Fabulous Food In A Family Owned Restaurant - The Peppermill Bistro, Billingham

9 Feb 2020

If you caught my last Teesside Restaurant Week review about The Herd & Herb in Sedgefield, you'll know that as part of this event, I was really keen to venture out of Middlesbrough to try some new places. It's easy to fall into a routine of only eating in your hometown, so Restaurant Week was the perfect opportunity to branch out and explore some more of the surrounding areas. With that in mind, the second spot we picked to try out was The Peppermill Bistro in Billingham!

Billingham is a place that I haven't been to in years. In fact, the last time I went will have been when I was a teenager and I was dressed in neon to get my skates on at the ice rink. It isn't somewhere that's been on my radar, but it's somewhere that I'm definitely keen to explore a little bit more after our meal at the bistro.

The thing that mainly attracted me to The Peppermill Bistro is that it's a family owned business. There's nothing more that I love more than supporting a local, family business, especially if it involves good food. With over 50 years of experience behind them, the family and their fabulous team of staff strive to provide a cosy environment, great service and food that will leave you coming back for more. All of their dishes are created with locally sourced and high quality produce where possible, which is also a huge selling point. So with all of that in mind, let's take a look a the three courses that we enjoyed!

It's worth me starting off by saying that before our food had arrived, we were treated to a little plate of crusty bread and a tomato dipping sauce, which tasted exactly like pizza base sauce. It was rich, herby and so yummy on the bread. It was a really nice extra touch that we weren't expecting!
For the starters, there were four options to select from and I'll be honest, all of them sounded absolutely incredible! Matthew ended up being torn between two choices, but settled on the BBQ 'pulled' carrot & smoked cheddar spring rolls, apple & celeriac saw and a mustard BBQ dipping sauce. We'd seen another table receive a plate of these spring rolls, so I'm pretty sure this is what swayed him, as well as the barbecue sauce. I will admit that I was a bit surprised though, because he doesn't tend to go for the veggie options!

On the dish were two chunky spring rolls sitting on a bed of the apple and celeriac slaw, and drizzled in the sauce. After just one bite, he was totally sold. The spring rolls were very crispy, which is exactly what you want in a spring roll, but they were well stuffed without getting soggy. The texture of the 'pulled' carrot combined with the barbecue flavour gave the impression of BBQ pulled pork, so it was the perfect starter to convert a meat lover into trying more veggie options. The slaw was a welcome addition too, and it provided some sweetness with the apple that contrasted perfectly with the sauce.

Matthew did say that if he was being completely nit-picky, he would probably have less BBQ sauce and a bit more slaw, but he still thoroughly enjoyed his choice and said that he could quite happily eat it again.
As for me, before we'd even got to the restaurant, I knew that I wanted the lightly curried sweet potato soup and onion bhaji 'croutons' - you can't tell me that that doesn't sound incredible? I'm a massive fan of sweet potato and onion bhajis, so I figured that there was no way I could go wrong with this choice, and I was absolutely correct!

The generous portion of soup wasn't too thick, but not at all watery, and didn't contain any lumps, which was perfect. I do love a chunky broth, but a sweet potato soup should be smooth and luscious, in my opinion. It had that lovely, sweet-savoury flavour that you get with sweet potato, along with an earthy undertone and a gorgeous lasting aftertaste of mild curry. It was beautifully seasoned and warm, and went down a total treat. As for those little onion bhajis... my gosh, they were something else. I could eat onion bhajis all day long and these were no exception. The areas that were floating above the soup were crisp and crunchy, and full of that typical bhaji flavour. But the areas that were submerged had almost become part of the soup and sort of fell apart with ease. They added a little bit of texture and a wonderful flavour that furthered the curried soup.

The whole time I was eating, I'm pretty sure I was making inappropriate 'mm' noises the whole time I was eating and if I could buy this stuff in a can, I would be eating this pretty much every day. It was absolutely beautiful and it gets a massive recommendation from me!
 Matthew's streak as a veggie fan didn't last long when he cast his eyes over the main courses and spotted the lamb two ways. This consisted of mini shepherd's pie & crispy panko pressed shoulder, mashed potato, glazed carrots, mint sauce and red wine jus. As soon as I'd seen this option in amongst the fantastic choices of mains, I just knew it had his name written all over it (I also knew that if he didn't pick it, I would!).

