IT was my own fault really. Just five days after Christmas, the season of over-indulging, my wife, daughter and I found ourselves at The Morley Wood, on the outskirts of Brandon.

I was tired, a little stressed at having driven for 45 minutes to find somewhere both serving food and not full and trying to prevent my daughter Katie wrecking the pub’s pool table.

I probably didn’t give the menu enough thought. And so it was only when the friendly and forgiving waitress delivered my Chef’s Mega Morley Burger (£9.75) to our table that I realised what I’d done.

Skewered with what appeared to be a wooden javelin, crammed into a thick white bread bun was a 5oz beef burger, grilled chicken breast, slice of bacon, slice of cheese and some onion rings.

It is with a mix of pride and shame that I can report I almost finished it. Always leave a clean plate, my mother said. Perhaps she had never encountered a Mega Morley Burger.

I turned to the party next to us, who had audibly wowed and gasped at my meal on delivery. “We knew what was coming,” one said.

I have to say: it was excellent. The burger was thick and juicy, the chicken breast moist yet crispy at the tips, the bacon lean and the onion rings light and fluffy.

I readily concede: I needed a festive nap later that afternoon (though that may have had more to do with the lunchtime pint of Black Sheep that accompanied the burger), but, yes Chef, it was Mega, in more than size alone.

The chips, too, were superb: chunky and well-browned, but light on the inside. Just how they should be.

Sarah, meanwhile, had chosen from the “From The Coop” section of the Morley’s lengthy (mega?) menu. The Piri Piri Chicken (£7.95), a 6oz chicken breast topped with piri piri sauce, jalapenos and grated cheese and served with those same excellent chips, went down very well – though my wife, too, wished she had chosen a lighter bite.

The Morley Wood had been on the Durham Times’ collective “to visit” list for some months, since a colleague questioned why it had never to date been mentioned in these pages.

It sits at what might be called the posh end of Brandon, near Brancepeth, and from the outside one might be forgiven for thinking it was one of those, chain-run, “two for one” type places.

In fact, it is quite unique. The larger part of the interior is covered with tables, welcoming both diners and drinkers, while the remainder is occupied by the pool table, darts oche and sports TV.

It is in many ways a traditional pub, but the proprietors have tried harder than most to broaden its offer, with good quality food and events. It’s my bet it manages to grab a fair share of both the family meal and social drinking markets.

There were just three other parties present during our visit: a young family out for lunch, two ladies out for a natter and three friends starting the Twixmas drinking session, though slowly. But it was early in the day and in the depths of the festive lie in season.

We were greeted warmly, given our pick of the tables and had our drinks order taken as we sat (food orders are placed at the bar).

The menu includes sections titled From The Line, From The Coop, From The Grill, From The Field, From The Pen, Curry Corner, Burgers @ The Morley, Chef’s Sizzler Specials and Lighter Bites.

Two meals for £10 are on offer on weekdays from noon to 6pm and on Fridays, diners can enjoy two meals and a bottle of house wine for £25 all-in.

There is also an impressive range of sandwiches, specials and, interestingly, a gluten free menu – a definite plus for such a traditional venue.

Sadly, what we had intended to be our starters arrived at the same time as our main courses. Perhaps I had not been clear enough in placing my order.

But, in the event, I had little need of them, given the mega-ness of the aforementioned burger.

It was for this reason, too, that we could not face the dessert menu; and our ever-inquisitive toddler was becoming tired, so we hit the road and headed for home.

One of our better educated readers will, I feel sure, inform me if there is a word that expresses the feeling of being simultaneously proud and guilty. If there is, I know it not, yet. But I know its essence following our visit to The Morley Wood.

It is a good pub, with a high-quality menu, friendly service and reasonable prices: well worth a look if you’re passing; and probably worth a diversion too.


The Morley Wood

Winchester Drive, Brandon, DH7 8UG

Tel: 0191-447-1064

Food served Monday to Saturday from noon to 9pm and Sundays from noon to 3pm

Food quality 8

Service 6

Surroundings 6

Value 8