24 January 2015

The Sausage Emporium

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Arch 6 
Westgate Road 
NE1 1SA 

0191 340 3082 

I’m sorry, but I don’t get the point of single-ingredient restaurants, which is why, despite a few readers’ recommendations, I’ve haven’t reviewed Newcastle’s Coop Chicken House. Chicken is normally the last thing I’d order from any menu, so to be offered nothing but “Whole, Half or Quarter” isn’t my idea of a fun night out. 

Which may be why I’ve overlooked The Sausage Emporium. It takes a particularly cold, damp January evening to instill a craving for nothing but bangers. 

However when my friend and I arrived at this brightly furnished archway under the East Coast line near Central Station (which make its noisy presence felt every few minutes), we realised that this is a doghouse aspiring to pedigree status.

17 January 2015

The Brasserie at Sage Gateshead

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Sage Gateshead 
St Mary's Square 
Gateshead Quays 
NE8 2JR 

0191 443 4666 

It’s so nice when you find good food in unusual settings, especially in NE8. 

I’d assumed the Sage only served quick-bites and coffees in its cafés. I’d seen the sign for The Brasserie, but I thought it looked spectacularly uninviting with its canteen tables and departure lounge ambience. I suspected an international catering company was responsible, offering prepacked food and disinterested staff, so I’d always avoided it like the plague. 

Well, I was right about the international catering company (British firm Lindley had the contract, but it’s now been absorbed by American giant Centreplate), but I was definitely wrong about the food.

12 January 2015

NE1's Restaurant Week: 19th - 25th January 2015

It’s just a week to go till this year’s popular Restaurant Week in which you’ll be able to dine in some of Newcastle’s finest restaurants for fixed price menus of either £10 or £15 a head. 

3 January 2015


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301-303 Chiswick High Road 
W4 4HH 

020 8747 0377 

Chiswick is a mixture of sturdy Edwardian houses with traffic jams and noisy overflying planes.  It’s the first bit of London you hit after the M4 from Heathrow. 

Cut in two by the relentless A4, quite why properties are so expensive in this polluted congestion zone is beyond me. But it has one redeeming feature: Hedone, which can almost be translated from the Greek as “wanton pleasure” – aptly.

The French

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The Midland 
Peter St 
M2 3NQ 

0161 236 3333 

In the unlikely event that I ever gain an entry in Who’s Who, I’m pretty certain that my list of recreations would include long lunches and sleeping. In my case, there’s a direct correlation between the two. My lunch heaven demands a couple of spare hours and more than a couple of glasses of good wine, after which I am invariably rewarded with the sleep of the dead.

6 December 2014

Eslington Villa

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8 Station Road 
Low Fell 
Tyne & Wear 
NE9 6DR 

0191 487 6017 

There’s something rather solid and comfortable about Eslington Villa. A sturdy, late-Victorian red-brick property overlooking the Team Valley, it’s the kind of place Fawlty Towers might have become if it had decent staff, a trained chef, and someone other than Basil Fawlty running it. 

This is a proper family-run hotel that’s been kept well, nurtured and improved over the years (it’s been around since the 1980s). Set back from the main drag in Low Fell, I suspect it’s too far from Newcastle to attract many tourists, yet it’s a cut above the travelling salesmen places you usually find in the suburbs. 

Originally two houses built for the Victorian well-to-do, the décor is conservative rather than stylish, and though some of the bedrooms have rather idiosyncratic colour schemes, you can tell it has caring, passionate owners and enthusiastic, efficient staff. 

There’s an airy, tiled conservatory overlooking the large lawn and the valley beyond. That’s where Mrs Diner and I were seated, looking forward to one of the best value lunches in town, with three courses for £16.95.

29 November 2014

St Mary's Inn

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St Mary’s Park 
Stannington Park
NE61 6BL 

01670 293293 

I guess you’d call this a work in progress. 

'We’re creating a thriving community in the great British countryside,' runs the online blurb from Bellway, the developers of Stannington Park. 

'Inspired by the best of English village life,' it goes on, over a shot of a couple dressed in black tie getting into an open topped sports car, presumably off to the opera. The lady is wearing her partner’s heavy coat to protect herself from the spray on the A1. 

Elsewhere in the same brochure, the couple is dressed more appropriately for village life, complete with spaniel and green wellies, then wrapped in jumpers as they cycle, without a care in the world, or even cycle helmets, down a wintry lane. 

Built on the sprawling site of the old St Mary’s Hospital, or Asylum as it used to be called, like every self-respecting country village, Stannington Park will have its own cricket pitch, community hall and, of course, village pub. 


Not any old pub, this is a gastropub. And better than that, one owned and run by Newcastle’s best hotel, Jesmond Dene House. 

22 November 2014


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Doubletree by Hilton Hotel 
Newcastle Airport 
NE13 8BZ 

01661 867020 

What a difference one letter can make. 

Fratello, which means ‘brother’, is a group of three Italian restaurants housed within hotels managed by Newcastle-based Cairn Group. Fratelli, which means ‘brothers’, is also one of three restaurants, but in this case the brothers are from Sardinia: Fabrizio Saba and his brother-in-law Paul Bernardelli, who have been running Sabatini, Prima and Fratelli for many years. 

If I were Signori Saba and Bernardelli, I’d have been pretty upset when Fratello’s opened at the airport, right on Fratelli’s doorstep. After all, they’d already successfully built up their popular Ponteland Italian and the locals seem to love it. Fratelli won Best Family Restaurant in the Secret Diner Restaurant Awards last year – they have a table magician at Sunday lunch. 

To have another Italian brother infiltrate their catchment area ought to have kickstarted a new Godfather movie. But aside from the name, they’re as different as chalk and cheese, or, in this case, cheap catering mozzarella and spicy soft Pecorino. One calls itself an Italian restaurant; the other actually is one.

15 November 2014

Electric East

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St James Boulevard 
Waterloo Square 
Newcastle Upon Tyne 
NE1 4DP 

0191 221 1000 

Lunch: Fri only 
Dinner: Mon to Sat 6 - 9.45pm 

Nearly three years ago Electric East emerged phoenix-like from the ashes of a Newcastle institution called Barn Asia, which I’d only managed to visit once before it fell into administration. 

Based on that one experience, which thankfully I was never called on to chronicle, I reckoned they only got half the name right – it was a bit of a barn, but I could detect little of Asia in its cooking. I found much of it bland, and some actually rather unpleasant. 

That has been my lame excuse for not reviewing its successor until now. However Electric East is well thought of by some, and has even managed a listing in the Michelin guide, so this secret visit was long overdue.

9 November 2014

Holystone Lodge and Restaurant [CLOSED JANUARY 2015]

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Low Farnham 
NE65 7AQ 

01669 640140 

If there’s one thing you’ll need out here, it’s a satnav. Set somewhere between Rothbury and the Outer Hebrides, this restaurant is not just out of the way, it’s located behind the back of beyond. 

It was a chilly Tuesday. We were sure we’d be the only guests, and were glad we’d invited a few friends to join us. There’s nothing worse than an empty restaurant in the middle of nowhere on a dark Tuesday night. 

“Are you sure you put in the right postcode?” moaned Mrs Diner, as TomTom confidently rejected Holystone village, and instead directed us along a series of long, ever-narrowing lanes. 

When we ended up in a farmyard, we decided TomTom had messed up. We’d reached the end of the road and were about to turn the car round, when we spotted the little sign. It led us to a large, bright restaurant, already packed with diners, and a welcoming maître d’ holding open the door.