4 November 2018

St Vincent

Food ✪✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

29 The Broad Chare 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 3DQ 

Accessibility? Yes Gluten free? Yes 

0191 232 1331 
www.saintvincentncl.co.uk

You might think that after so many combined years in the biz, Terry Laybourne and his team at 21 Hospitality Group would lose their edge; that their extraordinary ability to give the people what they want, just before they know they want it, would become dulled. A visit to St Vincent will soon set you right: they’ve only gone and done it again. It’s a little beaut.

21 October 2018

Roots York

Food ✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪✪ 

68 Marygate 
York 
YO30 7BH 

No phone number 
www.rootsyork.com 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes 


“It’s not you. You’re great. Honestly. No, no, you don’t need to change anything, I promise. Really, it’s not you: it’s me!” 

I always thought this was the sort of pathetic line that men - well, mostly men - trot out when they want to break up with someone, but don’t have testicular fortitude to tell the dumpee the truth. Far, far better to refer to some ambiguous failing of the self than shoulder the responsibility for someone else’s distress. That's always been my excuse anyhow. 

But once or twice of late, when faced with a particular type of modern British cookery, I’ve wondered whether my slightly muted response might not be the food’s fault, but my own. Is there something I’m just not getting? Why, when I’m going in fully primed to have my socks blown off am I coming out with them still firmly inside my shoes? 

The type of food and restaurant I’m talking about here is one which takes its time and place seriously, which thinks carefully about ingredients and preparations, often to the point of growing, making, or preserving them itself. In Northern England that means acknowledging the shortness of the growing season with creative thrift, perhaps alongside a focus on high quality dairy and meats, and certainly an interest in preserving and fermenting. Lake Road Kitchen in Windermere does this sort of thing. I couldn’t wait to eat there, expecting a minor epiphany, but found it... just nice. And so then to Roots in York, the second restaurant from Tommy Banks, which was, well... just very nice.

25 September 2018

Stack Newcastle

Food ✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 
(Sushi me Rollin’ were lovely) 

Stack Newcastle 
Old Odeon Site 
Pilgrim Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 6QE 

0191 216 1415 

www.stacknewcastle.com 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Some 

Honestly, it’s a wonder that there are any shipping containers left for the ships. When Riley’s Fish Shack and Anna Hedworth’s Cookhouse used a couple apiece to open their businesses it had just a whiff of underground cool and felt a bit edgy. When By The River Brew Co opened up earlier this year it was as if the whole “not quite permanent” concept had been weaponised, to very good effect. 

With the advent of Stack, on the site of the former Odeon Cinema, shipping containers have gone full-blown mainstream. Give it a couple of years and we’ll all be living, working and loving in shipping containers. Watch out, Maersk.

15 September 2018

Pentonbridge Inn

Food ✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪✪ 

Penton 
Carlisle 
CA6 5QB 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes 

01228 586636 
pentonbridgeinn.co.uk 

Sometimes the restaurant trade moves so fast that I struggle to keep pace. If you wanted an example of the ephemeral impermanence of existence, you could do at lot worse than to keep tabs, as I try vainly try, on which chefs are cooking where. 

Case in point: Pentonbridge Inn, just outside of Longtown in Cumbria. It was only late last year when, to a fair harrumph of fanfare in the trade press, husband and wife chefs Jake and Cassie White, ex of Marcus Wareing and Hélène Darroze, left the bright lights of London for the rather less likely venue of Penton, just a few hundred yards south of the Scottish Border. There was some excited chat on the part of the owners about the possibility of Michelin stars, of improving local food supply chains and even of Longtown becoming a notable “food town”. 

This last statement drew a sustained eyebrow-raise from me. I’ve driven through Longtown many times. Let's be charitable: Cartmel it ain’t. Still, the food at Pentonbridge sounded like serious fun. Great, I thought. I’ll pop in for lunch sometime. So we did, a couple of weeks ago on a trip back from The Lakes, but neither Jake nor Cassie were anywhere to be seen. For whatever reason they’ve departed the business inside of a year (they left in May ‘for personal reasons’), to be replaced by Gary McDermott who had previously slung his knives at Carlisle’s Rickerby Retreat and most recently as head chef at Grasmere’s Lancrigg Hall. 

I heard the White’s food here had been superb, but now I’ll never know. What I can however tell you is that, happily, Gary’s isn’t half bad either.

31 August 2018

Wolfmann’s Eating House

Food ✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

9A Stanhope Parade 
South Shields 
Tyne & Wear
NE33 4BA 

07714 525784 
www.facebook.com/WolfmannsEatingHouse 

The phrase “hidden gem”, is a double-edged sword. One of the joys of being The Secret Diner is to be able tip you the wink about unassuming but excellent places off the beaten track; however, doing so brings more than a frisson of guilt for those who thought they had these secret haunts all to themselves. 

