La Bodega, Morpeth: Munching Meat-free on Mother’s Day

When I lived in Leeds Ma Berg used to pop down for a visit on Mother’s Day and I’d take her out for dinner. There’d be no need for flowers, cards or other frivolities, oh no. In true Berg family style, each year I show my mother I love her by presenting her with food. I should probably also mention that on these occasions – more often than not –  mum opts to eat steak (we went to Blackhouse last year, it was divine). As I’m not eating meat this month, heading to a steakhouse or even for a Sunday Roast seemed like a step too far, but I didn’t want the not-that-old dear to go without, particularly as she’s been feeding me and ironing all of my clothes lately (clothes that have never seen an iron before).

Thus concludes the background to Ma Berg and me settling down to tapas in Morpeth on a cold Sunday afternoon in March. When I moved back up here I started to carry a list of places I want to eat; I keep it folded up in my diary in case I get hungry and want to find somewhere nearby that’s on the list. Yes that is geeky and anal; I’m comfortable with that.  There are about 30 places on the list (which I will blog at some point) and La Bodega was one of them. The restaurant is inside an old pub building but feels rather trendy, which Ma and me hoped would mean there would not be too many screaming children knocking about. God forbid any children should be taking out their mother on this special day of the year and disturb us, that would never do. Anyway, my hunch was right – when we arrived at about 1pm few screaming children were in attendance, unfortunately however the central heating was also absent.

I didn’t get a snap of the inside of the restaurant/bar, which is a shame as it’s really quite nice in there – all wood and ambient lighting and boards with enticing (and well-priced) cocktails scribbled on them. We chose to sit in the far back corner under some fairly lights because it looked cosy and I’m a sucker for the twinkle, twinkle. This was a bad move – we’d plopped ourselves right next to a door that leads out to the courtyard, which I imagine is very lovely in summer. We probably should have been alerted to the chill factor when we noticed there was a colourful array of blankets in a box near our table – you don’t often see blankets in tapas bars. That said, if I had my way you’d get a personal blanket handed to you every time you enter a restaurant: it stops the slops, you can concentrate on eating when you are all cosy and there’s not many social situations that can’t be improved by the comforting addition of a blanket.

I’m not quite sure how to report on the service at La Bodega – the staff were very friendly but I strongly suspect our very young waitress was new to the game; she took our drinks orders, brought our drinks and then waited a little while before giving us the food menu. We Bergs were ravenous and the cute cup of popcorn we were given with our drinks did not touch the sides. When someone did arrive to take our order we made the classic mistake of ordering masses of food because of intense hunger pangs. We ordered some potatas bravas, a Bodega platter and nachos to share, to which I added an order of garlic and thyme mushrooms and then Ma looked sympathetically at me before ordering chorizo and scallops and belly pork with crackling, ginger and cider. Aaargh, smoked, spicy pig and crunchy pig are my two favourite types of pig. I ordered my second pineapple juice and reassured myself I would not be one of those vegetarians that is broken by the smell of cooked pig. I was right, of course – I stayed strong.

 

Nachos

The nachos arrived first and though the dips weren’t out of this world (the refried beans in particular had nothing on Neon Cactus), the portions were generous.

 

La Bodega Platter

The platter came next – chunks of bread, thick slices of manchego, marinated olives, alioli, quince jelly and tomato topping. Again, the portions were plentiful and the olives in particular were good so we merrily munched on.

 

Garlic and thyme mushrooms

I noticed fairly soon that my carb-heavy choices were filling me quite quickly, which is when the potatoes and mushrooms arrived. I’ve made a conscious effort not to fill my diet full of carbs during my meat-free month, but have to admit that dining out  has posed a bit of a problem in this respect as often are were few choices that aren’t either 1)straight vegetables or 2)just carbs of somekind. I’ve also consumed well more dairy than I should have, which has made my stomach angry and negated any benefits of eating vegetarian. Again, this is something I feel has been inflicted by narrow menu and supermarket choices at times.

Out of the food that I ate the platter and potatoes shone through, with the mushrooms performing well on flavour but being a little unimaginative in terms of texture. It would have been nice to see a few diferent types of mushroom in there.Ma was feeling a tad guilty for munching through all my goodies but then her food came out and it looked fantastic.

 

Scallops and chorizo

Ma’s scallops were big and juicy, her chorizo came in big, dark, chunks and her crackling made all the right noises when she nibbled on it complete with some of the little apple compete it came with.

Belly pork and crackling,

 

In the end the feast defeated us and we politely asked if we could take our leftovers home for Pa Berg (who was a little grumpy at being left at home even though he was asked to join). I can sometimes be a little nervous about asking to take a doggie bag but the waiter was more than happy to pack it up for us and delivered our leftovers back to us very promptly in neat little plastic containers.

Dessert was offered – but we weren’t so fussed about the British puds on the menu  – some kind of crumble and chocolate brownies. Instead, still feeling the chill we opted for some hot drinks – a Tia Maria coffee for mum and a Brandy Hot Chocolate for me (after all, I’d just eaten a whole heap of cheese and was still recovering from food poisoning, why wouldn’t a dairy drink be my first choice?). In the haste to warm my mitts I forgot to photograph these but they looked very pretty and tasted even better. My hot chocolate had a perfect ‘frol to froth ratio, which leads me to believe the enticing cocktails on the boards might be rather good at La Bodega too.

The bill came to just over £45, which was good considering the meal essentially served three and came with a few rounds of soft drinks. As I paid, a lady who I assumed was the owner came in and declared she’d turned the heating on when she came in as it felt cold. We felt a little robbed by this news but reassured that there was actually central heating onsite.

When the weather warms up a little I think we’ll head over to sample cocktails in the courtyard. Meanwhile, I’ll be conducting a temperature check at all establishments before ordering from now on.

 

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