21 October 2017

Lola Jeans

Food ✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪ 

1-3 Market Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 6JE 

0191 230 1921 
www.lolajeans.co.uk 

Accessibility? No 
Gluten free? Yes 

I actually like to be proved wrong from time to time. After all, that’s how science progresses, right? A hypothesis can only be confirmed by repeated experimentation. 

When it comes to the complex scientific discipline of how to identify the best burger in Newcastle, I have previously thrown my lot in with the fabulous cheeseburgers produced by The Grind @ No 28 (now renamed Meat:Stack and soon to have its own permanent base in Newcastle’s Grainger Market). But was I correct? That’s why I had to try Lola Jeans.

14 October 2017

Simla


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

39 Side 
Quayside 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 3JE 

0191 261 8800 
simlarestaurant.net 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes 


This week we were all supposed to have been celebrating British Curry Week. Missed the fun? Me too. I did have one good Indian meal, though. And some of it was curry. 

I ate at Simla, on the Quayside, which Tripadvisor says is Newcastle’s #1 restaurant (out of all 1,017 in the city). 


That statistic alone probably disqualifies Tripadvisor from claiming any shred of credibility.

6 October 2017

Riverdale Hall Hotel & Restaurant


Food ✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪ 

Bellingham 
Northumberland 
NE48 2JT 

01434 435 402

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes

riverdalehallhotel.co.uk 

This time of year, Mrs Diner and I love a long drive into deepest Northumberland. Any season is good, of course, but, as the greens turn to tans, bronzes and ochres, an extra dimension is added to the splendour, particularly in the North Tyne valley. 

As we rode the switchbacks of the A68 through a grizzly morning, the lack of a visible horizon only added to the mystery and beauty. Gawping at scenery is hungry work. Just on the other side of Bellingham, as you head towards Kielder, is the sprawling Riverdale Hall, where we planned to take a restorative lunch.

30 September 2017

Lost and Found

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

194A Heaton Road 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE6 5HP 

0191 209 2359 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes

lostandfoundnewcastle.co.uk  

Restaurant menus have been around since the start of the 19th century and have changed remarkably little since then. Some come in fancy leather binders while others languish in a laminate prison, but either way, we all know what they are. 

Which is why the old “Have you dined with us before? No? Then let me explain our menu” routine tends to set my teeth on edge. No, don’t explain it, let me take a wild, blind, guess in the dark: those words on the left are the dishes, right? And those on the right, the numerical ones: are they - no, no, don’t tell me! - the prices? Whaddyaknow! 


At Lost and Found, we had the menu explained to us by an absolutely lovely gent who appeared to be in charge of front of house. It consisted of two lists: “small plates” and “desserts”, so it didn’t take all that much explaining, but we listened politely because we’re British. In fairness, we did pick up one bit of useful advice, being that two of the dishes were slightly more substantial than the rest, of which more later.

23 September 2017

Loca


Food ✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪ 
Service ✪ 

46-50 South Parade 
Whitley Bay 
NE26 2RQ 

0191 252 4040 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes

www.locawhitleybay.com 

As the rejuvenation of Whitley Bay continues apace, it’s turned into a town of contradictions. For every lumbering hulk of a closed down sea-front hotel, a minimalist craft beer bottle shop pops up. For every gorgeously restored Spanish City dome there is a hyper-grim bricks and neon Premier Inn and Beefeater. A walk through the town centre finds zeitgeisty shops and restaurants cheek by jowl with the naff and the knackered. 

It seems apt then that our meal at Loca, a “Latin American” newcomer on South Parade, should have been so full of contrast in quality and variable service.

16 September 2017

Döner Haus

Food ✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

116 High Street 
West Sunderland 
SR1 1TX 

0191 514 0508 
www.donerhaus.uk 






And now, as John Cleese used to say from behind his Monty Python desk in the middle of nowhere, for something completely different. 

I occasionally get accused of favouring gilded, highfalutin places. That’s nonsense, obviously: I’m in favour of good food, wherever it’s found. So, just to ring the changes, I went to Sunderland for a kebab.

