#MrWolfMenOfMeat

26 01 2017

 

I know I wrote an explanation of this earlier but it was wrapped up in another bit of waffle so I will rehash it in light of the fact that we have a  #MWMOM night coming up in the very near future. In fact, Tuesday 14 March at Peace and Loaf Restaurant.  This event will aim to raise some money for a Brain Tumour Research charity; please wish us luck, or if you are attending help us make it a fun night and enjoy it as much as poss.

 

This daft little #MrWolfMenOfMeat notion developed on a social night out with a friend, as things often do. Whilst enjoying a rare getting together with said very dear friend, drink was involved and we hit the the bit when one goes…. “ahhhh you’re great”… “no, you are greaterer”.. I suggested we should just get some lads together, go out, blether and drink beer and eat meat. All very hairy chested manstuff and early Cro-Magnon, it was decided we should, if I arranged it.

A little while later we had our first little gathering. We drank beer in Broad Chare, then had large meat platter and indecent amounts of fabulously charcoal Jospered steak in Cafe Vivo.. and very little veg.

I believe we had fun. “When is the next one?” I was asked. Which led to the second event in Broad Chare, and bigger meat with more people. It seems that an amount of lady-companions had heard of #MrWolfMenOfMeat and wished to join in.

So how do we stay true to the faintly daft notion of a loose affiliation of meat loving lads but make provision for les femmes?

The “Movement” is somewhat humorously based on the redundant mindset of the curmudgeonly thinking of old men in a Gentleman’s club. A simple subterfuge to allow in those of the “fairer sex” in a manner that would not cause seizures to the old duffers in the comfortably buttoned wing back chairs, would be required.

I had a ponder and leant heavily upon Blackadder for inspiration.

Quite simply the rules of engagement and participation are:

One must have an enthusiasm for the joy of meat, there is no veg option.

One should have a robust constitution and little in the way of food intolerance.

One needs a lighthearted mindset for the night, and be intent on enjoying the company and the meat.

Ladies gain entrance to the venue with a moustache, if a Not-Gentleman does not have upper lip hair of note, a moustache will be provided.

Everyone has a name badge.

Not-Gentlemen are called Bob.

Gentelmen are called NotBob.

Wherever possible refer to others in the company as: Bob, NotBob, Sir, my good man, that fellow over there, or phrases of that ilk.

When we support a charity on the night please be as generous as you can.

 

That just about sums it up, if other rules are needed I will make them up on the fly. Perhaps one day we might meet, over meat, on a worshipful night at a #MrWolfMenOfMeat somewhere.

 

Cheers

Mr.Wolf





2016 in 1

2 01 2017

Well it is about time I sat down again and burbled away to myself. Only seems 5 minutes that I stepped onto the slippery slope of good intentions and began my slide to hell. Back then I imagined I would be diligent in keeping an update of what I ate and where … that went well didn’t it?

 

All in all, it has been a good year being a creature that does not venture overly far. Typically, there have been revisits to the place we like to roam and graze, but also a couple of new locations that have drawn us to them, and have left us delightfully satisfied.

 

While I sit here and contemplate making a coffee, wince occasionally as my newly scoped knee whinges once in a while, and I stare regularly out of the window at the bird feeder (incidentally wood pigeons, rock pigeons, green finches, gold finches, robin, great tits, and dunnocks all putting in a visit today) I will try to remind myself of the what?and the where? this year was.

 

It seems as I ponder I have a bit of a beast on my hands, so I will use this as a variant of my usual narcissistic expressionism and skip along lightly through the list. It will probably be little more than a superficial .. “Ooh look where I went”. I make no apologies mind you, I am as vacuous as I sound. Empty drums make the loudest noise after all.

 

I might as well start with Jesmond Dene House (JDH). Traditionally we have our Christmas day lunch here (2015 was no exception), and then follow it up with the odd meal or two elsewhere. We are always made so very welcome by the team here. It struck me that they were one of the first places to be hit (2016) by what I call the “Cheffy Shuffle”.

Let me explain. The Cheffy Shuffle is the movement of chefs from restaurant to restaurant. . In truth, it is a totally natural part of the Hospitality employment process, as some people are brought in temporarily to cover staff shortages, some people are being trialled to see if their abilities match the CV etc. This extends to beyond the Chefs and includes all service staff whether it be kitchen or FOH; People come, people go. But for me I really do enjoy the social interaction with those who work hard to make my meals-out a pleasure, and when one visits places in some semi regular capacity, it is pleasing to see the familiar faces. So, old softy that I am, I feel a little sadness when a face is no longer there. Aside from my poor, feeble, abilities to cope with change, there is a serious side to this natural phenomenon. If a team (chefs or FOH) has developed a relationship and everyone knows each other’s rhythms and abilities, the loss of one member of the team can create waves and ripples that disrupt their flow. When a new team member is found, it can take them time to fit into the mechanics of the existing structure. I have observed that it is a difficult and complex issue to find “the right person”. However, the show must go on and appear seamless as Joe Public can be a (and often is) a disproportionately critical beast. If I am honest I am more likely to judge the diners in a restaurant on their behaviour than I am the restaurant. Some people’s standards of behaviour and self-control are just appalling to me, and these can often be people who purport to be educated and classless. Yet more often than not, they can let themselves down with social displays of entirely the opposite.

While too-ing and fro-ing to JDH I noticed that they have had more than their fair share of The Cheffy Shuffle. Not entirely surprising, because as a business they really do have a considerable number of staff. However, it did lead me to make mention of it when I was there one time which, in itself, led on to a very enlightening conversation about the national shortage of good staff within the industry; something which is worrying a good number of chefs and managers throughout the country.

 

Before I totally lose it, let me try to get back to the feeble plot. JDH. The location and facility is still of the highest order, with a strong team of people working as hard as they can to make a visit there thoroughly enjoyable. They seem to have been swamped this year by an expanding phenomenon of people wanting Afternoon Tea.  This social exercise is not really my thing (well it would be if vol-au-vents and pork pie and sausage rolls and scotch eggs replaced half of the sandwiches and cakes, and the tea was substituted for a small and cheeky glass of beer) but is a HUGE thing to a great many it seems. The Pastry department in JDH works flat-out to provide for functions and restaurant, and then some more for the High Tea Brigade. No idea how or if they stay sane.

Aside from the super service we have had, excellent meals plated artistically and prepared perfectly, we got a surprise request from Peter Candler the co-owner. Out of the blue he asked if we would like to take on a small garden project and manage a flower bed. So we have. We have adopted the flowerbed to the right of the lower exit gate and populated it with cyclamen, tulips narcissi, alliums, Crocosmia Lucifer amongst other things. It is our hope it will become a changing palette of colour throughout the year and mature quickly. So, if you are visiting, keep an eye on that corner as you say good bye, with luck it will be a colourful little thing in time.

 

At the end of last year, I ended up trampling the streets of Newcastle with David Coulson (Head Chef from Peace & Loaf) and his crew. Our mission was to find and feed, with a hot meal he had made homeless people on the Saturday before Christmas. We indeed found 25 people living the toughest of lives and gave them a good meal. For a last-minute idea without a clear plan it worked well. My belief is that the idea could be an annual event of some magnitude. It would require joined up thinking and some PR, but if it could be pulled together coherently, every year in the 2 weeks before Christmas and the 2 weeks after, kindred souls in F&B/Hospitality could #FeedTheStreets. By combining with the likes of Shelter and People’s Kitchen Newcastle. Since starting this prattle a couple of weeks ago it seems some coherent event did take place with relevant bodies organised and Dave Coulson perhaps managing to bring his Hairy Biker friend, the very amiable Simon King, into the event.

We have the odd edible flower and bits n bobs we grow in the garden that we drop in on David at P&L when there is surplus, and have eaten there a couple of times throughout this year. We feel very at home in the place and the staff very welcoming. David’s vision for his food is uniquely him and it is always a treat to eat. At the heart of what he does is the simple fact that you do what you are doing as well as you can. But within that is an understanding of the classical elements and principles of cuisine, be it sauces, prep, butchery, fish work, using natural seasonings, or practical knife skills. The New Year’s Eve dinner (2016) was fabulous and packed with a serious number of his regular clientele; the atmosphere was very convivial and relaxed and the food simply outstanding.

