Art is an expression of creativity. An artisan is a skilled craftsman/woman. An artesian aquifer is a confined aquifer containing groundwater under positive pressure. This causes the water level in a well to rise to a point where hydrostatic equilibrium has been reached. It is worth knowing the differences between them all.
The Biscuit factory opened 2001 and is an impressive independent commercial art gallery. Aside from the main art gallery there is a Biscuit Room venue function suite set to open some time this year if all keeps on track, and it is home to a multitude of artist studios, and an existing function facility with a tidy café upstairs too. It is a great place to wander around casting ones lustful eye over the beautifully crafted artistic creations. A pit stop for a coffee and a snack is possible up stairs but if it a proper sit down and an enjoyment of gastronomic creation then the refurbished and integrated Artisan Restaurant is what you want to head for.
My recollection is that the original Restaurant was Black Door that became DK Food Social as Dave Kennedy began his independent operation. He has now moved on to concentrate on his other venture. DK at Vallum, thus leaving his old Head Chef Andrew Wilkinson to let loose his own epicurean imagination and ingenuity. Like Dave before him Andrew is a previous winner of The North East Chef Of The Year. My understanding that winning that accolade at the age of 22 (back in 2009) made him the youngest holder of the title. A young and gifted cook is what he is. So really what of it? What did the ol’ fella make of the re-launched venue? In truth the space is much the same, but subtle décor and special definition changes have been made. I think it has helped define the space better if I was pushed to comment. Staff-wise the main players are still there; Robin Price and Tracey Bain are very amenable in their front of house rolls, having been there for a good while, and very comfortable at trying to make the diner comfortable. We arrived a week or so after the rebranding exercise and were expecting a great meal. The night was with friends who may or may not share my enthusiasm for food and blogging so I am only giving a feel for what I had and have a modest amount of images to share due to my unusual discretion. A kind helper (non other than Tracey) helped to provide me with the best images she could muster, so my thanks to her for the canny effort xx.
The menu and wine list below will show you the choice of courses we had for the evening:
HOMEMADE FOCCACIA, OLIFERRA, DUKKA – £2.95
NORTH SHIELDS FISH SOUP, ROUILLE, GRUYERE, GARLIC CROUTONS – £5.95
NORTHUMBRIAN GOATS CURD ‘SPRING ROLL’, BEETS, CURED SALMON– £5.95
CHICKEN LIVER PARFAIT, HOT TOAST, WATERCRESS & ROCKET- £6.50
CARAMELISED KING SCALLOPS, MUSCAVADO GLAZED PORK BELLY, TUNNEL SHOOTS – £8.95
HERB PANNA COTTA, CURED HAM, ROASTED PEPPERS, GARDEN PEAS & SHOOTS – £6
(V) CRUNCHY HEN’S EGG, WALNUTS, ASPARAGUS & TRUFFLE – £5
HOMEMADE BLACK PUDDING, PEA PUREE, POACHED EGG – £6.95
10OZ RIB EYE STEAK, DOUBLE DIPPED CHIPS, CHEF’S SALAD – £25
CARAMELISED HALIBUT, FORAGER’S CROQUETTE, ASPARAGUS CREAM – £21
CRISP FILLET OF SALMON, SPRING VEGETABLE MINESTRONE, WILD GARLIC PESTO- £15.50
RUMP OF LAMB, ROASTED PINK FIR, SHALLOT PUREE, NEW SEASON GARLIC & LEEKS – £17
(V) GRUYERE CHEESE & THYME SOUFFLÉ, PEAR & WALNUT SALAD – £13
BACON CHOP, CARAMELISED APPLE, BUBBLE & SQUEAK, MADEIRA SAUCE – £15
(V) TOASTED SOURDOUGH, FRIED DUCK EGG, ASPARAGUS & WILD LEEKS- £12.50
SIDE DISHES £3 (per option)
DOUBLE DIPPED CHIPS FRENCH FRIES,
GRUYERE & ROSEMARY PURPLE SPROUTING BROCCOLI
CHEF’S SALAD BUTTERED NEW SEASON HERITAGE POTATOES WILTED LETTUCE,
PEAS & WILD GARLIC
VANILLA CRÈME BRULEE, ARMAGNAC PRUNES, SHORTBREAD – £6
DARK CHOCOLATE DELICE, HAZELNUT ICE CREAM, PRALINE, LIME & GINGER – £7.50
SELECTION OF HOME-MADE ICE CREAMS & SORBETS – £4.95
LOCALLY SOURCED CHEESEBOARD, BISCUITS & CHUTNEY -£8.50
COCONUT PANNA COTTA, SPICED PINEAPPLES, MANGO & LIME SORBET – £6.50
