingly, given the Delaval Armsâ€™ location â€“ looking straight out to sea over St Maryâ€™s Lighthouse â€“ fish is a key element of the menu, with one particular dish in the running to become his signature.
â€œItâ€™s actually a very simple pan-fried cod fillet with tempura prawns, herby potatoes and a shellfish broth,â€ he said. â€œI never set out to have a signature dish but that is certainly the one everyone asks for and comes back for. I think itâ€™s because the ingredients speak for themselves really.â€
Although the restaurant is open from midday onwards seven days a week, every dish is made in-house, to order, but â€œunlike most restaurant kitchens, I only have one freezer,â€ said David, â€œand thatâ€™s for ice cream.â€
The outdoor terrace, adjacent to the pubâ€™s King Ã†lle Brew Co micro-brewery, has been expanded and provides extra dining space, with pizzas and sandwiches â€“ served in traditional stotties â€“ proving popular.
And the pub also has upstairs function rooms designed with small weddings, family celebrations and meetings in mind â€“ for which David and his small team can create bespoke menus.
Despite the increasing workload, David has no regrets about taking on his new role. â€œI had many happy years in Newcastle at the vanguard of the cityâ€™s food scene,â€ he said, â€œBut I was ready for a new challenge and this is everything I hoped it would be. We are bringing locals, visitors and tourists alike the best North East food in one of the most historic settings the coast has to offer â€“ what more could I ask for?â€
The Delaval Arms is open from noon with last orders for food at 8pm Monday to Saturday and 4.30pm on Sunday and bookings, which are advisable, can be made online at www.delavalarms.com.