 

Something that grew a little this year was the #MenOfMeat events. This daft little notion developed over drinks with a friend as things often do. I don’t often go and hang out in a pub owing to a variety of life variables I shall not bore you with. However, on the evening in question, one was having a lovely time with a very dear friend called Tom. During the rounds of: “ahhhh you’re great”… “no, you are greaterer”.. I suggested we should just get some lads together, go out, blether and drink beer and eat meat. All very hair-shirt and early Cro-Magnon. And it was decided we should, if I arranged it. A little while later we had our first little gathering. We drank beer in Broad Chare, had large meat platter and indecent amounts of fabulously charcoal Jospered steak in Cafe Vivo.. and very little veg. I believe we had fun. “When is the next one?” I was asked. Which led to the second event in Broad Chare and bigger meat with more people. It seems that an amount of lady-companions had heard of #MenOfMeat and wished to join in. Not really wishing to be a spoil sport, but needing to preserve the redundant mindset of the curmudgeonly thinking of old men in a Gentleman’s club, and allow in those of the fairer sex in a manner that would not cause seizures to the old duffers in the comfortably buttoned wing back chairs, I had a ponder. I leant heavily upon Blackadder for inspiration. What then followed was a glorious riot of meat in the shape of a specially commissioned suckling pig, in Broad Chare. There were those present, called Bob and sported a variety of moustache designs, and then there were those called Not-Bob. No one seemed to notice that there were in fact ladies present. One of those present was non other than Cal of Cal’s Own fame. Very keen man to host a #MenOfMeat night too. And so on to #MenOfMeat No. 3. This time it seemed appropriate that we do something a bit more meaningful. To this end I thought that aside from using the night for a bit of fun and food, we could also try to raise money for a men’s mental health charity. One was chosen, people notified and numbers had now risen from the original night of @8 to the second night of @14 to close to @40. Generously the #MenOfMeat raised £400 for the charity. There was a good raffle too with prizes donated by Cal, Peace and Loaf, and House of Tides. It would seem by and large it went well, and Cal deserves thanks for all the hard work he put in.  At this stage there is a proto-plan to stage the next event at Peace and Loaf, possibly in February, and the theme will be meat of one animal. Unlike past events it will be of a finer dining element and will look to raise money for another charity. This charity is the one that P&L support, namely Brain Tumour Charity. Tentatively pencilled in (with no date and no details at this stage) is a further event at @Artisan at the biscuit factory. The plan is a nose to tail event and support  another Charity.

 

Artisan at Biscuit Factory, this year gave us a couple of super meals out and Chef Andrew Wilkinson demonstrating very ably why he won the NE Chef Of The Year when he was still in short trousers. His skills for presenting what one might describe as “simple”, massively understates what he is actually doing. I am a very big fan of his style and abilities.

 

Located upstairs in the always impressive art gallery and shop, The Biscuit Factory, is Factory Kitchen at The Biscuit. This is the recently expanded café restaurant run by Michael Waugh. One of the NE hidden culinary gems. Michael’s pedigree is a very impressive one and worth finding out about. He has pitched the food in a vegetarian style with a nod towards that of Mr. Ottolenghi. Food is fresh and is of a very honest and simple style very well made. Also on the establishment they have a very seriously impressive ice cream making machine and the range of superb ice creams is a joy. I intend to eat my way through the cabinet one at a time. The café space is bright and has a view over the Ouseburn & Byker Bridge area so one can keep abreast of its development as one ponders life and drinks coffee or whatever. Then you can wonder about enjoying the fabulous range of arty artifacts that are for sale. I always walk away having mentally spent a fortune, and sometimes modestly.

 

Now comes to the bit where I start clumping things together, as I am sure to sound stupidly repetitive, and the depth of my shallows reveal themselves on the outgoing tide of my ideas.

The Quayside is where I am off to take you next. The Quayside are is a good area to prowl with a number of watering holes some more agreeable than others to me. Perhaps before I wander along the waterside I ought to in fairness just mention The Free Trade Inn, The Tyne Bar, and The Cumberland Arms. These pubs are superb boozers, and in fine old school tradition you get great proper beer in buildings largely untouched by the passage of time. Free Trade has a superb view too. All three can on occasion have a street food vendor of the highest order parked up outside. If you are ever there when the food is on, you really ought to buy something of whatever is on offer and scoff it.

So now, to the Quayside only to find the 21 Group represented in decent force with 3 venues; Café Vivo is the superb Italian styled restaurant. The skills in the kitchen with Manu & his crew are authentic and admirable and matched in the front of house by the skilful Mr. Clarkson. Just next door to Vivo is the fabulous little award-winning Gastropub, The Broad Chare. Designed to look like a pub of old and using a good few bits of reclaimed this and that; one finds the bar downstairs, with a great array of tap and bottled beers and canny bar snacks too. Upstairs is where you find a great menu with traditional hearty fayre like steak and kidney pudding all done with sympathetic modern twists. Superb food. Great service.

The flagship of the group, the “Mothership” if you like, is 21 Newcastle. Stays classy at all times. One only has to reflect on how long it has been going. and how consistent it is, and how many have tried and failed to realise it is quite something in the restaurant world in Newcastle. Terry Leybourne is a man  well-deserving the title of  local legend. Anything that wants to be taken seriously as a restaurant (in Newcastle) has to match this benchmark of standard. Year in and out  the 21 ship steers a true course and marches on. Much of this remarkable consistency relies in its own ethos of excellence, and the family of chefs and service staff that beats at it’s heart and. You guys I salute you.

 

Pottering along the Quayside we have two new boys. There is Shilling, which is a bit hard to classify,  occupying the old Rumpoli site. My visit there found a bunch of familiar faces from many places, all looking to make for a fun café/bar/restaurant/cocktail bar, it has serious hip credentials. There are super cocktail mixologists and knowledgeable bar staff, and a canny chef in Matty Stephenson. Matty makes one of the best damn burgers in town, and with a good pint of what you like, with good friends a definite must to visit.

Dobson & Parnell too is new, and is on the site of the original 21 Queen Street and I suggest you just cycle back through my posts to find the full review on the excellent meal I had there. I imagine this place will go from strength to strength, they certainly have a team very capable of bringing a good game to the table.

The Bridge Tavern has now established itself as a great little pub with good in-house bar food, the bar staff are great and have a good selection of beers no doubt because of its close ties to the Local brewing company, Wylam Ales. For those that have not been in, they have brewing vats in operation at the back-end of the pub.

 

Now if you walk diagonally cross the road you will find yourself outside what was once one of the restaurants that awoke me to what real cheffed food actually tastes (the other one was 21 Queen Street). Back then it was Mike & Karenza Courtney-Carr’s restaurant, Courtney’s.  It is now Violets Café owned by Mrs. Abby Atkinson. It is simply lovely. The design is a kind of modern vintage tea room, serving superb light meals as well as coffee, tea and cakes. The kitchen is small, tiny even, but they know what they are doing and it is using the best kit for the purpose. Service is friendly and effective and the view if you wish is of the passing footfall along the Side on to the Quayside proper. It can be a great people watching site on a good day. Abby herself is a lovely person too. Definitely a place to call in to.

A bit further along heading towards the West you walk under the High Level Bridge and it is here you will find the much-lauded Michelin starred establishment The House of Tides. Chef Patron Kenny Atkinson (a friendly soul he is too) has created a superb dining experience within a centuries-old (and significantly historical) Quayside warehouse. The kitchen has just been refitted with some seriously good stoves and cooking gear so the chefs are like cats with two tails at the moment. Arrival has one greeted downstairs in the original flagstoned ground floor; drinks and meal are ordered here then onwards and upwards to the well-oiled operation in the restaurant proper on the first floor. We found our fellow diners on the bench seats to be very convivial and as it turns out, enthusiastic diners and fans of all the other finer dining venues in Newcastle. Actually, one couple were due to get married in the November at Jesmond Dene House. Imagine our surprise as we were tending our flowerbed on a cold November morning, to see these newly-weds. It seems their wedding had been utter perfection and they were positively glowing with praise. Meanwhile back in House Of Tides food is precise, superbly cooked and artistically presented. Just as you would expect in a classical Michelin starred establishment.

Before I get off the Quayside let me mention the Sunday Quayside market food scene. It is a glorious place (better on a day when weather is clement) to walk and graze till your belly bursts and your face resembles a fat hamster. For here amongst a classy few others, like Papa Ganoush, you will find the truly epic BBQ Cab Company. This is a bright red London cab owned by the Mighty Jock Broon (Andy Brown). Jock is a fabulous crusty and loveable giant of a man with serious Chef credentials. I met hem first when he was a tall bairn working in Courtney’s shortly before he won (if my memory serves me correctly) the first Raymond Blanc Scholarship in 1995. As I said this man has serious Cheffy credentials. Jock serves the best pulled pork bar-non, and on rare occasions he will have a monster 14oz meat patty burger which is just bloody stunning.

Riley’s Fish Shack by the law courts has now become occupied by the Barrio Comida boys serving up their own amazing taco’s in the industrial reclaimed shack. Again where simple is done well.

North Shore Coffee is found at yon end of the market at the back of the Old Guildhall. Best coffee on the quayside, for sure.

