A POPULAR Tynedale pub has retained its status as one of the country’s top purveyors of high end food.

For the fourth year running, the Rat Inn, in Anick, near Hexham, ranked in the top 20 in the national Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastro Pubs list.

It is the seventh time in a row the highly regarded pub has featured in the prestigious list, and this year it was placed 17th among the country’s best gastropubs.

The term gastropub was coined in the early 1990s in reference to a traditional pub offering high quality food to complement the drinking experience.

Karen Errington and partner Phil Mason have owned the pub for the past 11 years, and said they were proud to gain such prestigious recognition.

Karen said: “To have been in the top 50 for the past seven years and the top 20 for the past four is amazing, and we are just so delighted to have got so high.

“To stay in the list consistently is particularly pleasing because a lot of pubs drop out and new ones come in.

“For being in a quiet, out of the way place in the North-East, getting noticed nationally is amazing.

“We are very much a pub, but we also offer a place where you can get top quality food and have a three course meal while you’re in enjoying a drink. We always try to put quality on the plate and we always use local ingredients. We are proud to say we have never bought outside of the area in the 11 years we have been here.”

Despite gaining the top accolade for being a gastropub, the owners were keen to stress that the Rat remained a traditional pub and ideal for people just wanting a drink.

“We are very much a pub and it is important for people to come in and enjoy a drink,” said Karen. “The awards for the food are just the icing on the cake.

“What makes the pub a success is getting customers coming back all the time, and we’re grateful for the support of our customers.”

The top 50 list is judged by hospitality experts, food writers, catering managers, executive chefs and celebrity chefs. Of the Rat, they said: “The Rat Inn, overlooking the gorgeous Tyne Valley and the town of Hexham, is one of the many great food pubs the north has to offer.

“Karen Errington and Phil Mason’s country pub is a local hub as well as a destination dining venue, offering a seasonal, daily changing menu which is displayed on the pub’s blackboard every morning.

“Phil heads up the kitchen alongside head chef Kevin MacLean working closely with local farmers and suppliers to create dishes showcasing the region’s bountiful produce, whilst the knowledgeable and welcoming front-of-house make diners feel more than at home.”

To mark their appearance in the list, Karen and Phil enjoyed a meal cooked by celebrity chef Tom Kerridge at Lillibrooke Manor, Berkshire.