When the plate was brought over to the table, the pair of us were practically drooling straight away. Our eyes were instantly drawn to the panko lamb - a way of cooking lamb that neither of us had seen before, but a way of cooking lamb that totally stole the limelight of the dish. The outside was fried gorgeously crispy, but didn't have any sort of oily taste to it, while the meat inside just pulled apart. The panko coating was also consistent all the way around and provided the perfect crunch against the tenderness of the meat. The glazed carrots were lovely, the little mountain of precisely piped mash was creamy, and even the mint sauce went down a treat, despite this guy being an avid hater of mint.

One part of the dish was completely forgotten about though, which was the shepherd's pie, and Matthew got a real treat when he realised that it was contained inside the little metal dish on his plate (which he originally thought was just more potato). It was such a fun addition and went down a total storm. Topped off with a layer of cheesy mash and garnished with a piece of cooked cheese, it was both delicious and a bit of a spectacle.
 Not wanting to be boring and choose the same dish as Matthew, I opted for the pan roasted crispy skin chicken breast, chicken Parmesan croquette, red pesto mashed potato, roast squash, spinach, Parma ham crisp and a garlic & parsley cream sauce. Sounds incredible, right? And it totally was!

I'm not a huge fan of chicken on the bone, so when I saw that my plate included a dreaded bone, albeit a tiny one, I was a little bit hesitant. However, I ate absolutely everything on the plate (minus the bone) and didn't once feel uncomfortable about the meat. The chicken was so tender and juicy, but the skin on the outside was crisp. Again, I'm not normally a big fan of skin, but I also ate that up with no issues! The vegetables were a welcome treat, especially the roast squash, which paired so beautifully with the creamy sauce that was drizzed around the plate. The Parma ham added just a hint of saltiness to contrast with the herby sauce too - the overall flavour was just mouthwatering to say the least.

Like Matthew, I completely forgot about one element of my main course choice, which was the red pesto mash. I was eating the mash and thinking, 'this tastes so familiar...what on earth is it?' Matthew sampled it to try and guess, but we couldn't figure it out at all. I had to ask our lovely waitress, who reminded me that it contained red pesto, to which I replied, 'it's absolutely genius!' While the meat was gorgeous, it was this mash that stole the show for me, so I'm determined to try and recreate it at home.
It's fair to say that throughout our meal with The Peppermill Bistro, we were totally spoiled for choice with options on the menu, and the dessert was no exception. Being a coffee lover and an ex-chef in an Italian restaurant, Matthew went for the tiramisu cheesecake, chocolate coffee beans and Tia Maria chocolate sauce. Despite being pretty excited for the closing dish of his meal, this was the only one that slightly let him down, but he still cleaned off his plate.

The cheesecake itself as a cheesecake was really good. It was creamy, sweet and had a scrumptious texture. The only problem with it was that it was lacking the coffee flavour. Inside the cheesecake were the coffee-soaked fingers that make a tiramisu, but the coffee just wasn't coming through. Of course, the coffee beans that dotted the edge of the plate gave a strong taste, but the actual cheesecake itself just didn't have as much coffee as he would've liked.

That isn't to say that the cheesecake wasn't great, though. It was a really delicious dessert and again, the plate was cleaned off, but next time, a little more coffee would be needed!
For me, it was all about the warm ginger sponge pudding, toffee sauce and maple & pecan ice cream, and nothing was going to sway me. I'm a massive fan of a steamed pudding, like treacle sponge or jam sponge, and ginger is one of my favourite spices, so I knew that this was going to be right up my street. When the plate arrived, I could almost feel the envy coming from Matthew's eyes as the steam rose and the ice cream started to slowly melt.

The ginger sponge was packed with spice, but retained its sweetness, and had a super light, fluffy texture, despite being drizzled in the toffee sauce. It was a perfect warmth that gave me that kind of homely, comfort food vibe, which is just what you're after when you're in a family owned restaurant. The maple and pecan ice cream complemented the whole thing down to a tee - it had the sugariness of the maple syrup and chunks of pecan to provide a bit of texture. Each mouthful was better than the last and I just didn't want the dessert to end!

Overall, we absolutely loved our time at The Peppermill Bistro. We were made to feel welcome straight away and we had a great table so that we could see right into the kitchen to watch the food prep. The food was absolutely phenomenal and we enjoyed every single course, and couldn't quite believe that we were only paying £15 each for a three course meal of that quality. It was out of this world!

I'd absolutely love to go along to try out more of The Peppermill Bistro's menu in the future, so watch this space!

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