Now the need for street pizza can only be satisfied by a good mouthful of pizza from the canny Scream For Pizza lasses. They move about a bit with Goldie their van so if you need to know where and when they are.. best check via Twitter I guess.

 

Back up in the town Fenwick is in the midst of reinventing its food concept and I suspect there is still a bit of change to come yet. But for now we still have the ever reliable 21, the café that really allows “Ladies wot lunch”, to lunch in the best spot. The most refined of cafes in Newcastle. It is a 21 I will say no more. However in the recently redefined food hall 21 Group added two belting little eateries. Ko-Sai is the Thai food space Head Cheffed by the deeply loveable Plar Kirby who has been with Terry L for an absolute age. She and her team cook food they like to eat, so it is good enough for a bunch of Thai’s it is  def good enough for me. Next door to it is Saltwater Fish Head Cheffed by another absolute star and stalwart, Chris Eagle. Having a counter full of the freshest seafood enables Chris to be creative and at the same time sensitive to the delicate needs of this remarkable product. It never ceases to amaze me that with Newcastle being so close to the sea, that it is not awash with quality seafood eating spots. Fish and chips as good as it is, or can be, does not count. However … there are persistent whisperings and “word from the street” that this year we may see a quality seafood restaurant arise. I do hope so.

Also in Fenwick is the hugely popular Fuego. This Spanish/Mediterranean tapas-style eatery is wonderful, the little plates of food are just simply gorgeous, as is its superb perching bar on the fringe of the lovely, lovely offie. Such good people watching to be had in Saltie’s and Fuego.

 

Meanwhile in the Grainger market I suggest eating on the hoof with Fez for your Turkish fix, probably the only place I would trust the kebabs. Drift along to

Nan Bei for your delicious and morish, juicy Chinese dumplings. So good with a little dribble of soy and chilli oil.

La Petite Creperie will satisfy your sweet tooth with a whole raft of fabulous thin little crepes. They also will lash up a very tasty savoury crepe as needed too.

If it is authentic Spanish deli products from big-hearted Spaniards you want, then La Casa Delicatessen is where you need to be. Look well in the fridge for outstanding charcuterie and Manchego cheese. They also have probably the best range of Spanish wines too.

The seafood counters at the end furthest from the monument are worth the visit for huge prawns fish crab scallop or whatever you want. They have a decently good selection, not only that they will cook up something from the kitchen across the aisle if you buy it and take it to them too.

 

Good to know Flat Cap Joe has opened a much bigger place at Carliol Square now and it will function as a venue for a number of interesting ventures too. The Recent Christmas week Lantern Rouge, Belgian nights were a great, and a canny place to hang out with friends eat cheese, salami and drink good Belgian beers or glug some good wine.

 

Blackfriars Restaurant is probably the most historic site you can go and eat a meal I should think. A good solid menu served in a baronial/ecclesiastic venue. Chris Wardale and his chefs, do a good job prepping meals that are based on good locally sourced product wherever they can find it.

Now if you are looking for amazingly good authentic Italian-style pizza, made by a man on a mission to elevate the humble pizza, to award-winning and nationally recognised levels, there has to be a trip to Cal’s Own down on your list of food things to do this year.

Not far from Cal on Brentwood Ave is Max Gott and his small Bistro 46. Here you will find a superb food destination secreted in the suburbs. Max punches way above his weight considering the compactness of the venue. But know you this, he hunts for his food when he can too. If he can’t get game that  he needs by his own hand, fear not, he acquires it from a certified local game-keeper. He then sets about using a rare skillset in many kitchens these days. He butchers the carcass down, and I can tell you skinning a deer is a bit of a task. Good place, lovely bloke, great food, do go.

 

Dotted about in Heaton are some tidy little places for café food. Heaton Ingredient, which is the sister to Quay Ingredient, is a quality spot for well made above average snack food and light lunch meals. That said, the breakfast menu is darned good.

BLK on Chillingham Road, run by the very enthusiastic and capable and charming Alison is an ideal spot to get a great coffee made by very capable baristas. They are very happy to give you all the details you might want to know about the beans they use should you be keen to know

Stark’s Kitchen, opposite BLK, has settled in well and fills a niche that is part café, part bistro, and part restaurant. They offer well-crafted delicious food of a level not seen before on Chillingham road. Check them out, they are a family run business, very keen, friendly and love to have people enjoy a meal with them.

Naked Deli has its initial pitch on Chillingham road, it is a destination spot for all the gym bunnies and folk who are determined to eat relevant food to their training schedules and fitness requirements. Good coffee too. Often a lot of lycra on show, that and muscly folk, looking quite the radiant specimens.

 

If you are ever looking for a log cabin break with well-appointed accommodation, in a quiet location then I suggest Lazy Days Scandinavian Cottages @ 7 miles outside of Berwick. There are 3 beautifully maintained good sized cabins with all the mod cons you could want, apart from wi-fi. This is a place you go to break your modern addiction to the bloody interwebnet thing. We liked it so much we came back home checked the diary and rebooked for 2017. Debra and Richard who own the site are fabulously friendly folk and willing to help in any way they can. The location of the site is all of 2 miles away from Paxton House, and this is a place very well worth a visit and get yourself on the guided tour. The guy we had (Jim I think it was) produced the best guided tour of I have ever had. Just over the river and up the hill is a lovely little café in an old double decker bus at Chain Bridge Honey Farm. In the shop all things honey and beeswax can be procured. Fantastic honey it is too.

 

At this point I will mention a lovely, lovely woman who actually is decently close to Berwick and her name is Rachel Hammond. She is a charcutier. She is the Cute Charcute. Selling her products on local markets and Edinburgh is one of them. She offers the appreciative buyer of locally made all things meatily cured, produce of a very high standard. I consider myself luck I do not live closer as I would spend my last farthing on her wares instead of the gas bill. Contact her and buy her lovely meat things.

 

While I am yacking on about food in Northerly climes I will mention that Timberyard in Edinburgh is quite worth a culinary excursion and although a little pricy, it is a quality place to dine, surprised you are not to be told it is in fact located at an old timberyard.

Also, and this is a very high recommendation on my part, make time and go to Norn In Lieth for a meal. They are new, classy, quite small, but offer beautiful food. Their thing, as it were, is to make as many of the things they use in-house everything else is sourced from Scotland as much as possible. Chefs often serve your food, so you can ask specific questions directly to the folk who made and plated your food.

 

My Last two mentions are to suggest you get along and visit  James Close a t The Raby Hunt. His food is now judged at 2 Michelin Star level and it would not surprise me if in the next couple of years he hit 3. James is utterly obsessed with his chosen profession. You want to know more about him really just look him up on the internet. Good solid bloke too, I like him a lot. As I do with the young man who is Tommy Banks at Oldstead in The Black Swan. A stunning little place off the beaten track with accommodation in the village and attached. Not only that but they are supremely fortunate to have a 2 acre field in which they grow their own veg. Incidentally that fella Ken Holland has had his hand in developing things for both places. Other produce is locally foraged by themselves. Again I would raise no eyebrow to be told The Banks’ enterprise hit 2 star before long.

 

And that wraps it all up sorry I took so long to say very little. Thank you, patient reader, for making it to the end. No doubt your reward will either be in heaven or at the bottom of a large glass of wine.

Until I do it again toodle-pip

Mr. Wolf

 

 

 





Seasoning thoughts…

1 01 2017

Dobson & Parnell is a new edition on the Newcastle dining scene. You will find it on the site of two previous restaurants that have graced the address of 21 Queen Street down on the Quayside. The interior has been designed to give cues to the Victorian period, when the building was designed and constructed, and enough of a modern twist to make it comfortable for a current, appreciative, diner. The bar is driven by the very excellent Chris Hannah and he certainly knows how to make crackingly good cocktails. Front of house has Florin Stam and Daren Phillips working hard to make people as welcome as possible from the moment they walk through the door. I understand the uber urbane Mr. Charles Willoughby-Berkley has just joined them too.

Downstairs rattling pans is the chef patron, Troy Terrington. Troy is ably assisted by the two significant talents that are, Peter Breckon and Richie Gray. These are the type of chefs that we, now, have creating food for us in Newcastle, who understand the classic idea that the ingredients, when sourced from the finest suppliers (and as locally sourced as they possibly can) like Ken Holland for the vegetables, will naturally flavour your food. It is not that they do not use seasoning in the cooking but try to use it sparingly so the notes of the flavour of the produce shows itself first. Honestly if you do wish to whack on more salt or pepper it is there you just need to ask one of the lovely folk on service they will get it for you. Perhaps amusingly they should place a cellar behind glass with a sign underneath that reads: ” in case of emergency .. break glass”. Himalayan salt should be on a shelf well off the ground with pitons and rope close by, and the sea salt in a bucket of sea water on the floor with attendant snorkel to hand.

