24 May 2015

The Earl of Pitt Street


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70 Pitt Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE4 5ST 

0191 261 7744 
www.earlofpittstreet.co.uk 


‘Situated within a stones throw of St James' Park’, claims the website, which might be unfortunate, given the mood of most Newcastle United fans right now. Thankfully The Earl of Pitt Street is protected from vengeful missiles by the barrier of new Newcastle University buildings that have sprung up around the stadium. 

In fact, if there were a Secret Diner award for least likely restaurant location, I reckon Mark Lagun, the man behind Electric East, and now The Earl of Pitt Street, would be in with a good shout. Electric East (formerly Barn Asia), tucked away behind Dance City, has always struck me as somewhere that might struggle for passing trade. Likewise this gastropub, located in the former Greyhound boozer (a hostelry more renowned for alleged shady dealings than its beer), is clearly relying on its new owner’s philosophy of “if you build it, and it’s good, they’ll come”. 

And come they certainly had on the Saturday night we visited, with both the downstairs bar and the restaurant above doing brisk business.

16 May 2015

Socrates @ No5

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5 Oldgate
Morpeth 
Northumberland 
NE61 1PY



01670 514666 
www.facebook.com/socratesno5  



Never go back, they say. They were right. 

Last year I reviewed one of the most unusual little restaurants in Northumberland, called Holystone Lodge. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, unless you happen to live in the village of Sharperton, in which case it was in the middle of everywhere. 

It was buzzing with happy locals and a wonderful lamb kleftiko. There was other good Greek food too: a tomato-rich, spicy kapama, and a baklava to die for, light, flaky, nutty and drooling with honey. It didn't call itself a Greek restaurant, and the non-Greek food didn’t really work for me, but it had a chef called Socrates, who was as Greek as the drachma. 

Then, sadly, the restaurant closed. I bemoaned its loss on this site. The North East had lost its only decent Greek restaurant, I said, even if it’s not actually Greek.  Not one reader demurred. However, I did predict that Socrates and his kleftiko would soon pop up somewhere else. Step forward Morpeth.

9 May 2015

Rosie’s Bistro & Patisserie


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23-24 Gosforth Centre 
Gosforth 
Newcastle Upon Tyne 
NE3 1JZ 

www.caferosies.co.uk 
Mon-Sat 10am-5.30pm 

I’ve never met Rosie, but if her taste in decor is anything to go by, she seems like a nice lady. Her café is very grey-green Farrow and Ball, with industrial pipes across the ceiling. 

Actually, I may have met her, but I can’t be sure, because I was a little uncertain about who was actually in charge the day I visited. The service was, how can I put it, unobtrusive. I had to do a lot of armwaving and “excuse me please, can I have a fork?” Alert it wasn’t.

2 May 2015

Ramside Hall Hotel (Rib Room)

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Ramside Hall Hotel 
Carrville 
Durham 
DH1 1TD 

0191 386 5282 
www.ramsidehallhotel.co.uk 


Dinner in The Rib Room didn’t start well for Mrs Diner. 

“Outrageous,” she spluttered. “Is this in a 1950s timewarp?” 

She wasn’t talking about the huge signs in the hotel car park, which would have out-brashed any Harvester Inn. Nor did she mean the tired, swirly carpets, or the strange combination of castellated manor house and log cabin, with its plain vaulted wooden ceiling and heavy Victorian interior. 

Nor did she mean the restaurant itself, a cross between Angus Steak House and French brasserie. She was staring at the menu in front of her, mouth agape.

25 April 2015

Longhorns Barbecue Smokehouse

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10 Mosley Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 1DE 
www.longhornsbbq.co.uk

12pm-10pm 
(Fri/Sat 11pm) 
No reservations 

Ever since man discovered fire, he’s been arguing about the best way to barbecue. Direct or indirect, rubbed or marinated, gas, charcoal or wood? 

There’s nothing sadder than seeing male egos preening themselves over hot grills. Mrs Diner likes to deflate mine, when I emerge, red-faced and triumphant, my shirt stained with marinade, bearing chops, joints and wings, by telling our guests that it’s not really the grilling that counts, but the meat and the spicing. Ah, there’s the rub. Literally.

19 April 2015

Six

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Baltic 
South Shore Road 
Gateshead 
NE8 3BA 

0191 440 4948 
www.sixbaltic.com 

Lunch: 12-2pm 
Afternoon Tea: 2.30-3.30pm 
Dinner: 5.30-9.30pm (Mon-Sat) 

It seems churlish to criticise Six. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s a great space, with the ultimate panoramic view of the Tyne. For the past six years every food review has raved about the vista from Six’s toilets. Especially the ladies’, apparently.

4 April 2015

Mantra

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The Waterside Palace Building 
29 Forth Banks 
Quayside 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 3SG 

0191 232 6080 
www.mantra-thai.co.uk  

Food is an Art, Cook from the Heart - I wonder if they paid a PR firm to dream up that little mantra, proudly stuck on the front page of their menu? 

Mantra claims this philosophy is used “to drive us forward every day”. They use the words “authentic” and “passionate” quite a lot too. Newcastle has waited a very long time for an authentic, passionate Thai restaurant. Sadly it looks like it will have to wait a bit longer.

28 March 2015

Jesmond Dene House Hotel

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Jesmond Dene Road 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE2 2EY 

0191 212 3000 
www.jesmonddenehouse.co.uk 




Two weeks ago I stabbed a razor-sharp steak knife into Newcastle’s Miller & Carter restaurant, comparing their béarnaise sauce to Dulux emulsion paint, and castigating the baby food mush that came with their overcooked scallops, the tasteless risotto and wet, iron-tasting steak. Readers were quick to approve. 

“Ouch!” they went, followed quickly by “Reckon you saved us a few bob”. 

Quite a few bob, in fact, as a Twitter follower of mine called Sprocket Man pointed out: “Not cheap for what it was. Plenty of local places are better for the same money.” 

He’s right. £40 for a terrible meal is a ripoff. £40 for a brilliant dinner in a local restaurant could be worth saving up for. It can buy you an excellent meal in some of our very best eateries, including almost anything from the à la carte menu at Peace & Loaf. I'm grateful to him for inspiring this week's review - my task: find a meal in Newcastle that's infinitely better than Miller & Carter for the same price.

I chose Jesmond Dene House because I’d already re-reviewed Peace & Loaf earlier this year, and I haven't written about Jesmond Dene since 2013, when I gave its tasting menu 6 stars. To be honest, I feared it had gone off the boil and I didn’t want new readers of www.secretdiner.org being misled by an inflated rating.

21 March 2015

The Roxburgh


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4 Roxburgh House 
Park Avenue 
Whitley Bay 
NE26 1DQ 

07794 554 020 



It’s not exactly our region’s culinary capital. In fact, this is the first time a Whitley Bay establishment has made it onto these pages. 

Hidden away behind the main drag, set back from Park Avenue in a tiny parade of shops (upholstery, blinds and furniture), is a miniscule café called The Roxburgh. It’s unlicensed, only open in daytime, apart from Saturdays, and it’s fantastic.

19 March 2015

OK Diner

OK Diner, captured by Emma Phillips
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A1 Southbound 
New Fox 
Colsterworth 
nr Grantham 
NG33 5LN 

01572 768 458 
Daily 8am-10pm 

I find my monthly drive to London exceptionally tedious. Which makes me curious about why there's nowhere decent to eat enroute: surely it's a terrific opportunity for small-scale street food establishments to offer quick, well-made dishes that can be speedily prepared and consumed, like the roadside snacks you find along highways in India? Instead, this 300-mile-long street is a culinary desert.