9 September 2017

Porterhouse Butcher & Grill

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

Fenwick Food Hall 
Northumberland Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE99 1AR 

0191 239 6612 
porterhousencl.co.uk 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes 

The fewer component parts a dish has - or anything else, for that matter - the greater the potential there is for it to be fretted over and fetishised. Just look at the amount of (bearded) chin-strokery that now goes into producing beer, a product that in most cases consists of just four things: water, malted barley, hops and yeast. 

A cooked steak essentially consists of just one thing: a hunk of dead cow. But from which breed did the beast originate, where did it live, and what did it eat? And, once it met its maker, how was it hung, and for how long? Most important: which bit of the cow did it used to be? Finally, what did the chef use to cook it? There are people who take a geekish amount of interest in these minutiae. Guilty as charged. 

Which is why it’s really important to any foodie (other than veggies, of course) when there’s a new place in town where they really care about the details. Porterhouse, Terry Laybourne’s new place in Fenwicks Food Hall, is one such place.

2 September 2017

The French Quarter

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

Arch 6 Westgate Road 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 1SA 

0191 222 0156 
www.frenchquarternewcastle.co.uk 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes 

Despite the fact that almost every decent chef in the world cut his or her teeth on basic French cooking techniques, and despite the huge numbers of Brits every year who jet off to holidays in the Dordogne or the South of France, I’ve always thought it a bit odd that Britain has so few real French restaurants. 

Plenty of high-end gaffs are sort-of French of course, what with their extensive wine lists, long-reduced sauces and occasionally terrifying service, but that’s not what I’m thinking about. I’m talking platters of meats and cheese reeking of farmyards, with bread and good wine. I’m thinking of simple, satisfying dishes such as pot-au-feu, choucroute and properly made coq au vin or boeuf bourguignon. I’m talking real French food, like you get all over France. And which I love. 

Is it some kind of oh-so-British reverse snobbery, or is it a lack of good ingredients, or sufficient skill and time in the kitchen? I guess it’s a lot less hassle to open up some half-arsed “Italian” or “Asian” place, slinging duff pizzas, gloopy sauces and similar crimes against decency. Or maybe it’s the recent but pervasive suspicion that French food isn’t what it was, that these classic dishes have kept it mired in ossified tradition (a view which, on the whole, prompts me to exclaim “C’est des conneries!”). 

Whatever. Suffice to say I was more than excited to learn that Hexham’s reliably good Bouchon Bistrot is no longer the region’s only thoroughly francophile restaurant. The fabulously named Cedric Boc-Ho and his partner Catherine Metcalfe have opened up The French Quarter in the railway arch that used to house the awful Sausage Emporium.

26 August 2017

Walwick Hall Hotel

Food ✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 
Ambience: inside ✪✪ 
outside ✪✪✪✪✪ 

Humshaugh 
Hexham 
Northumberland 
NE46 4BJ 

01434 620 156 
www.walwickhall.com 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes 

“You’re impossible to please, I think it’s perfectly nice,” I said to my friend. “Didn’t you clock the combo of Elemis handwash and taxidermy in the loo? That’s impressive!” 

My friend sniffed and looked around the bar. 

“Nah, it’s all just a bit try-hard”. 

We were talking about interiors, as modern chaps do these days, because it seems the owners of Walwick Hall have invested quite a lot on theirs and it would have been churlish to pretend not to notice. Refreshed and orders placed, a waitress fetched us to the dining room. The moment we walked in the debate ended. My friend had won hands down. 

If you’re a fan of highly decorative wallpaper, massive prints of stags heads, velour and gold - I’m talking lots of gold – the dining room at Walwick Hall will be right up your straße. It left us speechless. My friend recovered first.

[picture: www.walwickhall.com]
“Hell’s teeth. If Louis XIV had owned an Audi dealership, it would look exactly like this”.

23 August 2017

Colmans Seafood Temple


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

Sea Road 
South Shields 
NE33 2LD 

0191 511 1349 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes

colmansseafoodtemple.co.uk

It was once the grandest public toilet in the world. Gandhi’s Temple, they called it, perhaps as a tribute to Gandhi’s trip to the UK in 1931. 

 

With carved pillars and ornate balistrades and overlooking the sea, the upper level was first a seaside shelter against the rain and later a bandstand. By the end of the last century it had had its chips. Which is appropriate, because now it’s the place for some of the best chips you’ll ever taste, and fish, and lobster and all manner of seafood. For Gandhi’s temple has become Colman’s.