Sorry about the rant but I read a very poorly written review (possibly better than this but in my defence, I am dreadfully amateur) in a local paper by some bloke who has a reputation in the restaurants of having no palate. One story is that he had ordered beef well done (in a fine dining restaurant no less) sent it back to be cooked until the crem would have considered it a job well done. Classy diner, one you really do want writing reviews…anyway it set my teeth on edge from the moment he got upset because someone used the word ethos, well that and getting mildly frothy because a member of FOH folded a napkin and put it back on the table for the returning diner; just like they do in finer dining establishments. Fortunately, I am nothing but a happy amateur eater and poor quality blogger, no one pays me. I go out to eat because I like to and also go out in a good mood to have a good time. But enough of me and my eggshell like ego.

 

So, what of the meal you had? I hear you ask. Loved it. We turned up for lunch and we were welcomed generously, coats taken and placed in a curtained coat closet that was heated … my word, heated by Jove! Chris prepped us a nice cocktail to make sure our palate was alive and appreciative of the food we were about to receive. The clementine syrup it contained was infused with rosemary and was made in-house. Balance up the fruit syrup with some prosecco and Campari and finish it with a sprig of rosemary and you have a superb little aperitif.

While I mulled over the menu an order was placed for some wine (excellent wine list too) and the Peter Schweiger, Gruner Veltliner was chosen. I have to say it was rather a good choice, the Austrian white was easily able to work with our food choices.

 

The bread is freshly made by the kitchen using a 2-year-old sourdough culture. For those that like a good bit of bread, it had a lovely aromatic crust that was crisp and backed toastily, yet not bullet proof, and a lovely moist malty middle. The butter is from the Wheelbirks Farm in Stocksfield and is lovely stuff, and was lightly treated to a little bit of lovage salt to change and add a savoury character. Delightful.

 

Our starters were the Norwegian Salt cod and the North Shields Crab.

The cod arrived still smelling of the sea and fantastically delicious, soft and salty. The fish was served with sustainable salmon roe, golden raisins, capers, and dill. Very nicely balanced. Crunch was provided in two ways. One, by a marvellous disc of kimchi style ginger and chilli turnip that really floated my boat. And two, with gorgeously outstanding crispy hake skin, gobsmakingly lovely stuff.

Crab was tasting wonderfully fresh, and served with their own unique Mariners Relish; a rich seafood-savoury delight to be sure. There is no doubt it left me wishing for more. The dish was topped with a vinegar and salt batter to add a little crunchy acidic texture to balance the soft fresh crabmeat.

 

The mains chosen were the locally caught Hake with smoked clam frummety (an ancient recipe, and possibly one, if not the oldest. recorded) with accompanying pickled lemon, and wakame seaweed. My choice was for the roasted corn-fed chicken with heritage carrots confit cabbage heart and pancetta. It has to be said at this point that the quality of ingredients used throughout was of the highest standard. The local veg legend, Ken Holland, supplying D&P with some superb fresh goods.

As is our wont, we share our meals on occasions like this 50/50 so we both get an idea of what is what. Because of this arrangement I can say with authority, the mains were good and looked good.

The hake came with more of the outstanding crisped fish skin and was in itself superbly cooked, moist and tasty. The frummety was a new thing for me and was an enjoyable new experience. The spelt was roasted before cooking to imbue it with a maltiness, the texture was firm without being a chore to eat, and the meaty clams in the sea jus set everything off well. Late-season samphire completed the presentation and offered natural juice and seasoning. The wakame seaweed was so delicious I could have happily eaten them as a bar snack all night long. The savoury umami like flavour just left me wanting more and more.

 

The Corn-fed chicken arrived looking a marvellous honeyed colour and smelling like a good roast chicken should, the meat was succulent and moist and had good flavour, it was expertly cooked and a generous portion. The accompanying kale, carrot puree, and cabbage heart were all hearty and comforting, and the pancetta served superbly to season the dish.

And this brings me back to the earlier wittering I was engaged with. When a meal is as balanced as this was with natural flavouring one does not need seasoning if one wishes to enjoy the natural flavours of the food. But… for those that need BIG seasoning, it’s there if you ask for it. My suggestion is, eat some food first before you ask and lash it on.

 

The two desserts we chose were: Bitter Manjari chocolate pistachio frangipani and candied clementine and the almond shortbread with figs in red wine and pickled plums with sorrel. To accompany this set of delights we had a glass of some excellent 5-year-old Chateau de Beauvon Pineau des Charentes (a fortified wine matured with Cognac eau de vie). Brilliant stuff.

The chocolate is a rich and huge flavour and gratefully it is plated in modest amounts on the plate and texturally accompanied with lovely broken crumbs of pistachio frangipani and delicate shards of Manjari chocolate tuilles and finished with little dots and bangs of flavour from the clementine gel.

The almond shortbread had real crunch from lovely nutty nuggets; pickled plums in red wine were indulgently lush and the figs bringing freshness to the dish. I did particularly like the mild cheesiness that the soured cream brought to the plate too.

 

The experience was good enough for me to happily report that I will dine there again and submit to their care as I once again immerse myself in their gastronomic ethos.

Pictures will be added when I can figure it out again





Where The Wolf Roams

28 08 2016

Well yep, it has been a while the world has been safe and cosy from my overly verbose wife waffle for quite a while. It has to be said I have been thinking about plopping something in here for a while, but honestly did not know where to start. This in part has been due to laziness and partly because we have been fortunate to have some excellent dining experiences, have SWMBO and me. Typically we have revisited the restaurants we like and those that are decently close to our orbit.

I had a list and a set of partial notes, but they are lost in a pile somewhere, or composting down on a municipal landfill, or powering the Byker incinerator. Quite possibly the best place for them. So I will “wing it” and soldier on making it up as I go along.

The allotment plot has done decently well but to be honest because I had half of it filled with everything that should be in the potting shed, I did not make the best of it really. One really should have a plan be organised and have everything in its place. That said it has been a good year experimenting with new things from the Chilterns catalogue and letting somethings re-establish from last year. The wasabi has done well enough and I might even take a little root this year and see what wallop it has. The shed from Northumberland Shed Company over at Blaydon is very good and sits magnificently at the far end of the plot. It is on a slight wonk and need lifting to slide a small plank underneath it, but as I have a torn cartilage in my right knee and a suspect disc, it is a project I have not initiated. I will probably draft in some muscle from Newcastle Kettlebell Club. The back, and knee, have prevented me from getting to the club but they are a good bunch and a couple of the big uns will lend a hand, it should only take about 2 minutes to do. The shed is so good I have ordered a 9×7 potting shed off the Northumberland Shed Company and it is due to arrive in October. I have a better base this time, and I will be able to shift all the bits and bobs into it and liberate the greenhouse so I can try to be more productive with it. Perhaps in the next couple of years I can realise the dream of building a shed/potting/greenhouse thing at the far end of the plot and have more luck with overwintering my delicates. The garden at home has delivered a deal of pleasure too, it has been colourful and abundant with an excellent range of edible flowers; something we gift, locally, to a couple of chefs because it is a crying shame to waste.

Dining has been great. We don’t really go off on big holidays or take a great deal of time off as it causes complications to our little business. This year we have done and continue to do our rounds.

Locally we are blessed with places:

Heaton Ingredient on Heaton Road. A great place to land for casual cafe of good quality. They are the sister to the lauded Quay Ingredient on the Quayside. Small, tidy, and canny, run by canny people.

Cafe 12o Heaton Road, another pleasant spot, simple food prep and a nice spot to sit near the window and watch the world go by.

BLK Coffee Chillingham Road. Alison is  a proper barista (and was placed 2nd in the UK Brewers Cup 2016) serving excellent coffee made the way coffee really should be made. She also is a point of sale for the very talented Richie Hunton who operates Beat Boutique Bakery. His cakes and pastries are fantastic and the cronuts… If you ever see one buy it and eat it with great relish.

Starks Kitchen Chillingham Road is a new little street cafe/restauarant/bistro. Family owned and run, with Ben and Ed working the pans. they have a changing menu, cook using ingredients of good quality, Charlotte’s butchery is one of their suppliers and her meat is excellent.

Baobab Bakery Chillingham Road, another super spot selling all their own-made bread and cakes and light cafe meals.

Naked Deli Chillingham Road, the place to go if you want paleo food. It’s clean, fresh, healthy, and friendly with decent coffee too.

