25 King Street
0191 261 4415
At the other end of Queen Street (in King Street) is a survivor. Posh elder sister to the wonderful brash Fratelli in Ponteland, Sabatini has the ambience of a fine Roman restaurant (without the tablecloths). It’s glossy and sexy, an ambience at odds with the food, which is nicely homespun.
Sardinian cooking is about the hills: wild boar, baby lamb, pecorino, bread soup, and, most famous of all, the suckling pig. They’ve all made their way down to Newcastle’s quayside, though there needs to be a crowd of you to sample the suckling pig, which must be ordered in advance.
Although they still serve some of the more mundane Italian restaurant staples, Sabatini recently relaunched as an authentic Sardinian experience: so I closed my eyes and dreamed of the sun.
I was very tempted by the seafood fregola (a kind of pasta couscous) and the wild boar ragù, but instead settled on pane frattau: sort of bread lasagna, though this was served without the customary poached egg, and malloredus campidanese, tiny, oblong, gnocchi-like pasta smothered in a rich, spicy sausage and tomato sauce so dark and intense, it demanded a very large glass of house Valpolicella to accompany.
By contrast, lamb stew with potatoes was a little dilute, though comforting enough for the cold rain of a Newcastle summer, but the swordfish was immaculate, thinly cut and doused with oregano and garlic salmoriglio and served with a nice mix of sweet grilled vegetables.
Finally, and rather surprisingly, considering my previous tirade about Italian desserts in Newcastle, a superb torta della nonna, oozing lemon and almonds, that tasted straight out of Italy. That’s because it was: the pastries are imported, but none the worse for that.
Sabatini has a fantastic list of Sardinian wines. It isn’t exactly fine dining, but you’ll certainly have a fine evening. Approximately £15 for a main course, but if you can find 11 friends, do club together for the £240 whole suckling pig.