Newcastle upon Tyne
0191 261 5945
Blackfriars Restaurant claims to be “time-honoured, traditional British, and the oldest dining room in the UK”. It’s certainly old: frankly it could do with a good makeover.
Resembling a down-at-heel pub, with antlers on the ceiling and tatty wood furniture, it ticks the local box with a laminated map of its suppliers on every table. But good ingredients are worthless without great cooking. And sadly that’s where this ‘historic’ eatery is let down.
I took a friend who’s going through a particularly painful divorce. The poor chap looked like he hadn’t eaten real food for weeks, so he chose pressed Northumberland ox tongue with cornichons followed by wild mushroom pie. Now ox tongue is delicious when cooked slowly with garlic and vegetables and pressed with port gelatin, then served with pickles. This tongue arrived speechless, without its cornichons, just a blob of bland mushroom sauce on the side. It was utterly without taste. “Just like the wife: all tongue and no spice,” my friend mumbled unhappily.
I fared little better with my “risotto of spring vegetables”. Call me old-fashioned, but where I come from they don’t have sweet corn and peas in March. This was less “primavera”– buttery, cheesy, tiny Italian rice pumped up with rich fresh vegetable stock – and more like those terrible rice salads you avoid at cheap weddings.
As for the main course, though my friend’s pie was tasty and rich in fennel, my sausages and mash had been drowned in a sea of thin gruel purporting to be onion gravy. Caramelised onions should be dark, rich and sweet, perhaps with a hint of fine vinegar: this plate looked like a swimming accident, with white worm casts lying atop pale dead sausages. With a glass of Chilean cabernet sauvignon, our disappointing two courses came to £19 without coffee.
The service was friendly but relentless: if our waitress had said “No problem at all” one more time in response to our innocent requests for mustard, water and bread, I think we would have screamed.