Peace & Loaf Jesmond has to be one of our great favourites. It always impresses me with its imaginative platings and menus. Dave Coulson is modern and bold in what he creates. He loves food and wants to feed people and wants it to be a real experience for the diner. I have never been disappointed with what i have eaten, Whether that be a meal with friends or one of his charity do’s. His “Back to front” night that raised £1300 for the Brain Tumour charity was good fun with the restaurant staff well out of their comfort zones. Front of house had to plate and cook while the kitchen staff had to engage with real people at tables. well done to them all. Dave chooses the best produce he can find with theist flavours, he uses old school culinary skill and then throws his imagination at it, with often outstanding results. In my view, sadly, he does not get the recognition of his industry as much as I think he should. Yes I have bias but I am like that with friends who put their heart and soul into it. Having said that Jay Rayner did give him one of the first review I have seen him give. So I figure my sense of taste is not totally banjaxed.

Jesmond Dene House, an historic building, niche hotel, and a restaurant and facility that operates on complex levels. It has to offer breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea (anything up to 120 teas a day) diner, private dining, corporate events, weddings, and bar. This is one of our fave places for that time where one feels a little grand. The meals are creative and professionally plated, care is taken with sourcing the best produce as much s they can it is as local as they can. Another talented hard-working team.

Artisan & The Factory Kitchen at Ramy Zak’s Biscuit Factory, two entertaining and totally different food destinations. Artisan is run by a very talented Head Chef Andrew Wilkinson. Andrew has a great palate and executes meals that are packed with flavour and he has a great understanding of what ingredients fully combine with each other. Upstairs The Factory Kitchen is run by a fabulous chef of outstanding ability. Michael Waugh has a simply outstanding pedigree and has now turned his hand to making lovely refreshing lunchtime food dare I say of an Ottolenghi stylee with his own twist. Emphasis on fresh and virtuous ingredients is paramount. The kit available to Andrew and Michael is enviable, they even have an ice cream making machine that probably cost somewhere in the region of £20,000.

Bistro 46 Brentwood Avenue Jesmond, owned and operated by the Gott brothers. This is definitely a super little bistro. Chef Max using all the old school skills in cooking to create excellent plates of food from seasonally available ingredients. Come game season Max sources and  butchers game from a local certified gamekeeper. Well worth a trip to this off-strip small restaurant. Lovely easy-going engaging staff.

Cal’s Own Holly Ave West. Cal has decamped from Heaton and relocated to a lovely little spot in Jesmond. He now has his take-away enterprise running from an upstairs kitchen and his new dining area downstairs. Great use of recycled time has been made in the design of the area. He now has a real restaurant and a bar and the equipment to aim for what he has always ambitiously desired, the AVPN Certification. For me Cal makes the best authentic Neapolitan pizza to be found in the area. Not only that he is now getting to grips with his magnificent Stefano Ferrara wood burning oven so he can cook a wider range of items other than Pizza. Because the venue is so good, and because Cal was madly keen, I have chosen Cal’s Own for my next #MenOfMeat night. We have places for 40 people and it will be used to be a fundraiser for a Men’s Mental Health Charity, Calm Zone. I am sure all of us are greatly anticipating a fabulous night, all seats were accounted for in 2 days so it seems we the Not Bobs and also the Bobs are in agreement on this.

Black Friars Restaurant in Old Newcastle was a new trip this year. Runny operated by Andy Hook and in the hands of Head Chef Chris Wardale. If I have this right it is the oldest dining room in operation in the UK. Situated in the grounds and buildings of the 13th century friary it offers a fine standard of what I will call Cheffed food. Attention is given to sourcing great ingredients and creating lovely gastronomic plates of food. All this and the most historic of settings.

Bridge Tavern pub on Akenside Hill, a great place for a really good beer and well crafted “pub food”. Chef there is Tony Renwick who has a fine touch with their changing menu, producing just the right kind of fayre one would want with a sit down and a drink. The place has a great vibe and I like it a lot.

The Broad Chare Newcastle Quayside is another favourite of mine and part of 21 Group so you just know the benchmark of quality is set high; always was and always will be, Terry Leybourne really knows how to create a space and get a team to run .. at a consistently high standard, remarkable. Broad Chare has a lovely selection of beers and the small bar downstairs a great team of staff overseen by Steve who is master of conviviality. The food is the kind of thing that attracts accolades and awards for the “Gastro pub” concept, often to be found in a list of the top 50 pubs in the country. It is good hearty, in-house prepped and made, pub food at its finest. Say no more.

Cafe Vivo Newcastle Quayside also part of 21 Group and another very favourite spot to eat. Matt runs a lovely FOH team and Manu prepares real Italian food with his team in the back. They use herbs superbly well to cook authentically the Italian way. Pasta dishes are above average and seafood is superbly and sympathetically handled. Lovely vibe to dining on a busy night.

21 Newcastle on the Quayside, the 21 Group flagship. A smooth, classic place to dine. Decor alone let’s you know you have a arrived at a place where you are going to have a modern and tasteful meal. It really is remarkable that they hit such levels of consistency. The kitchen is a really well oiled machine of excellence. Head Chef Chris Dobson oversees with a deft touch and fine eye.

Quay Ingredient Queen Street Newcastle Quayside is no doubt quirky and small but it has a serious hardcore following of those that know, that this is a quality, cult, street-cafe. Simon & Maggie are a class act when it comes to fantastically tasty food made in a truly small kitchen. A cool spot to nip into for sure.

Violets Cafe The Side Newcastle Quayside is a new spot, and on the site of one of my very favourite places to eat, “back in the day”. Back then it was Courtney’s Restaurant, after 21 Queen Street it offered the best food in Newcastle. It was here and at 21 that I would probably have had my eyes opened to  what a chef can do with food that an ordinary cook did not. Anyway now it is a lovely chic cafe and part of the “Kenny Atkinson Collective”. Light meals, teas, coffee, and delicacies in a calm space. The staff are friendly and Abby Atkinson, the owner, is a lovely young woman putting her artistic and tasteful mark on the Quayside cafe culture.

The House of Tides The Close Newcastle Quayside, and is the award-winning restaurant and currently Newcastle’s only Michelin starred one too. Kenny is a live-wire for sure his style is creative and imaginative and precise, elegant works of art on a plate, within an historic wharf building. Expect a theatrical fine dining experience, and I mean that with respect dining like this is always an experience in itself and for me a rare form of treat.

Fuego Fenwick Food Hall. Great mediterranean styled food to be had here, with tapas style presentation, nice set-up, super tasty food, much of it sourced from the food hall itself.

Saltwater Fish

Classy 21 Group seafood bar, serving oysters and a daily changing menu. Chris Eagle the Head Chef (a 21 Group Stalwart and talented man) has a super touch with the fish menu and a deep understanding of the delicacies of his medium. I love sitting here and people watching in the food hall. The fish counter always has something for me to take home.

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Oriental 21 Group diner with a nice selection of home and authentic recipes from Head Chef Pla Kirby (another super talent from the Leybourne enterprise). Elegant flavours neatly presented, either take the mains or just ramp up the small dishes and mix and match. The kitchen bar seating is great if you are eating alone or in pairs s you can watch the thing and fringe and prep as chefs rattle their pans. A canny spot for me, sadly under appreciated by those more familiar with a heavy MSG content in their Far Eastern food.

Flat Cap Joe Ridley Place Newcastle. Joe has had his Barista Bar and Cafe up and running for probably 6 years now it is certainly known to coffee lovers of Newcastle because he has been winning awards in competitions throughout the UK for almost as long. Never have I met a man more passionate about his coffee. Very strong rumours that off the back of a successful Kickstarter/Crowdfunding appeal he is to open a large venue and this one above ground. Love the coffee and the chat. all round good egg is Joe.

Cottage In The Wood Lake District, on the Whinlatter Pass road. This is a fabulous spot. A family owned and much upgraded Restaurant with rooms. Formerly a B&B, now much upgraded with a view down the valley to high fells in the distance, to die for if weather conditions allow. Chris Archer the Head Chef is of a talent good enough to have him picked to represent a region in the TV program Great British Menu. It was pictures of his cooking that had me trying to get to his restaurant to eat his food for nearly 2 years. Well worth the trip.

Lakeland Distillery Bassenthwaite. A trip to the brewery for a tour and a meal in the Bistro was a worthy trip. Great use of many local suppliers by Head Chef Andrew Beaton and a very likeable menu. Looking with a close eye you will no doubt see that once again Terry Leybourne’s 21 Group has left a mark upon it; though not connected during development they assisted in its creation.

Forrest Side Hotel is a new venture in the Lake District in Grasmere. It is part of the group owned by Andrew Wildsmith who also has Hipping Hall and The Roebuck. Talented HeadChef, KevinTickle formerly of L’Enclume runs the kitchen and has a lifetime knowledge of foraging. Although I have not been it is on the list and my radar has it in its sights

Black Swan at Oldstead North Yorkshire is a lovely place. An old converted pub on the drovers trail with beautifully furbished accommodation. Michelin Starred and deservedly so. The Banks family run a good ship and Head Chef Tommy is a creative man who also will grace the telly with his presence on Great British Menu this year.

