PERCHED on a steep hill, just off the busy A6076 road between Stanley and Sunniside, sits The Causey Arch Inn.

Just getting into the grounds can be a bit hairy because it's on that quick road, near The Tanfield Railway, and the car park is on a 45-degree gradient, which looks like it could do with a few repairs.

Our group consisted of two blokes, two four-year-old girls and an accident-prone boy of two who knows no fear.

So it was with some trepidation that my mate, a fellow father, and I took our kids there for a meal, guarding their every step as we made our way up to the charming (if a little treacherous for toddlers) pub.

Upstairs, the bar side to the right was bustling with Saturday afternoon punters, offering a good selection of real ales and deli boards for sharing.

The dining room’s décor is a mixture of exposed brickwork and pale pastel colours with thick black beams across the ceiling and gothic wrought iron chandelier-style light fittings.

Shabby chic is probably a good way to describe it, but, truthfully, there are parts that are just shabby, such as the threadbare carpets and basic toilets that could do with a little investment.

Largely though, it is comfortable, warm and welcoming and the owners are clearly making an effort to create somewhere to come for a fine dining experience.

There is a roaring coal fire on one side and a plush red leather settee and armchairs near the bar offering a comfy place to relax before your meal.

As relaxing as it can be with the three disobedient nippers who were determined to test our parenting skills by being as mischievous as possible, much to our embarrassment.

My two are usually better behaved in public and little Eva is no trouble either, but together the excitement was a bit too much for them all.

The staff, who were all fantastic throughout, took it in their stride and were friendly and welcoming as one could have hoped, unfazed by the children’s shoeless wandering, spilled water and hyperactivity.

To start, we ordered duck and port pate served on Melba toast and onion marmalade (£3.95) and a tomato and mozzarella flatbread (£3.95) with a bowl of chips for the kids.

The pate was tasty and rich, an ideal starter, on perfect triangles of toast, although four-year-old Tilda did make a face like Tom Hanks in Big eating caviar when I told her it was made from ducks.

The flatbread, powerfully garlicky, was topped with a generous helping of cheese on the thinnest base imaginable, so thin it may have even been a tortilla. Delicious all the same.

For the main, I ordered the ribeye steak (£13.95) served with chips, onion rings, mushrooms and grilled tomato.

I asked for it to be well done, but it arrived a little undercooked for my liking, full of flavour and tender all the same, served with a perfectly fine Diane sauce (£2).

The mushrooms were a little overcooked and the onion rings a bit messy with broken batter, no less enjoyable for it though, while the chips were of the homemade chunky variety and just right.

Paddy went for the arrabiata penne pasta bake, topped with cheese, served with garlic bread and salad (£8.95) but after only a few mouthfuls he announced it was too spicy and was unable to finish it.

It was a shame as it looked great and the accompanying salad and garlic bread went down well.

We were later asked how everything was and when I mentioned that the pasta had gone uneaten it was removed from the bill, which I thought was a nice gesture and shows staff genuinely want people to enjoy their visit.

Before we left we ordered a bowl of ice cream and a sticky toffee pudding (both £3.50) to be shared among the children which rounded off the meal nicely.

Despite a few niggles, our visit was an enjoyable one, made mostly by the endlessly accommodating staff and I would certainly go back, probably to try one of their deli boards, but this time without the kids.

The Causey Arch Inn, Beamish Burn, Marley Hill, Causey, NE16 5EG, Tel: 01207-233925,

Open Monday-Friday, 11am-11pm; Saturday-Sunday 10am-11pm

Ratings (Out of ten): Food 7 Value 8 Service 9 Surroundings 8