So, if you have a favourite seat at Wolfmann’s Eating House in South Shields - and there are only about eighteen to choose from - then I’m sorry for what follows (you can blame Phil Dixon, who originally emailed me about it). This really is a cracking little place, with charm to burn and a well-cooked menu of unusually fun Asiana that deserves to find a wider audience.

21 August 2018

Träkol


Food ✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

By the River Brew Co 
Hillgate Quays 
Gateshead 
NE8 2BH 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes  

0191 737 1120 
(online bookings only) 
www.bytheriverbrew.co/trakol 

Sometimes fortune really does favour the bold. When Rob Cameron and Dave Stone of Wylam Brewery/Bridge Tavern/Town Wall fame signed on the proverbial dotted line and agreed, at very short notice, to take on the project of planning a “shipping container village” underneath the Gateshead side of the Tyne Bridge, they couldn’t in their wildest dreams have expected a summer like this one. What a wall to wall scorchio, perfect for street food sampling, or just sitting outside with a lovely view and a nice beer. And pretty handy when you’ve just opened up a massive pub in the middle of it. 

Except that to call ‘By The River Brew Co.’ a pub is a bit like referring to me as fussy; both are true, but also radical understatements.

12 August 2018

The Roxburgh

 
Food ✪✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

4 Roxburgh House 
Park Avenue 
Whitley Bay 
Tyne & Wear
NE26 1DQ 

0191 253 1661 
facebook.com/theroxburghonparkave 

What’s happened to Whitley Bay? It’s fast turning into a food and drink paradise: Hinnies, Nord, Papa Ganoush, Left Luggage Room, Elder and Wolf, Storm Cellar, Omni, the new Spanish City – where have I missed? Every time I visit the town, or a Metro stop either side of it, there seems to be somewhere new and good. 

I’m sure locals would give a shrug of their collective shoulder at this; they know just fine what they’ve got, thanks. But for anyone not from the area, with hazy recollections of Whitley Bay’s grim, stag-frenzied past, this new state of affairs is nothing short of miraculous. 

As far as I know, the upward trend all began with this little place: The Roxburgh. I had a great brunch here when it first opened at the beginning of 2015. My review began with the understatement: “It’s not exactly our region’s culinary capital”. I couldn’t really understand why a chef of Gary Dall’s skills and pedigree had chosen to open his first restaurant here. This chef from Wallsend had worked under Laybourne, and in Sydney, and used to be the private chef of touring rock bands. Why a tiny dining room in Whitley Bay?

4 August 2018

Antler


Food ✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪ 

55 Degrees North 
Pilgrim Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 6BG 

0191 261 1066 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes

www.antlernewcastle.co.uk 

In my world, there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. I refuse to feel remorse about eating anything I enjoy, though there are a few things I don’t feel especially proud about.

Naturally I’m all about the gourmet ice cream, but the Fab lolly, eaten in layers (brown, then white, then red, obviously), is pretty damn good too; in my time I have stolen more than one miniature Snickers bar from my child’s secret stash; and while meat-wise my preference is for well aged rib-eye or long braised ox cheek, I’ve been known to enjoy the odd Ikea meatball. Quite a few, actually, and that’s all down to the Aged Diner.

25 July 2018

Papa Ganoush

Food ✪✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪ 

240 Park View 
Whitley Bay 
NE26 3QX 

0191 253 5550 

Accessibility? No 
Gluten free? Yes
www.papaganoush.co.uk

The move from street food operation to a bricks and mortar restaurant must be absolutely fraught. 

Making a few informal dishes from the limited confines of a truck or tent is comparatively easy compared to coming up with a whole menu, and then cooking it consistently. You quickly know what works when you get an instant response from a hungry crowd outside your van; it’s harder to get feedback from a bunch of hired staff. Now you have to do HR, and find premises with non-crippling rents. And buy plates, and tables and cookers and stuff. And figure out your order of service and your supplier network. Maybe better just stick with the street food thing after all, eh? It is festival season after all. Restaurant next year. Maybe. 

So all credit to those brave souls, like Papa Ganoush, who have rolled the dice and taken that plunge. I had always been impressed by their falafel, zingy salads and sauces, all piled into steaming fresh flatbreads at Jesmond Food Market or down on the Sunday Quayside Market. But a restaurant cannot just serve up wraps: what else would be on the menu?

16 July 2018

La Famiglia

Food ✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

80 Queen Street 
Amble 
Northumberland 
NE65 0DD 

01665 711 862 

www.boathousefoodgroup.co.uk/la-famiglia 

Among the restaurant-going public it’s a longstanding belief that the words “home-made”, or any variation thereof, denote something good. Maybe that’s why they appear so frequently on menus. The sauce is always the “chef’s own”. Or the soup is “our chef's special recipe”. Yum.

At La Famiglia, in Amble, all the pasta is “handmade on the premises”. What then to make of the fact that, at least on the cheerily bright lunchtime of our visit, it wasn’t very good?