2 Kingston Park Centre
Newcastle upon Tyne
0191 286 1222
You have kids in tow, you’re exhausted and need a quick lunch before hitting the stores again. If you can’t face another McDonald’s quarter pounder, where do you go? This week Mrs Diner and I went shopping to find fast food with flair and flavour. We failed.
The Kingston Park retail park is a bleak, sad place, and by lunchtime, tired of trekking round TK Maxx and Tesco, we were desperate for a plate of something interesting.
Though the brood were braying for Happy Meals (there’s a McDonald’s right in the middle), at the far side of the car park we spied Luciano’s.
“Fine Italian Dinning (sic),” its website proclaims, “filled with the warmth of the Italian spirit, and the relaxing glow of the Mediterranean… fabulous Italian cuisine and friendly service”. Perfect for escaping the shopping crowds, we thought.
Inside, it’s like an ancient ski chalet, with heavy wooden beams and tables. Years ago this might have looked inviting, romantic even; now it’s a tired barn of a place, big enough for a banquet. It was very quiet.
A waitress seated us by a window and took our drinks order of water and red wine. During the next ten minutes three different waiters turned up asking if we’d like a drink. When our drinks eventually arrived, nobody came to take our food order. Eventually I had to walk across the restaurant to summon the manager.
Although a sign outside offered a 2-course lunch for £7.95, there was no mention of it from manager or menu, so sadly I can’t describe it. Instead I shall tell you about the meatballs in rich tomato sauce, the chicken Milanese with garlic butter, and the childrens’ pizzas, which together cost us, with one glass of wine, nearly £40.
Nearly an hour after we’d ordered, there was no sign of food. No bread was offered, nor apologies or explanations. Eventually we asked a waitress if the chef had died. She went to find out.
She returned with the news that the kitchen was really busy; our food would be another 15 minutes. The restaurant was nearly empty and our children were starving. So I told her to tell the kitchen to move us to the front of the queue and bring the food pronto. It turned up in seconds.
Meatballs are always a good test. They must be tender, spicy and herby. Luciano’s were none of these. Made of dry minced beef (the best meatballs have veal or pork, and are laced with parmesan) these were dull and bore a tomato sauce that was far from rich. Indeed, it was incredibly poor.
Not as bad as Mrs Diner’s £12 chicken, though, which, instead of the light, breadcrumbed gourmet offering we expected, was covered in a sort of batter, with none of the promised garlic butter accompaniment. We were relieved we hadn’t chosen pizza: the children’s were flaccid and underdone. This was possibly the worst Italian food I’ve yet tasted in Newcastle, with inept service in an unremarkable atmosphere. It turns McDonalds into a destination venue.