Losehill House is on the outskirts of the sleepy village of Hope in Derbyshire non too distant from the Blue John mines and Bakewell and Chatsworth House. Darren Goodwin is now Executive Chef, splitting his time between the tranquil Losehill with its fantastic views and the new Restaurant enterprise in central Manchester called Grafene, which opened just this year. Darren is another chef whose cooking I had seen fluttering across my Twitter feed tantalising me to visit. Again a chef who knows where to source the finest local ingredients We do like Darren’s food and so we have to add a trip to Grafene to the list of places to go.

Raby Hunt at Summerhouses County Durham. Head Chef James Close is a somewhat private and enigmatic figure with a keen sense of where he want his food to go. If I am not very much mistaken it is highly likely before long this remarkable chef will glean his second Michelin Star. This year saw him pick up the Chef Of The Year from TheGoodFood Guide. As you can imagine his food is precise, creative, excellently executed and visually impressive. Once again one has a sense of theatre in its production. Service is of the highest order as James aims to be the best and requires all around him to be on the same page; something I believe must be very hard to do, and one has to be on one’s toes at all times.

DH1 Durham. This is off far too many people’s radar in my estimation and I would love to see Stephen and Helen Hardy known to a wider audience, and in bigger surroundings. What Stephen and his small team of chefs can produce from such a small kitchen is little short of bloody marvellous. Another chef making use of the best suppliers of the best ingredient in the region. Always have a beautiful meal in Stephen’s hidden away restaurant.

StMary’s Inn Nr. Stannington, Northumberland. The second string to the Desmond Dene House enterprise, is a converted and modernised admin block to a previous psychiatric hospital. Tempting as it is to say you’d be nuts to go. I shall refrain. Not exactly gastro pub, but modern pub with rooms certainly. Good beers and wine, kitchen overseen by Executive Chef Michael Penaluna, making sure creative and well executed meals for a more rural setting are well executed. Again this is a place we are happy to go back to over and over again. We even took The Mother and stayed over night, despite being fed to the gunwales in the evening I took aim at a very hefty breakfast before driving home for a protracted lie down.

 

That pretty much sums up my list of what has been in my head that needs letting out. when I think of the next rehash of my aberrant thinking and rambling I will let you know via twitter whether you want to know or not. I owe it to the narcissist in me.

By for now.

Mr.Wolf





Tasting ..Tasting…Tasting ….. Tasting 1,2,3,4.. Tasting

2 12 2015

Yes a bit obvious isn’t it? This is about tasting menus. I am not entirely known for a deep sense of subtlety.

Tasting menus seem to bring out the best and worst in people. When it is the best it is invariably the best in Chefs; they get to display their whole range of ideas and skills and present an array of moments of taste, texture, smell and possibly may visually delight and surprise.

The worst is what you can get from those members of the general public who think a meal should be a mountain of largely indifferent food, but as long as it is a vast supply. Then that amounts to a proper feed. To hell with any creative expression or subtle deft touches of skill, layering layer upon layer of gastronomic joy. No, just pile it high and make it as cheap as you can.

You can probably tell from this and what has gone before and what I chunter on about on twitter, I have a low tolerance threshold for small and narrow-minded, petty, soul-sucking complaining and point-scoring griping. It’s the kind of thing that is the staple diet of Trip Advisor wingers. It would seem according to one Guardian Food Critic I am a “thoughtful blogger”. Being a food critic (it seems) is a whole other ball game that involves often needing to spit a decent amount of lofty disdain and bile. It is not about trying to see a bigger picture. Or perhaps I just utterly delude myself and live in a lovely fluffy state of denial.

I like tasting menus and will probably eat a few more before I am done. This blog is about four of them. Two are at locations familiar to me. Places that I like for various reasons and one that is very new to me but comes with the soundest of recommendations from a friend of mine, Ken Holland the Veg Maestro.

To my mind tasting menus offer chefs a moment to showcase an array of cooking skills and to create a gastronomic slide show.

So without further ado I will offer few words (but a fair few pictures) of places I have visited for tastings, for those of you who are of a similar minsdet to myself. If one is not this it the time to leave the page and go find something else more to your own liking.

I will start the tour with Jesmond Dene House for no other reason that these are the first pictures I could find. JDH is an historic building in Newcastle upon Tyne, and has an informative blog on its website for those who want to know some facts about its early ownership by Andrew Noble.

It was an interesting night in the company of Peter Candler and his wife Jeana. We had been trying to get a night out organised for a while and try a few interesting wines that we had found. Peter is very good at finding decently good and interesting wines, me less so. I found a lovely little Pian Della Vigne, Brunello Di Montalcino mind you and it decanted well.

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The new menu cover was unveiled to us but of little consequence, as Chef had free rein to execute their tasting menu and have it popped in front of us. Sadly at the moment I cannot find some notes I scribbled down in my notebook, so until I can find the damned thing this is what you get.

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Truffled egg with oyster, a gorgeous mouth-watering little thing, beautiful little hint of truffle that does not overpower the size of the dish

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light fresh salad, sweet carrots and beetroots and leaves.

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Dorset snail with sauce served from the shell. A total knock out, and a stand out dish the richness of the dish superb.

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Scallop under nasturtium leaf and with flower. I liked this because I like the perky bite one gets from nasturtium, a little like a cross between horseradish and pepper.

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Carrot orange and soft warm goat’s cheese, sweet zingy and tangy but not overpowered by goat.

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Hallibut with pickled seaweed, toasted spelt, and cod roe; nice bit of acidity with the superbly cooked fish.

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Dragon’s egg cucumber soup with Latimer’s crab, delicious and light; the natural ingredients bring an honesty and integrity to the dish.

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Perfectly pink lamb bursting with lamb flavour an excellent Jus and edamame. Had to be finished in the hand to get every last bit of flesh off that bone… too good to waste.

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A newly concocted freshly picked apple “crumble” and ice cream.

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clever raspberry number of floaty light marshmallow finger

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Chocolate 4 or 5 ways

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beautiful crisp bread with a selection of fine cheeses.

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Finally a chance to sit and ruminate on our thoughts of the superb night’s fayre, over coffee and exquisite petit fours

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My estimation of the night was that the kitchen had provided a meal of very good quality and standard. Everything was beautiful cooked and much skill had been executed in all its making.

Jesmond Dene House is one of those places I like to dine because there is a real desire for the diner to have a good meal, the setting is not overly grand, it is unstuffy yet has a grace and easy elegance. It is a sufficiently old building to lend a hand to an atmospheric night out.

Ok next we head South to the lee of Sutton Bank. It is a small drovers pub converted to dining and rooms. Both elements are of a superb standard and ones with a far greater sense of such things have declared the meals to be worthy of their Michelin Star.

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The Black Swan is to be found slightly off the beaten track at Oldstead approximately 10 miles away from Thirsk. Set on the incline of the lane that runs through the village, the restaurant occupies the upper deck of the old pub, the bar is still operational down stairs offering a remarkable array of wines by the glass by virtue of their Coravin Wine Preserving System. A good selection of proper beer can be found in there too.

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At the rear are rooms converted from old stone-built, farm labourers accommodation quarters. The fittings and comfort levels are wonderful. Our bathroom was as excellent as the bedroom/lounge part.

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So what of the food? I had been made aware of the restaurant and the Banks family, who are all involved with it, by my friend Ken. As it would happen he had been helping them develop their restaurant garden on the land available to them, that lies to the rear of the Black Swan enterprise just across from the car park. If you ask politely someone will probably arrange to show you what they are up to.

Ultimately the aim, on the vegetable front, is to grow as much is as possible and walk it from their own field and into the kitchen and then onto a plate. The project has matured well, and with the help of Ken Holland and much hard work from the team (this involves much labouring from Tommy Banks the Head Chef too) getting out there and getting muddy, they are close to their ambition.

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Pre-dining snacks were interesting; the nasturtium being stuffed with a savoury  a mushroom creation was new to me and it reulted in a crisp, juicy mouthful .

Linseeds home-grown, formed into a thin, wholeseed, delicate crisp. This was adorned with cubes of delicious smoked eel. A beautiful balance of flavours and texture.

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Sweet, zingy beetroot mousse, beetroot pastry tart. What a wee explosion of beetroot splendour from a delicate-crisp, the tang of of so light goat cheese in the mix and a  melt-in-your-mouth morsel.

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Bread freshly made with beer fed sourdough and a whipped goat’s cheese and folded with brown butter, gorgeous, deeply moreishly malty. A backdrop of sourness and caramalised crust with the soft goat tang. Texturally I was reminded, somehow, of a memory of eating a tiny pikelet.

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Wild garlic dip served with a quail taco, pickled white cabbage and a delicate dark-grown pea shoot garnish and pickled white cabbage; a beautiful combination.

