29 February 2020

Purnell's

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

13 February 2020

Brinkburn St Brewery

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Unit 2
Ford Street
Ouseburn Valley
Byker
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE6 1NW

0191 338 9039

brinkburnbrewery.co.uk 

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free options? Yes 


Have we reached peak craft beer yet? Such is the hectic and exponential proliferation of flavour-forward fermentation that I’m finding it hard to keep tabs on Who’s Who among North East brewers. Not that I’m complaining, you understand. The choice of pint - or two-thirds, or whatever - in a decent pub is so far in advance of the state of things ten or fifteen years ago as to be unrecognisable. And, for those of us who like our imbibing to come with a side order of narrative integrity, that pub is ever more likely to be the tap room of the very brewery who made the stuff in the first place.

7 February 2020

Kaltur (Dean Street)

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19 Dean Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 1PQ

0191 447 1180

kalturfood.co.uk

Accessibility? No
Gluten free options? Yes 


There’s a great episode of Seinfeld where Jerry is dating this woman who goes from being devastatingly beautiful to, well, far less so, from one date to the next. I think it’s also the one that has Festivus in it. And Kramer’s bagel shop strike. Man, that’s a good episode. But anyway, back to the point, because bear with me but it does have something to do with restaurants. This woman, who Jerry’s dating: is she good looking or not? What’s going on? Which is the real her?
These are similar to the questions I was puzzling over in relation to the tapas restaurant Kaltur on High Bridge after my second visit. The first time had been a triumph. Fine ingredients, excellent cooking, punchy flavours, fab wine list; it was all phwoar and blimey. I gave it 4 stars, declared it the best tapas in Newcastle and banged on about it to all and sundry.

But then I took Mrs Diner, who had been elsewhere on the occasion of my first visit, and it was rubbish and she questioned whether I’d lost my mind and my palate, as she pushed an unwanted portion of greasy and dull morcilla in my direction, raising a quizzical eyebrow. I felt a damn fool. Was this a good restaurant or not? What was going on? Which was the real Kaltur?

28 January 2020

The Impeccable Pig

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Front St
Sedgefield
Stockton-on-Tees
TS21 3AT

01740 582580

impeccablepig.co.uk

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free options? Yes


Sedgefield’s a nice spot, isn’t it? I can see why Tony Blair was happy enough to be parachuted in - sorry: choose to relocate - all those years ago. As we parked up opposite St Edmund’s Church on a Saturday afternoon that grudgingly offered some pale wintry warmth, everything felt comfortable, genteel and agreeable. It was all very... nice.

This probably helped to persuade Ramside Estates to plough a reported £1.5m - it’s always a big round number, isn’t it? - into refurbishing what used to be The Hope on Front Street and turning it into The Impeccable Pig, a restaurant with rooms. What they’ve done is very impressive, but also probably necessary for a venture of this size; with respect to almost everything about the place, they’ve found that magic sweet spot in the Venn diagram where the circles of quality, accessibility and affordability overlap.

Namaste Taste of India

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195 Park View
Whitley Bay
NE26 3RD

07875 971796

(Facebook only)

Accessibility? No
Gluten free options? Yes

I had always vaguely known, but it was on an Indian cookery course many years ago that it was brought crashing home to me just how little subcontinental home cooking has in common with the Anglicised, vaguely Bangladeshi stuff we know so well from our own curry houses. The food we cooked and ate that day was relatively quick and simple, but completely delicious. No one-size-fits-all heavy ghee or cream-based gravies; the spicing was clear and to the point, with each ingredient contributing something worthwhile.