Published on April 11th, 2014 | by Alastair Gilmour


Pleased to meat you

The steak in all its guises, from a hot sandwich to a melt-in-the-mouth fillet, still makes one of our most popular pub meals, writes Alastair Gilmour

Study a quality pub menu and you’ll find the pièce de résistance is the choice of steak. Many pubs present sirloin, fillet and rump particularly well – in fact many of them specialise in steak in all its styles.

We are familiar with pub steak nights, steak and grill events and steakhouses, while the Flaming Grill chain is proving amazingly popular around the region with its sizzling skillets and flame-grilled food – and what is top Newcastle venue Hotel Indigo’s major attraction? The Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill.

The word steak comes from an Old Norse term “steikjo” which means to roast on a spit, and it has probably been in existence long before Norsemen christened it. Cuts of steak vary from country to country but in all cases the most important are from the part of the animal where the ribs join the backbone, between the shoulders and the hip.

Steak1In Britain, steaks are named according to the basic joints from which they are cut – the fillet (also known as tenderloin or undercut) is the leanest and most tender. The sirloin, removed from the bone and cut into slices, also becomes steaks which are less tender than fillet but with more flavour.

The rump is a big piece of very lean meat, usually sliced to produce large steaks which have a good flavour but are less tender than sirloin.

Steak cookery at its most simple involves little more than grilling them under a fierce heat to a specified degree of “doneness” and can be “blue” where the inside of the cut remains red; “rare” in which the inside of the meat has heated up but the fibres are soft and still very pink; “medium” where much of the pink colour has disappeared and the fibres have started to congeal, or “well done” at which stage the inside of the meat is uniformly brown-grey and has lost much of its juiciness.

But it’s animal welfare that has the biggest effect on the meat – stress-free environments and top-class feeding are paramount when it comes to providing the best quality steaks.

For example, Cut Thorn Farm is located on the Gibside Estate, between Burnopfield and Rowlands Gill and has been farmed by the Gibson family since 1948 – currently managed by Alastair Gibson (pictured above).

“We breed Beef Shorthorn cattle and usually carry around 40 breeding females, plus their offspring,” he says. “The market is split between pedigree sales for breeding and the remainder for meat production.

“Our vision is to breed top quality animals and produce high quality meat with low food miles, so essentially our customers will be ‘eating the view’. We farm in a very traditional manner, with high regard for animal welfare and in a sustainable manner aided by our farm diversification projects. We have recently taken our first two animals all the way to the plate. They were taken to a farmer and butcher in Stocksfield who has a brilliant set-up and bedded down for the night in clean straw, so they’re really well looked after.”

Steak2One of Alastair’s “secrets” is feeding his pedigree Shorthorns on spent grain collected once a week from Hadrian Border Brewery at Newburn, Newcastle. An old Swiss tradition was to feed beer to cattle with stomach problems and now many beef farmers worldwide even massage their beasts with beer – again as part of a welfare programme.

And we can report that the Cut Thorn Farm meat – hung for 30 days – is absolutely superb.

“The cows love the grain and it helps with the winter feed,” says Alastair.

“If I’m not using it straight away I bag it like silage with drainage at the bottom so it can dry out. I reckon the spent grain still contains about a third of its goodness, so there’s a lot in it and I think it makes a hell of a difference. Hadrian Border have been great – big brewers used to wash the grain through to start off their next brew so this is even better. I don’t know what I would do without it.”


Steak-friendly pubs to stake out

The Black Horse
Red Row, Beamish, County Durham, DH9 0RW
Tel: 01207 232569

BlackHorse Grill: 10oz rib eye steak, £18.50; 12oz sirloin steak, £19.95; 8oz fillet steak, £24.95, all served with slow roast tomatoes, grilled flat mushroom, onion rings, hand-cut chips and garnish.

The Rat Inn
Anick, Hexham, Northumberland, NE46 4LN
Tel: 01434 602814

Dishes change daily but check out Northumbrian rump steak sandwich with Cos lettuce and fried onions, £7.50
Peppered Northumbria steak, roasted tomato, watercress and chips – rump £12.50; fillet £21.
Roast Northumbrian rib of beef (for two), watercress, chips and Bearnaise sauce, £45.00
“Legendary” Sunday roasts (booking essential) include roast rib of Northumbrian beef (served pink) with Yorkshire pudding, £9.50.

The Three Horseshoes
Leamside, Durham, DH4 6QQ
Tel: 0191 584 2394

Rib eye steak with onion rings and chips, £14.95
Sirloin steak with onion rings and chips, £14.95

The Barrasford Arms
Barrasford, Northumberland, NE48 4AA
Tel: 01434 681237

Award-winning chef Tony Binks’ signature beef dish, Braised Beef Rump in Newcastle Brown Ale is one of the most popular dishes on the menu
Grilled Rib eye steak, hot black peppercorn sauce and hand-cut chips, £17.

Flaming Grill pubs include:

The Duke of Wellington
Kenton, Newcastle, NE3 3BQ
Tel: 0191 285 6621

The Pack Horse
Crookgate, Burnopfield, NE16 6NS
Tel: 01207 270283

The Black Bull
Benton, Newcastle, NE7 7XE
Tel: 0191 266 2103

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Alastair Gilmour

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