Sitting gazing out of the windows of the River Bar, sipping a cocktail from a jam jar and tucking in to barbecued meat, you’d be excused for thinking you were sitting in backwater USA. On the banks of the River Wear in Fatfield, the hottest place to be in Washington is bringing a laid back American smokehouse vibe to the North East.
Part of the Cairn Group colossus, the River Bar shares an impressive line up alongside Sohe, 97 & Social and Fiume, the Italian eatery that sits neatly above the Washington bar.
On an early June Sunday afternoon, we made our way down to the River Bar expecting it to be quiet from that post Sunday Roast pre Sunday beers lull. The bar was actually pleasantly full, lots of socialising and chatter greeted us as we took out seats at a 4ft beer barrel table. Ensconced in our quiet corner, we set about examining the menu.
The drinks menu is an assault on the senses as there is an abundance of boozy treats for you to choose but fear not non-drinkers, the bar tenders will gladly mix you up something to whet your whistle san alcohol. During our visit, we managed to quaff a Boilermaker (Blue Moon Beer, Orange slice and a shot of Bourbon) and a Smoked Gingerbread Manhattan (Woodford Reserve, Martini Rosso and gingerbread syrup along with bottled wood smoke) as well as a Coke decorated with flowers – the bar tenders have a sense of fun!
With all the usual smokehouse staples gracing the menu, we worked our way through a healthy portion of Chilli Cheese Fries (£4.95) that certainly didn’t scrimp on the chilli or cheese front. As gooey and as messy as you’d expect, this classic diner dish did lack a bit of a kick to the chilli, nothing a dash of the River Bar branded Houston Hot Sauce couldn’t fix for us spice fiends.
The Houston Hot Sauce Wings (8 for £4.95) were an equally messy affair. Cutlery was abandoned in favour of fingers and a large napkin! The smoked, glazed wings were served with a top up of hot sauce and a nifty brush to mop extra heat on to the meat as well as a blue cheese dip. Delightfully messy and finger lickin’ good was the overall verdict!
Bucking the current gourmet hot dog trend, we opted to sample the burgers. The River Bar Burger (£9.95) is a whopping double 100% Aberdeen Angus and is lightly smoked Hickory and Maple before being topped with pulled pork, cheese, bacon and onion rings. As if that huge burger isn’t enough, it is accompanied by sweet potato fries and a house slaw. The patty was seasoned well and in proportion to the rest of the bun making this a satisfying choice for the hungry soul. The Smoked Burger (£6.95) is a stout single Aberdeen Angus patty elevated by the smoky bacon and the smoked cheese. It was perfectly fitting for the location and the restaurant theme. We felt very Wild West sampling these delights!
We managed to squash in a desert between us. The Toffee Waffle Crunch (£4.95) was quite possibly the most moreish dessert we have ever had. The perfect end to a very pleasurable visit.
We were very impressed by both the quality of the food, the enthusiastic staff and the mixed crowd of customers. It is the perfect place to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon with friends – good company and good food.