One of the oldest buildings in Wooler has undergone a change of style, enticing customers off the High Street with the kind of menu many people only enjoy on holiday.
Number one, the High Street, formerly the Red Lion Pub, is now the Number One Hotel and Wine Lounge, and as well as the change in name, the bar snacks are undergoing a transformation.
No. 1’s new menu has gone for a Spanish flavour, with tapas the order of the day.
The Lounge is the brainchild of John Magleave. Originally from Wigan, but having lived in Wooler for a decade, John said that he fell in love with the idea of tapas and wanted to convert locals to its charms.
“We have a place out in Spain,” he said, “and we thought that this was just a great way to eat.
“I think the problem is that when people are out there on holiday, then they relax and go with the flow a little bit, and appreciate the style.
“But then, when they come back home, they change back, and then they expect everything to be on the table at once, and that kind of thing.
“We were really impressed with a tapas restaurant on George Street in Edinburgh, which served really great tapas, and was packed out. We think we can do something like that here.
“We admit that part of the project is ‘educating’ people about this way of eating.”
The idea is that locals and holiday makers alike - the Lounge also offers rooms - can enjoy a drink and a languid meal of many courses in comfy chairs.
Owner John added that he wanted to prove that Wooler can play host to a venue pitched between an impromptu pint and a formal sit-down dinner.
John, together with his wife Stephanie, owns Wooler’s Italian restaurant, Milan, and leases out the Black Bull pub.
With three businesses in the village, John is keenly aware of the fine balancing act required if Wooler is to support it’s foody hotspots.
“Historically, Wooler can support three places like this,” he said. “Once you get even one more, then all the places suffer.”
John is keen to use local suppliers for as much as he possibly can, though he admits that he couldn’t find the right bucket armchairs, and had to look further afield.
Sarah Becker, who deals with the front of house, and whose brother and partner both work as part of the three chef team at No. 1, says that the experiment has so far proved hugely popular.
“People are really buying into it,” she said. “They especially like our chicken battered in honey and mustard, and the sea bass with mango salsa.”
As well as these tasty morsels, customers can graze on a selection of hot and cold dishes, from chorizo sautéed in cider and mushrooms in truffle oil to warm rustic Catalan bread and crispy fried baby squid.
Sarah’s brother, Aaron Greenwood, says that the relaxed atmosphere starts in the kitchen.
“It’s a bit different,” said the nineteen-year old, “because instead of everybody having their separate stations, we all move around and do different things. Everything still gets done to a really high standard, but it’s more fun for us, and hopefully for the customers.”