30 June 2020

Dining Under Lockdown: Hjem Comforts Box

Food ✪✪✪✪✪ 
Value for money ✪✪✪✪✪ 
Pandemic friendly? (Ease of procurement, social distancing etc) ✪✪✪✪✪ 

Hjem
The Hadrian Hotel
Wall
Hexham
NE46 4EE

01434 681 232

restauranthjem.co.uk

Gluten free options? A number of items contain wheat, rye and barley- full allergen sheet provided in box.

Under the normal run of things I try to keep this site relatively comprehensive, taking in every notable restaurant opening across the North East, and even a few further afield. This inevitably means the occasional long, hopeful trek ending in bitter disappointment. If you want to experience real pathos and melancholy, try journeying the length of our wonderful region only to be rewarded by a microwaved, bought in sponge with the temerity to call itself a sticky toffee pudding. It happens. The struggle is real. 

8 June 2020

Dining Under Lockdown: The Patricia At Home

Food ✪✪✪✪ 
Value for money ✪✪✪✪ 
Pandemic friendly? (Ease of procurement, social distancing etc) ✪✪✪✪✪ 

The Patricia at Home
139 Jesmond Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE2 1JY

0191 281 4443

the-patricia.com 

Gluten free options? No choice menu, changes weekly. Check website. 

Well, hello there. How are you doing? No, really, how are you doing? Alright, I hope, and if you or someone you know isn’t, or hasn’t been, then I’m very sorry. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but I just checked which the review was that I last uploaded to here, back in early March; it seems like both five minutes ago, and as if it is a despatch from an entirely different universe.

10 March 2020

The Beaumont Hotel

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Service ✪✪✪✪✪

Beaumont Street
Hexham
Northumberland
NE46 3LT

01434 602 331

thebeaumonthexham.co.uk

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free? Yes


Man, I love a good pudding. Is anything so totally unnecessary yet quite so important as pudding? We all need protein and carbohydrates and fats and stuff like that to survive, a fact that can render that lot a bit workaday and utilitarian. On the other hand not one of us requires sugar. This makes it, literally, a luxury. Pudding is the Cruyff turn of the meal time, the over-the-top cadenza, the showy literary ending of the last chapter. Pudding is what happens when food becomes more than just sustenance. It is culture, nostalgia, comfort and joy. 

5 March 2020

Barrio Comida

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Service ✪✪✪✪✪

34 Church Street
Durham
DH1 3DG

0191 370 9688

barriocomida.com 

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free options? Yes 

 
I normally spend a few days looking forward to a meal out. Always with optimism, you understand - I'm a glass half full kind of guy (especially when the restaurant has a decent wine list). 

Sometimes the anticipation extends to a couple of weeks, certainly if it’s somewhere a bit fancier. You’re only talking months when it’s some gastro-palace with more chefs than punters, or an up-and-comer that threatens to smash up a paradigm or two. So if I tell you that I had been looking forward to eating at the new Barrio Comida for about two and half years, understand that this was a meal shouldering an awful lot of expectation.

29 February 2020

Purnell's

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Ambience ✪✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪

55 Cornwall Street
Birmingham
B3 2DH

0121 212 9799

purnellsrestaurant.com


Accessibility? Yes, inform when booking
Gluten free? Yes, advise when booking



The Michelin Guide has an interesting place in the modern British culinary picture. It is on the one hand sniffed at and derided for being out of touch, or for making awards and deletions that are hard to understand. How can Sketch in London get a third star this year when the classical brilliance of (South Shields’ own!) John Williams at the Ritz sports but one? Whatever did Castle Terrace in Edinburgh do wrong to lose theirs a couple of years back? And, more locally, why was a restaurant cooking at the stratospheric levels of Hjem overlooked for a star last year?

