13 July 2020

31 The Quay

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

31 The Quay
Smokehouse Two
Duke Street
North Shields
NE29 6BZ

0191 257 5310

31thequay.co.uk

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free options? Yes

I’m tapping out these words shortly after having had my first meal out since before you-know-what. Not in the restaurant that's the subject of this review, but in a place that, for now, will remain nameless. 

We were among the first through the door on the Saturday when restaurants were finally allowed to reopen. For me, the whole thing felt a little bit like an awkward first date; we and the staff were all smiles and politeness, but also just a bit nervous. It’ll take a while for things to settle in I think, for the rituals to feel natural again. 

The food there was underwhelming too, but I have no intention of slating the first meal that some chef had prepared for a paying customer in nearly four months. That wouldn't do anyone any favours. For now I’ll only be pointing you towards places that I think are really worth your custom. Things are difficult enough for the hospitality trade without a chancer like me using whatever online presence I have to whinge about unseasoned chips or a collapsed soufflé. Don’t worry, I’ll get back to the snark and the grump soon enough.

For now, I'm only writing about the good places, and this one really is a cracker. Or it was four months ago - it's actually the last restaurant I visited before everything went kaput. The meal was everything that makes eating out something I’ve missed so much: excellent ingredients, precise and considerate cooking, and charming service from lovely people. They’ve all been furloughed throughout the lockdown, but they say they’re back to work on July 31st, which seems apt given the restaurant in question is called 31 The Quay.

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

Food ✪✪✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪
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

Food ✪✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪
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

Food ✪✪✪✪✪
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?