Value for money ✪✪✪✪
Pandemic friendly? (Ease of procurement, social distancing etc) ✪✪✪✪✪
The Patricia at Home
139 Jesmond Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
0191 281 4443
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.
We're fine, relatively speaking, so there’s that. I imagine since you’re here that, like me, restaurants figure pretty highly on the list of stuff you’re missing from The Before Times. God, I do though. What I wouldn’t give for even an absolutely bog standard meal out right now, just as long as it came with all the wonderful little rituals and essential grammar that attends to the business of being fed in someone else’s room. A vast amount has been written on the future of the restaurant, post Covid-19, which I won’t add to here, other than to note that the hospitality industry is full of tremendously creative folk, which gives me some cause for hope.
I had initially resolved not to write reviews of takeaways. I mean, if I score my own dining room less than five stars for ambience then that could be construed as a dirty protest against Mrs Diner’s Spotify playlist. I review restaurants because I love eating out, so: what’s the point? Well, it seems like this fandango is going to be with us for some time, and some restaurant folk are busting a gut to figure out how to get their food to you. We’ve all still got to eat, and it would be lovely to see as many restaurants as possible make it to the other side of this mess, so here we are. My first pandemic-friendly review of not-quite-a-restaurant.
The honour goes to The Patricia in Jesmond, a fine establishment for which my admiration is no great secret. Against the welter of places that quickly and admirably turned themselves into takeaways, Nick Grieves seemed to have a slightly different plan; to allow you to enjoy more or less the same food he was until recently dishing up at the restaurant, chez vous, with nice wine, and even a link to his restaurant Spotify playlist. Right about now, that sounded bloody great.
There’s a set menu with limited scope for changes, although by all means contact them if you’ve any questions in that regard. The ordering process was simplicity itself- a link on their website takes you to a page where you book a pick-up slot and pay by card. You book on Monday or Tuesday for collection on a Friday or Saturday. It’s £40 for a meal for 2 people, to which you can add very reasonably marked-up wine and some extra bits and bobs.
Grieves himself was at the restaurant to oversee the socially-distanced pick up. A few slightly awkward niceties that went along the lines of “well, this is all mental, eh?” and I was back in the car, experiencing the odd mix of emotions I’m still getting every time I step out of the front door when it isn’t strictly necessary. But this time I was at least armed with brightly coloured bags full of exciting bottles and containers.
Home, unpack, oven on, read instructions. There is a small amount of prep to do yourself but it’s fun. Someone else has prepared a bunch of delicious things, now all you need to do is reheat this, unwrap that, and slice the other in two while you wait for your wine to chill a bit and bang on Bowie's Absolute Beginners.
We started with a Vichyssoise that was a bowlful of plush beige velvet, given savouriness by the triple threat allium combo of onion, leeks and, scattered artfully over the top, chives. Served just off-cold, this is ideal heatwave soup. Focaccia was dunked, the cork came out of a bottle of skin-contact Sicilian Catarratto - I know, we’re just intolerable hipsters - and I already felt a good deal better.
While Mrs Diner sat in the dining room, demanding that her evening at least bear as much resemblance to a restaurant experience as possible, I got on with arranging halved tomatoes and dinky slivers of yellow courgette like I was on bloody Masterchef, then scattering peanuts and a punchy nam jim sauce over the top.
The fish sauce and lime in the nam jim brought out the best of those tomatoes, the whole business acting as a slightly funk-powered palette cleanser. More wine, and what lovely stuff it was, perfectly balanced with just that hint of farmhouse cider character I often note with skin-contact wines. The producer is Cielo, if you’re interested, which I’d say you should be.
Our mains were a lasagna of spring greens and spenwood cheese (and, I thought I detected, a hint of celeriac?) and a dish of cotechino sausage, chickpeas and salsa verde. The former was a generous wodge of comfort, crisp up on top and dreamy underneath.
The latter was a bit of a stunner. Cotechino is a northern Italian sausage made with large amounts of pork rind, along with back fat and meat, and the resulting texture was something like a very smooth, porcine version of haggis. The vinegar sharpness of the salsa cut through everything, making for a hearty yet summery dish. More wine. We’ll be doing this again, right? Yep, defo.
For pudding, very decent tasting strawberries with nuggets of sugar-crisped brioche, tangy crème frâiche and some aged balsamic for the sweet/sharp balance it brings. Lots of balsamic for me, as Mrs Diner can’t get on board with balsamic and strawberries. Her loss. And then we did the dishes.
We had a lovely evening of fine eating, discovered a new favourite wine, listened to some great music and I’m really glad that The Patricia is doing this and I dearly hope it works and it’s enough to keep them going. Yet, the experience was still bittersweet. There was something about eating more-or-less restauranty food that reminded me of the exact thing I would like to have right now but can’t. It all felt a bit like reading old messages from that ex you should never have let get away. Or like a strange virtual reality simulator. Or some other, better, metaphor that I can’t quite put my finger on.
The very idea of eating restaurant food at home has never really made sense to me. Eating out is about hospitality, both with a big and a small “h”. I never understood the appeal of Deliveroo. Well, for the next little while this offering from The Patricia is as close to the real thing as we’ll be getting. And on that basis, they get a big thumbs up for putting in the effort and making the facsimile as close to the actual prize as it’s possible for it to be. Cheers, eat well, and stay safe.