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING, HOT TOFFEE SAUCE, VANILLA ICE CREAM – £5.95
BAKED WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE, POACHED RHUBARB & SORBET – £5.95
PETIT BALLON BLANC, GASCONY FRANCE BOTTLE £16.50|250ML £6.40 | 125ML £3.25 LIGHT AND FRESH SOUTHERN BLEND WITH HINTS OF LEMON AND GREEN APPLE
SAUVIGNON BLANC, ROSARIO ESTATE, SAN PEDRO CHILE BOTTLE £17.50 | 250ML £6.60 | 125ML £3.40 WONDERFULLY EXPLOSIVE PASSION FRUIT AROMAS AND MOUTH-WATERING ACIDITY
IL BARROCCIO BIANCO,(GARGANEGA), VENETO SICILY BOTTLE £18 | 250ML £6.80 | 125ML £3.50 BURSTING WITH FLORAL AROMAS OF PEACH AND CAMOMILE & A CRISP ACIDITY
VIOGNIER, PUERTAS ANTIGUAS,VALLE CENTRALCHILE – £19 LIKE WAKING UP IN A FLORISTS STOCKROOM! EXPECT PEACHES, ORANGE BLOSSOM & SPICE
TORRONTES, DOMINIO DE TOYO, FAMATINA VALLEYARGENTINA – £20.50 AROMATIC EXAMPLE OF THIS DELICIOUSLY DIFFERENT VARIETAL. JASMINE & HONEYSUCKLE NOTES
VERDEJO, VINA GAREDO, RUEDASPAIN – £21 A REFRESHING, CITRUSSY BLEND OF VERDEJO, SAUVIGNON BLANC AND VIURA
PINOT GRIGIO, CECILIA BERETTA, VENETO ITALY – £22 A PINOT GRIGIO WITH RARE DEPTH AND ELEGANCE FROM TOP-CLASS ESTATE BERETTA
UNOAKED CHARDONNAY, UMBRELE ROMANIA – £23 RIPE, RICH & SUCCULENT – EXACTLY WHAT A CHARDONNAY SHOULD BE
PICPOUL DE PINET, DOMAINE DE MORIN LANGARAN FRANCE – £24 DELICATE, FLORAL YET PERFECTLY BALANCED WITH CRISP ACIDITY
SAUVIGNON BLANC LOFTHOUSE ESTATE, MARLBOROUGHNEW ZEALAND – £28 INTENSE KALEIDOSCOPIC FLAVOURS. IMPOSSIBLY TASTY AND DANGEROUSLY EASY TO DRINK
CHAMPAGNE & PROSECCO
PROSECCO BRUT “LE COLTURE” NV ITALY BOTTLE £24.95 | 125ML £4.95 BEAUTIFULLY HAND-CRAFTED SPARKLER FROM THIS FAMILY RUN ESTATE
ROSE SPUMANTE BRUT “LE COLTURE” NV ITALY BOTTLE £27 | 125ML £5.95 BRIGHT RED FRUITS WITH A BEAUTIFUL FLORAL FINISH
CHAMPAGNE DELAMOTTE BRUT NV, LE MESNIL FRANCE BOTTLE £49 | 125ML £10.95 DISTINGUISHED, STYLISH AND SUPREMELY DRINKABLE. WORLD CLASS WINEMAKING
PETIT BALLON ROSÉ, GASCONYFRANCE BOTTLE £16.50 | 250ML £6.40 | 125ML £3.25 PINK, PERT AND DAMN NEAR PERFECT. RED FRESH FRUITS & HINTS OF WILD STRAWBERRY
MAS OLIVERAS CABERNET ROSÉ SPAIN BOTTLE £17.50 | 250ML £6.60 | 125ML £3.40 DEEP IN COLOUR WITH BRIGHT SUMMER BERRY FRUITS & A JUICY PALATE
PINOT GRIGIO BLUSH, MONTEVENTO ESTATE, VENETOITALY BOTTLE £19 LIGHT AS A FEATHER AND SUPER FRESH. A GLUGGER FROM THE TOP DRAWER
PETIT BALLON ROUGE, GASCONY FRANCE BOTTLE £16.50 | 250ML £6.40 | 125ML £3.25 A MAGIC MASH UP OF MERLOT, CABERNET, GRENACHE & SYRAH. SMOOTH, SAVOURY & SPICED
IL BARROCCIO ROSSO, (NERO D’AVOLA), VENETOSICILY BOTTLE £17.50 | 250ML £6.60 | 125ML £3.40 STEREOTYPICALLY SEXY, DARK BERRY AROMAS AND VELVET-LIKE TEXTURE
SHIRAZ, PUERTAS ANTIGUAS VALLE CENTRALCHILE BOTTLE £18 | 250ML £6.80 | 125ML £3.50 SUPER RICH & SMOKY WITH COFFEE, CHOCOLATE & SPICE ON THE PALATE MERLOT
LA COMBE DE GRINOU, BERGERAC (ORGANIC)FRANCE – £21 BRILLIANCE IN A BOTTLE. ALLURING, EASY DRINKING, BORDEAUX-STYLE RED WITHOUT THE PRICE TAG
MALBEC, CHAMUYO ESTATE, MENDOZA ARGENTINA - £22 DUSKY DARK FRUITS WITH A SMOLDERING SASSY CHARACTER. THE PERFECT PARTNER TO BEEF
CABERNET SAUVIGNON-MERLOT, BIN 19AUSTRALIA – £23 BLACKCURRANT & PLUM FLAVOURS WRAPPED IN A SMOKY, VANILLA EDGED CLOAK
TEMPRANILLO, LAGUNA DE LA NAVA, VALDEPENAS SPAIN – £25 SOFT BRAMBLE FRUIT WITH WONDERFUL OAK AGE. IF YOU LIKE RIOJA YOU’LL LOVE THIS
QUINTA DE CHOCAPALHA TINTOPORTUGAL – £26 A MODERN, COMPLEX BLOCKBUSTER FROM THE OUTRAGEOUSLY GOOD ‘HOUSE OF CHOCOLATE’
THE RUINS PINOTAGE, ROBERTSON (ORGANIC)SOUTH AFRICA – £27 A PROPER, UNAPOLOGETIC PINOTAGE, CHOCK FULL OF PLUM AND SPICE
PINOT NOIR, LA TUNELLA, FRIULLI REGIONITALY – £29 PINOT THAT OOZES SOPHISTICATION. DELICATE SPICE & JUICY CRUSHED RASPBERRY FLAVOURS
My selection for the evening followed the following lines: For the wine, as we were a party of four and to cater considerately for mixed palates and menu options a white was the preference, hence:
UNOAKED CHARDONNAY, UMBRELE ROMANIA