22 February 2020

Little Green Social

Food ✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

83-89 Goldspink Lane
Sandyford
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE2 1NQ

0191 230 5167

littlegreensocial.co.uk

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free options? Yes 


I’ve started viewing vegan meals as a sort of mental preparation for the time when we all are forced, by choice or peer pressure to eat this way. That time is probably here already really, it’s just that the majority of us who are still partly subsisting on things that once mooed, clucked or bleated are doing our best to delude ourselves. I know I am. On the one hand, I do bloody love steak. On the other, I saw a map recently which made it quite clear that should global temperatures rise 4 degrees above pre-industrial levels, my house will be underwater. Maybe by then Elon Musk or one of those other tech guys or girls will have invented wearable gills? Here’s hoping.

20 February 2020

Nikos Taberna

Food ✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪

61 Bridge Street
Morpeth
NE61 1PQ

01670 514 618

Website: Facebook only

Accessibility? No
Gluten free options? Yes


I really like reading menus. Not just in the “ooh, that sounds nice, shall we order it?” sense, but with, you know, a bit more seriousness and deliberation. They’re the sheet music of the restaurant biz, statements of intent, adverts for anticipated pleasure. I used to keep the ones we’d ordered from at fancy places, paper trophies as reminders of expensive but happily procured fun. I like looking at old menus too, reminders as they often are of trends you had forgotten about and dishes nobody makes like they used to.


There’s a particular grammar to the well written menu which tends, in my view, towards the terse, punchy end of the spectrum. Keep the adjectives to a minimum, I say. Under-promise and over-deliver. It’s nice to have an idea about what ingredients are going to arrive on the plate, and even a sense of the methodology that got them there. I don’t need to know how fabulous the kitchen thinks a dish is, nor the number of generations a recipe has come down to us from. So yeah, I like reading menus. Even the bad ones. I mean, you’ve got to flick through a few pages of Fifty Shades once in a while just to remind yourself why you enjoy Phillip Roth, right?

What I enjoy somewhat less is having to read an entire menu aloud, at the table, to the in-laws.

17 February 2020

Whitechurch Durham

Food ✪✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪

29 Church Street Head
Durham
DH1 3DN

0191 386 8897

whitechurchdurham.com

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free options? Yes 


There seems to be a bit of an imperative for new restaurant businesses to be able to offer something at all times of the day. If you have the staff, the kit and the premises to pull it off then it makes a lot of sense. Rent and rates need paying whether the doors are open or not; might as well make money from the brunchy crowd as well as those in the market for a nice dinner. Somebody dropping in for a coffee might come back next week for their birthday dinner, and so on and so forth.

15 February 2020

Flint Pizza

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


218a Chillingham Road
Heaton
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE6 5LP

07714 217 096

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free? No 

Why is Neapolitan-style pizza the only one that anyone wants to cook nowadays? Or, more accurately, the only one that anyone wants to sell in a restaurant? It’s like someone deciding that all techno must henceforth be minimalist, or all indie be shoegaze. I mean, those are obviously the superior forms of their parent genres, but other technos and indies are available, and well worth a look too. Is it not also thus for pizza? Whither the Roman, Chicago or New York varietals?

14 February 2020

Horticulture

Food ✪✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪

1-3 Market Lane
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6QQ

0191 261 7222

horticultureuk.co.uk

Accessibility? No 
Gluten free options? Yes


Horticulture is the new restaurant and bar on the site previously occupied by Paradiso, an institution which had begun to wear its own age a little carelessly in recent years. It has a slightly daft name that sounds a bit like something out of Nathan Barley, and an ethos, which they’ll tell you about at the top of their homepage. They make 40 different espresso Martinis, a clickbaity press-release boast that I am doing nobody any favours in mindlessly repeating here. I was half expecting to be seated with an interminable sermon on the menu concept, followed by dips served in mini wheelbarrows and gravy issuing from a watering can.

But no, not so much of that. Behind all the flim flam, what Horticulture is offering is something a little bit old fashioned that will always work for me; thoughtful and accurate cooking of nice ingredients by folk who know what they’re doing.