THE demise of the traditional smoky boozer may be lamented in certain circles, but it's something of a boon for anyone who likes to go out for good meal.

Survival of the noble village watering hole, through economic necessity, has paved the way for the rise of the gastro pub, which are becoming increasingly popular in and around Durham.

Pub grub does not have a particularly appealing ring to it and does not do justice to the tremendous plate of food I enjoyed during a recent visit to The Traveller’s Rest in Witton Gilbert, on the outskirts of the city.

It's tucked away unassumingly on the Front Street of the village, which is just off the A691 on the way to Lanchester.

I took my two children there for meal on a Monday lunchtime and was a little surprised to find a fair few other diners there as well.

Word has obviously got around since the £200,000 refurbishment ahead of the reopening last December.

The tired, old-fashioned decor has been replaced with plush, smart rustic interior with, dare I say it, hipster-style, half painted bare beams.

With pictures and the odd stag’s head on the wall, it all makes for a very welcoming atmosphere.

We were greeted by a very friendly and helpful waitress who took our drinks order while we perused the menu.

The garlic mushrooms on bruschetta bread (£4.75) were light, delicate and deliciously creamy; with just the right amount to start the meal off.

From the children’s section, my daughter, who is four, chose beef burger with chips and peas while my boy, three, opted for pasta with tomato sauce and garlic bread.

Both children’s meals come with a drink and a bowl of ice cream afterwards and cost £3.95, but what struck me was both the portion size and the quality.

The burger was a quarter pound of prime beef in a tasty toasted bun, and with the portion of chips and peas would have probably been enough to keep me going, let alone her with her sparrow’s appetite.

The same can be said of the pasta, which was tasty and accompanied by a very more-ish slice of garlic bread, and was enjoyed with equal enthusiasm by my second born.

For the main I had a 10lb rib eye steak (£16.75) with Diane sauce (£1.95) which came served with terrific homemade chips, dry fried onions, mushroom and tomato.

The steak was served well done, as requested, and was everything you could hope for; lean with a little fat to give flavour and sauce that was right on the money in terms of taste and consistency.

The battered onion rings (£2.45) I was offered, and ordered, were not needed, gorgeous as they were, as the onions with the dish were more than ample.

The children shared a delightful sweet and gooey homemade sticky toffee pudding with their ice cream, while I went for the mango crème brulee.

The subtle hint of mango was unusual in this classic dessert but incredible enjoyable all the same.

I suspect they don’t do many orders for mango crème brulee on Monday lunchtimes as the topping was still soft and the creamy part still warm but that did not in any way adversely affect my enjoyment of it.

Both desserts were £4.25 each and were the ideal way to round what can only be described as a perfect meal.

As someone who has been to a fair few gastro pubs, and many ghastly pubs, this is somewhere I cannot recommend highly enough.

FOOD FACTS

The Travellers Rest

Front Street, Witton Gilbert, County Durham, DH7 6TQ

Tel: 0191-371-0458

Email: info@travellersrest-wittongilbert.co.uk

Ratings (out of ten)

Food: 9

Value: 9

Service: 9

Surroundings: 9

Open: Monday to Thursday, noon to 2.15pm and 5pm to 9pm, Lite Bites, noon to 2.15pm and 5pm to 6.30pm; Friday and Saturday, noon to 9.30pm, Lite Bites, noon to 6.30pm; Sunday, noon to 8.30pm