Bistro Dining At The Herd & Herb, Sedgefield

7 Feb 2020

Living in a town like Middlesbrough, I don't have to look too far to find somewhere to eat. However, after the announcement about Teesside Restaurant Week, I was determined to get out of my comfort zone and try some new places. If you cast your mind back to my TRW 2020 preview post, you'll remember that I highlighted The Herd & Herb in Sedgefield as one of the places that I was keen on visiting, and I'm pleased to say that I managed to book a table!

When I think of places to go and eat, Sedgefield isn't one of the spots that jumps to mind. It's a little bit of a drive for me and I've always had it down as a bit of an 'old' village. However, The Herd & Herb have totally changed my perception and I couldn't wait to type up this review for you all!

Before we launch into talking about the food, let me give you a bit of background about this restaurant. This brand new, refurbished eaterie can be found inside The Hardwick Arms Hotel with the capability of seating up to 60 people. This makes it a perfect spot to consider if you were ever going to stay up in the North East. It's not far from Durham, Newcastle and, if you have the means, you could even stay there if you were fancying a trip to Northumberland! Plus, considering it's inside a country hotel, it's a trendy spot with industrial decor and a modern atmosphere. It's well worth checking out if you're ever in the area (and we haven't even got on to the food yet).

Like the other restaurants involved in Teesside Restaurant Week, The Herd & Herb offered three courses for £15, so let's take a look at what we tried!
For our first Teesside Restaurant Week night, we were eager to try new foods as well as trying out the new restaurant, which is something that I was a bit anxious about, as Matthew can be a bit of a fussy eater (sorry Maff). But to my surprise, he went for the Blue Cheese & Chive Croquettes with Celeriac Remoulade. He also surprised himself because he isn't a fan of blue cheese, but these three croquettes turned out to be a real winner.

Each of these croquettes were perfectly crispy on the outside without being oily, but the interiors were extremely soft, creamy and melty. The blue cheese wasn't overpowering, but you could definitely taste that it was there. The flavour combined perfectly with the chives, and kind of resulted in a slightly stronger green Pringles effect. If you know, you know! Each croquette was sat on a little nest of celeriac, another food that Matthew thought he wasn't a fan of, but when paired with the croquettes, it went down a total storm!

This the perfect starter to whet the appetite. It didn't make him overly full and had the desired 'let's get excited for the main course' effect!
For my starter, I opted for the Ham Hock Terrine with Plum Jam and Bread Crisp, which was a bit of a safe option for me, but it was one that I was very happy with! On the plate were two pieces of the terrine, positioned around a little pot of the plum jam and a blade of bread crisp on top. The presentation was truly gorgeous and I almost didn't get a photo because I was so excited to tuck in.

The terrine fell apart beautifully, and wasn't spreadable like a pate, but more like compacted meat that can be torn apart. It was just the right amount of salty with the right amount of juiciness, which paired up gorgeously with the plum jam. This little pot of joy tasted almost like how Christmas would taste, which meant that when paired up with the meat, it almost had that Boxing Day leftover flavour, which is arguably one of the best parts of Christmas.

Again, this starter was the perfect size and didn't make me feel full before I'd even got into the heaviest part of the meal. It was a great way to start the dinner! But now, on to the main dish...
Being a total sucker for potato dauphinoise, Matthew chose the Pan Fried Chicken, Dauphinoise Potato, Honey Carrots and Peppercorn Sauce for his main event, which, I will wholeheartedly admit, totally stole the show. As you can see from the image above, this dish was presented around a circular shape, so it looked incredible, but with all the elements it also smelled and tasted phenomenal!

For Matthew, there were lots of things about the dish that made it for him, one of which included the flavour and crispiness of the skin on the chicken. It was cooked to perfection - tender on the inside with a lovely skin on the outside that was packed full of seasoning. He was also taken aback by the little cube of potato dauphinoise, with its structured form and extra crispy top - another element of the dish that made the whole experience. The creamy potatoes mixed with the crisped top was a real winner! Overall, this main course majorly impressed and it showed in the speed that it was snaffled down.

