23 August 2011

Louis' [CLOSED: 2nd FEBRUARY 2015]

Food ✪✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪

Louis’ Restaurant
71-73 Osborne Road
0191 281 4545

Up Osborne Road, past the noisy hordes of revellers outside the bar of the New Northumbria Hotel, to Louis’, Jesmond's “beautifully styled restaurant”.

“Beautifully styled” it isn’t. It’s actually a rather claustrophobic place
with mirrors to make it look larger, slightly tired furniture and closely stacked tables separated from the tiny bar with a screen. On the wall an old silent movie plays pointlessly.

But ignore the decor and you'll find everything else about the place exceptionally warm and welcoming. We ordered truffle risotto – you know how difficult I’ve found it to get decent risotto in the north east. At last we started smiling: it was really good, with lots of cheese, plenty of truffle and sprinkled with tiny red amaranth sprouts. The only letdown was a flaccid parmesan round which had been poured too thick and gone soggy.

We also ordered spare ribs, expecting one of those cloying sweet and sour specimens you get in pubs. Instead, I was genuinely impressed by fresh, tender baby ribs in a light sweet broth, with fresh oranges and wilted greens. This was original and delicious.

The wines are expensive but intelligently chosen: I that noted the champagne list, clearly designed for footballers entertaining potential new wives, is topped by Cristal at £250 a bottle.

Our mains were lamb with truffle mash (a duo of perfectly confited shoulder, fatty and succulent, and a tender pink cutlet – though I think all the truffle had gone into my risotto, as the mash was tasteless), and miso-glazed halibut with prawn dumplings and shiso broth. Now this is a classic dish, served in fine restaurants throughout the world. The halibut is coated in a lovely mahogany sticky miso marinade, and it sits on top of crispy vegetables in a light sauce with little floating wontons. Here Louis’s luck ran out. This was actually most unpleasant, with a brown muddy sauce, a heavy dumpling, and dry halibut. I sent it back.

At that moment, a wonderful thing happened. Not only did the distraught manager immediately take the halibut off the bill, but she insisted I had their Grand Marnier soufflé on the house. This was magnificent, huge, perfect. All was forgiven.

At £18 for a main course, it’s not the cheapest in town, but well worth a trip down the Osborne Road.

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