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Langoustine and squid was supplemented as a second taster for SWMBO not being one to eat deer. It was as one would have hoped as freshly tasting as if it had just swum to the plate and sweet, soft, and meaty. Crunch from fresh radish along with chew from squid tentacles, a savoury broth rounding it all off.

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The deer, beer & woodland gear was an interesting plating for me. The woodland gear was made up of much that had been foraged locally and included Jack By The Hedge, and wild garlic, and flowers. The Venison tartare was however robust enough for it and beautifully soft.

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Hen of the wood mushroom asparagus and soft poached quail eggs on wild mushroom and garlic puree with lovage oil . All elements harmoniously complementary. The egg was soft and runny and the lovage oil was like some mysterious 5th element adding a length and depth to the flavours.

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Scallop, oyster leaf, and pickled spruce buds. Having never eaten pickled spruce, I noted the flavour similar to that of a caper but with a eucalyptus like zing in addition.

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Turbot, beautifully soft and seared, came with a waft of fresh bean and pickle from the  shallot bean sprouts; all served with “tartare” sauce and crunchy roasted hazelnuts.

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Lamb, nasturtium, Kol Rabi and turnip. The lamb beautifully cooked, pink and sweet, fresh crunchy turnip & Kol Rabi offering up its earthy nature.

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Locally sourced herb-fed chicken came as an alternative to meet the requirements of the SWMBO, served with chicken dripping, foraged wild garlic and flowers, and that beautiful Hen Of The Woods mushroom. I could never tire of that.

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Somewhere round about here we had lollipop Bouche Cleanser Things of remarkable flavours.  And I do mean remarkable, one was cep mushroom and white chocolate ice cream; something unknown to me but what a beautiful thing it was. It had a flavour something like eating a more savoury version of a malty malteaser, utterly gorgeous. Another was pine or spruce equally stunning but the mushroom was jaw droppingly moreish. Another was apple and rosemary; a delicious delightful mix of tart and herb that worked so well. The third a fennel root and berry that offered ricness and depth to the tastebuds.

Strawberry and herbs and a sumptuous foraged woodruff ice cream, scattered with marigolds, basil flower and verbena. Woodruff is an intriguing shrub as it contains coumarin, the very same compound that makes tonka bean so flavoursome. A second green tea & elderflower ice cream offing a pleasing contrast to the intense woodruff.

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Elderflower sorbet with a thin honey honeycomb crisp thin, viola jam intensely flavoursome both of them buckets of honey punching from the thin delicate crisp that melted on your tongue. Quite sublime.

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Petit fours just the size I could manage after the delights enjoyed.

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All dishes excelled with flavour and it was enjoyable to have a number of the plates embellished with home grown (in the Restaurant garden) or locally sourced and foraged edible flowers and leaves; a number of which we had not previously been exposed to. The overnight stay meal and breakfast is a treat I will be happy to repeat and advocate.

Next The Raby Hunt of one James Close:

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This was the second time we visited The Raby Hunt at Summerhouse, and this time we did what we promised.. we stayed over. Perhaps an extra indulgence but it is too far from Newcastle for me to drive eat and drive home.

I will say this, it just keeps getting better. It is my view that the dishes are becoming subtly more “mature”, they are evolving and being finessed to increasingly high standards, within the context of a fine dining experience.

The staff are delightful and informative in a manner I like. My experience is always improved by knowledgeable table service that enlightens me to: preparation methods, ingredients, where things have been sourced, and even something about the supplier.

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The meal began with three delicate appetising delights.

Crispy cod skin with fennel frond and aioli.

Crisp, crunchy, and fishy fat flavoursome, it always wants me wanting a big bowlful of it.

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Scallop was soft and savoury the dash of sauce underneath lifting it and a punch of flavour from the tiny Tagetes leaf. Beautiful.

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Jerusalem Artichoke, I love the earthy pungency of the ‘choke. This crisp presentation with a pate like filling under the soft gratings superb.

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Lindisfarne Oyster and Dill. Another delicate element with a texture created by low heat cooking, allowing a succulent seafresh flavour to burst on the tongue.

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Razor clam almond & endive. The components of this dish work well. One has chewy nuggets of clam and shrimp creating a delightful richness. Another dish I would happily consume from a large bowl, until the cows come home.

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Raw Beef, soft and succulent with a natural horseradish pepper hit from the nasturtium leaf. Nice presentation for me with its redness offset on a raku like monochrome plate.

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Sea bream. Superbly cooked fish soft white flesh succulent and a beautiful crisped skin.. here we are back to the crispy fish skin I love so much.

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Autumn salad has a somewhat lengthy description but the  execution is dazzling in taste and colour. James and Ken combining talents marvellously well.

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oooooooooh the magnificent 12 Volts wine from 4kilos Winery in Mallorca, complex, smooth soft rich, leaving one wishing for more. A very sophisticated little number, and a good find. Made in very small batches and quite difficult to get hold of I think.

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This was a transient lamb cutlet that briefly touched down on our table but sadly was destined for another diner who positively purred when they ate it… I hate them for that, next time I shall hopefully have one.

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Squab ragu & cauliflower. Squab is not something i have had in the past, but would quite happily have again. The flesh is dark, rich and delicate. Well it certainly was when the Raby Crew presented it to me. Accompanied by a superb savoury jus and went well with the last few drops of the 12 Volts

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Apple, clove, peanuts. clove ice cream under fragile apple papery flakes and a nice little peanut salty crunch. Good flavours and crunchy nibbles.

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This chocolate bar was dreamily dense and chocolatey, sort and gooey too. The popcorn ice-cream did just that …tasted nicely of popcorn, and the caramel popcorn? you guessed it I want a bucket of it please.

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Petit fours. These tiny little bites were fabulous all flavours in each piece were of first class excellence.

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A tasting menu of craft and excellence.

My final stop in this food parade we have here is to the culinary home of The Cool Man Coulson. That is to say Dave Coulson at Peace & Loaf

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I will use my prerogative at this point, because I am writing this waffly wordage, to take a liberty as the next series of images are not a “true tasting menu” but more of an impromptu one that we enjoyed when the chefs “let loose” to show us a little of what they can do when you let them just cook their little hearts out. Bless their little cotton socks.

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we began well on this Birthday Night Treat with a dash of Champagne and a rather elegant Gisbourne Albarino Bell Ringer 2014 a medium, zesty, clear chap with a soft, peachy, clean finish.

Canapes of beetroot fishcake/balls

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Restaurant baby loaf with whipped dripping butter

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A bouche of spiced pumpkin with melted Parmigiano crisp and fried sage leaf followed

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The first of the mains was a velvety smooth and indulgently rich Jerusalem artichoke soup. So rich it is possibly descended from Royalty or some Oligarch. Artichoke crisps and blanched slivers were embellished with artichoke powder. I did mention it was artichoke didn’t I? a lovely mix of flavour and texture, the consequences of which I will avoid mentioning. But it was worth it

 

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scallops with potato crisps were delightfully done. The scallops seared in butter to create a thin searing all over trapping the moist sweet meat inside. Lovely texture

 

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Some Stunning Iberico pork was served next ( I assume from Enrique at Kaltur Foods). Now if you have not had this Iberico pork yourself you really, really need to try it. The colour and flavour are simply stunning, it looks like a cross between pink lamb or beef but has a super depth of flavour. The savoury jus enriching my experience beautifully. They do make canny sauces in that back room.

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A lovely pice of soft-cooked halibut with samphire followed. Again two things I will eat in vast quantities if left unchecked. Samphire’s salty crispness gets my salivary glands going every time and the creamy meat of a lightly seared halibut is gorgeous.

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This Boozy Sorbet with popping candy, prosecco and possibly rum is a P&L take on a Margarita and fun number it is too.

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A Taste Of The Forrest is what this is, I can’t begin to describe how stunned I was when I saw it. The whole creating is just outstanding visually and from a taste perspective. It takes deconstruction to a whole new level. People on the next table sat in a mild state of awe, I had to show them because they didn’t believe it. Chocolate several ways, cherry fruit, meringue mushroom pistachio all doing their creative thing.

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There was in fact yet another pudding of distinction but sadly unless I can steal an image from somewhere I can’t show it… the iphone died as I lined it up. no doubt bloated from all my food pictures i had stored on it.

 

And that pretty much is it. Four venues with four madly creative teams creating wonderful experiences. Each has their own game going for them:

One has a grand building with an inescapable elegance of surrounding. It might surprise some, but they really want people to see them as far less formal than you might assume them to be. They want the food they make to be enjoyed and the diner to have a relaxed friendly meal.

Another has pared back rustic charm and informative service, in a country restaurant pub vibe. Creative, imaginative, skillful chefs rule the plate and palate.