As an unoaked it is decently well-rounded with soft peachy flavours. Nicely chilled offers up its crisp, ample, ripe, tropical fruit tones and a good finish.
A taster of Pork croquettes, Smoked Salmon Roulade on crisp rustic bread and Asparagus, Truffle & Parmigiano Soup was offered, I hope in appreciation of some spice offerings I had brought. If not I still owe for them them.
They were all excellently cooked. the pork succulent and meaty inside a crunchy outer coating accompanied by a great little tart, creamy dipping sauce (I forgot to ask what it was… my mouth was too full and happily engaged in its masticatory duties). The crisp crunch of the bread offered both texture and sound to the eating pleasure, and a counterpoint in physicality to the lovely soft, smooth, smoky discoid delight of salmon. The soup was that fantastic brilliant green one gets with asparagus… and maybe pea was involved, along with Thermomix duties, as nought else seems to get close to delivering the smoothness at that level. It was cheek suckingly gorgeous and savoury, excellent seasoning too.
I was drawn through natural, predisposing weaknesses to a starter that offered the prospect of a runny egg
HOMEMADE BLACK PUDDING, PEA PUREE, POACHED EGG
A dark, and slightly crumbly texture to the black pud and probably to my peculiar taste preferences slightly down on a little spiciness. Still it was rich on the tongue and the runny egg really did go well with the pud. The little fried bread crisps offered more audiological pyrotechnics and gave a nod in the direction of a firm breakfast favourite. My modest suggestion would be a bit more seasoning in the BP and a shade more fat but otherwise a lovely little plate it was. My Mains rapidly landed on this one.
BACON CHOP, CARAMELISED APPLE, BUBBLE & SQUEAK, MADEIRA SAUCE
And I will tell you for why. I had a bacon chop previously at Cafe Vivo and considered it to be a fabulous cut of meat and fabulously tasty, oddly something many people do not chose to try, the silly fools. Honestly it is lovely stuff to eat if you can find it. The meat was served off the bone and sitting atop a fine round of the bubble and squeak. the tuille of pork crackling was an absolute belter, bags of taste and a sound like a thousand cinder bricks being crushed when I chewed it. Oh how I love pork crackling! the accompanying apple compote bringing in a lovely sweet and tart moistness to the event. I loved every mouthful, and suspect it to have come from non other than The Meat Merchant fellows, the one at Vivo did so I will continue to think it was the same lads that provided the chefs with such a great piece of meat.
Now then this dessert….. COCONUT PANNA COTTA, SPICED PINEAPPLES, MANGO & LIME SORBET
My oh my! utterly lovely. It passed the Panna Cotta jigle and wobble test with flying colours. This is my initial test of a good PC it must not stay rigid and be a bouncy little swine but must have stability under directional stress and the will to remain on the plate. It also must have a soft moist outer skin almost at the point of melting buuuuut not quite. I also like it to cut easily with a spoon and grip slightly in protest as one does the scooping. As I said flying colours. The flavours of the fruits were fantastically intense and rich, I find myself salivating as I type because I am looking at the pictures again.
I can confidently report that the Hen’s egg starter and Halibut main were equally up to scratch because I stole some off the OH’s plate, sadly I had to trade back a little of my dessert, but hey ho! swings and roundabouts. Head chef Andrew was not in on the night but his superbly able team lead by Dave delivered superb results. The restaurant was busy with a mixed bag of diners and atmosphere was convivial, helped along at our table by a super little server. Thanks to all of the craftsmen & women involved in the creation of our lovely meal. Artisan definitely takes The Biscuit by storm.
The Head Chef Andrew Wilkinson on the loose from the furnaces