One thing that he said would make the dish better (and honestly, he had to dig deep) was that there should be more peppercorn sauce. This sauce was drizzled over the carrots and looked almost like a gravy, but it had a pretty sweet flavour and Matthew was kind of head over heels for it. Maybe a little pot of sauce on the side would be a welcome addition? He also said that parsnips to go with the carrots could be good!
For my main course, I really pushed the boat out to try something new and went with the Sea Bream, Kale, Leek and Crushed Potato. This might not sound like a very daring dish, but I'm not the biggest fan of seafood. I've only recently started eating fish from the chippy and trying salmon, so I really wanted to give another type of fish a go. And I definitely wasn't disappointed in my choice!

Little known fact about me, I really love kale, but I hadn't had kale quite like the kale that was paired with this sea bream. If I'm not mistaken, the kitchen wizards at The Herb & Herb cooked some of it inside the leek, making it tender and earthy, but the other sprigs were baked, giving them a crunch. Honestly, all together, it was pretty darn lovely! The fish was also stunning. I'll admit, I peeled the skin back because scales give me the heebie-jeebies, but the meat just fell apart and complemented the veg down to a tee. As for the crushed potato - I had no idea what to expect from this, but it was almost like a ball of mash that still included the skin. I've got no clue how to explain, but just trust me when I say that it was bloomin' delicious.

I was proud of myself for giving the fish a go and it totally surprised me! I'm definitely going to make a point to try more fish dishes in the future because I may be a convert yet. But as you guys know with me, no meal is complete without a good dessert, so let's have a look at what we chose.
As a big fan of a traditional pud, Matthew opted for the Sticky Toffee Pudding, Butterscotch & Vanilla Ice Cream, and I can honestly say that he won this round. I don't think I know a single person that isn't a sucker for a sticky toffee pud, but this was one of the best I've sampled in a long time. I'm just gutted I didn't pick it for myself!

The shining star of this pudding was the toffee sauce, which was quite dark and rich, and left a strong aftertaste in the mouth. I can't decide whether it was black treacle or brown sugar that was pulling through the most, but either way, it was totally divine. The actual sticky toffee pudding itself wasn't stodgy in the slightest, but you definitely got the odd chewy bit from the dates. It was soft and sweet, coupling up nicely with the darkness of the toffee sauce. Also, we need to take a moment for the butterscotch... it was absolutely incredible. I've never eaten a solid piece of butterscotch like that before, but it was stunning. It just added such a fun texture to the pud!
For my dessert, I was totally mesmerised by the idea of the Rhubarb and Custard Creme Brulee with Popcorn & Cinder Toffee Crisps. I totally love creme brulee, but the idea of pairing it up with the extra elements was unusual to me and I was really keen to give it a try.

The little pot that you see above definitely wasn't what I was expecting. With a typical creme brulee, it's served up slightly warm because of the burned sugar on top, but this was cold and there was no burned sugar. In its place were pieces of rhubarb, popcorn, cinder toffee and a scoop of rhubarb sorbet. It was an eclectic mix to say the least, but it was a real texture experience. The creaminess of the creme brulee, the crunch of the popcorn and the tang of the rhubarb were a really interesting mix, but one that kind of worked.

The only thing that wasn't the best for me was the sharpness of the cinder toffee. I really like cinder toffee, but it needs to be pretty sweet, whereas as this cinder toffee was quite bicarbonate of soda-y. Despite that, I polished off the dessert, and both of us headed home with happily full tums.

We were both so glad that we gave The Herd & Herb a try. It was somewhere that we'd driven past a few times and always pointed out, but TRW gave us the perfect excuse to try it out. The food was absolutely beautiful and a yummy bistro style, which we both enjoy. While there were a few tiny things that we probably would change about some of the dishes, it was a great night and we totally fell in love with the place. It's somewhere that we'd love to visit again and explore the menu a little bit more.

Have you tried out The Herd & Herb yet? What would you have chosen from their Teesside Restaurant Week menu?

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@thenorthernist