One has Rural Elegance with a simple and tasteful dining room. Delightful service, a remarkable chef with obsessional creative gifts plating fabulous food.

And another has a suburban split level location with an expressionistic creativity plated with passion and artistry.

I mean no slight to any of them in my personal descriptions to me they are all madly talented, artistic, creative, probably mildy unhinged and obsessional. Their staff are superb and only need to be engaged politely to be offered a wealth of information about the dishes. The all have stories to tell if asked correctly.

I thank them all for the wonderful meals and experiences they have given me.

Ciao for now

For those that know…..

Mr. Wolf





Aced the Thirty Six

18 04 2015

A recent business trip offered me the chance to try out a new place to eat far from my usual stamping ground down in “that there London place”.

Although it was terribly tempting to avail myself of the knowledge of hip places and fine dining and “really you have to go there mate” from the chefs and food lovers and diners I now seem to know, I elected to follow-up on a promise I made to Cheila Reais my contact via Twitter.

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Cheila popped up on the old Wolf Restaurant Radar last year sometime as she began promoting a soon-to-be-opened venture in the Notting Hill/North Kensington area. Billed as an “All day Townhouse Bar and Grill” it sounded like it should be a fun and relaxed sort of place. It is the latest in a small growing chain of restaurants that already includes the two successfully established Beach Blanket Babylon venues, in Shoreditch and Notting Hill.

It is only about 5 mins walk from Westbourne Park Tube station and somewhere North of the Hyde Park are I was staying; apologies for my vagueness but I have no idea what is what, or where it is in The Old Smoke.

Arriving on foot it was easy to spot as it sits as a corner building and painted black. At the door I was greeted in a friendly manner by the doormen and ushered directly into the presence of Cheila. We had never met though I have seen the occasional picture of her in the Twitter feeds from time to time so I was able to recognise her immediately. I will say this, she is elegant, wonderfully charming and a simply superb hostess.

West Thirty Six is a very interesting place visually, much has been made of recycling old metal and timber, the decoration of the establishment with nik naks makes for a great way to while away the time, Particularly if one ends up dining Solo, like I was.

There is a basement area that I presume is below the upstairs deck and must be semi-open as it serves as a smoking area, the corridor access and “facilities” walls are cladded in old timber possibly recycled floor boards. The effect throughout is fun and reminds me of something I find difficult to put my finger on. Maybe it is a sort of American 1920-30’s prohibition vibe cum stylee.. perhaps. Certainly the white braces and black uniforms, or denim dungarees of the servers bends it visually that way.

Downstairs is the bar and dining area divided up by partitions and on the right joining the bar and barista’s station is the open Kitchen with its charcoal grill belching the occasional gout of flame and infusing the atmosphere with its cooking aromas. There is a small area snug up against he kitchen bar for a small number of people to eat and watch the chef crew hard at work.. From the moment I arrived to my warm greeting by Cheila and her team to the minute I left this area was just hopping and heaving with diners obviously having a great night out.

The building is like a warren, rooms and floors creating fabulous little areas to nestle in with friends and either dine or settle down for drinks in all manner of old chairs. The Barman/mixologist at the second bar on the first floor has a great range of very interesting and tempting spirits for some marvelously creative cocktails, looks quite the Speakeasy den it does.

I was led to a table on the first floor in front of the side window, the character of the room was club/den like and a fabulous rusted lantern hung from the ceiling, reminiscent of those old Tuscan beauties, and a glorious image of a majestic (unclad) Sophia Loren graced the wall to my left. Distractingly lovely is a large print of a nekid Sophia is all I will be drawn to say on the matter… just peachy.

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So here I was sat in a comfy spot with an elegant derriere to my left and a charming lantern dangling to my right, my eyes darting about looking at the eclectic tasteful paraphernalia and books. All the while I was people watching plenty of casually hip and cool operators come here it seems, no doubt drifting up from Notting Hill and Kensington. Mildly Bohemian is probably a small way to describe it.

While I sat waiting for my food amongst the exposed electrical conduits In the Speakeasy lowlights and the background hummed to the sound of contented customers expressing delight at what was being delivered to them, I listened to the sound system dribbling cool and funky tunes into the room and sipped on a very fruity example of a Semillon. A Tim Adams Fairfield Block to be exact, melony greengageness and smooth heady clean finish.

I was blessed with great service and attention from Jonathan, Bart and Ash; all, who I note, smile with their eyes.

So after all that usual preamble and waffle, what did I have to fill me up.

First I chose the crab trifle. Visually mimicking a desert but made with layers of spiced tomato sauce and white crab meat, topped off with creamed avocado and somewhere in there a delicious little sprig or two of fennel; served with a slice of lemon and char grilled rye bread. All the flavours worked well together and I would suggest to anyone that they want to squeeze the lemon juice onto the bread before you ladle on a blob of the crab trifle. You do that and you will be rewarded with a lovely citrus aromatic hit as you pop it into your mouth. Way more flavoursome than doing the usual squeeze over the crab flesh. My observation would for the chef to be a smidge bolder with the chilli, not madly but just make it a bit more obvious.

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Mains, well it just had to be a bit of steak. The group dry age their own beef and I plumped for the 39 days aged, mainly because It was a modest sized 250g and the other options were for cuts of 350 and 400g. Such was the surprise of one of the nearby diners that she exclaimed, (decently loudly with eyes wide) “look at that it’s huge”, and rolled her eyes appreciatively when she started to chew. Chef really should be told that the size and quality of his meat brought unadulterated joy on the night.

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The sirloin needs accompanying sides so I chose the beef dripping chips which were excellent soft and fluffy inside and superbly crunchy on the outside not only that they were as thick as a blacksmith’s fingers. My other side dish was Swiss chard (great to see Swiss cahrd on a menu as I grow it and love the stuff) crisped red onion rings and roast pine nuts and puy lentil topped with a dollop of soft cream cheese. I asked for the béarnaise sauce on-the-side (nice little hit of tarragon in there) and was able to administer proportions of each as I saw fit. The Steak was superbly char grilled the outside seared and pink under the surface all the way to its core, flavour and seasoning and texture …flawless.

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So full was I, that I was unable to sample from what looked like a very comforting and homely selection that included: Rhubarb, apple & cinnamon gateaux, crushed banoffee. All, as I say, beyond my capabilities.

And that is it, another lovely meal out in a very “Now & Happening” spot. My thanks to Chelia and her team for making me welcome and taking such lovely care of me, and thanks too to Robert Newmark for creating a super little spot to drink and dine. If you are in the area book it or be disappointed, it was hopping and heaving and bustling and rustling when I went..

Ciao dudes and dudettes

Mr.Wolf





Trial By Vegetable

31 03 2015

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Well now what do we know?

We know Ouseburn is an up and coming area of Newcastle upon Tyne, dotted with great little pubs and it is at the centre of a redevelopment that will create a very interesting village within the city.

We know there is a lovely little “off strip”, café-cookhouse-restaurant on Ouse Street (actually called The Cook House) right smack next to the Newcastle Town Moor Tunnel entrance (and behind the Hotel Du Vin), that has been created from old metal shipping Containers. It is all very “Now, hip and happening” and terribly a la mode.

We also know the lovely Anna Hedworth, @the_grazer, is behind the Cook House enterprise. Anna is part designer, architect, part cook, allotmenteer, full-time food lover and a visionary. During the day Anna runs the Cook House serving coffees, snacks, breakfast, lunches and the like. All made by herself from the best ingredients she can. She is often feted in magazines for her enterprise, and her quality of blogging. However during the evening the Cook House is a venue for parties and events, and in this instance a Pop-Up, Cheffy Chef night.

It would seem we know that much, but we need to know a smidge more. Like who are these Cheffy Chef types? Together they are known as Trial Shift; separately they are Shaun Hurrell and Tom Anglesea.

Our young Mr. Shaun Hurrell blossomed over in the USA in Northern California, in the Wine Country of Sonoma County. Somehow after a few years working his tail feathers off in a small bistro, he ended up in Newcastle Upon Tyne working for non other than Terry Laybourne at Jesmond Dene House.

Everywhere where you look in the North East where quality Chefs are to be found there is almost certainly to be the footprint of Terry not far away.

Shaun put in 4 hard years of work in the very busy kitchen, before scooting off to London for the next 5 years. While in London he worked for Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Fergus Henderson’s St John Hotel, James Knappett’s Kitchen Table, and had a short time as a head chef at Farrs in Dalston. Following all that he mooched back up to us here in the North East. He was the Head Development Chef tasked to create the kitchen, and to bring the chefs, the menus and recipes up to speed at the newly launched St. Mary’s Inn (at Stannington). He is a man with a plan, and that also includes starting a family and working towards opening a restaurant with his good long time friend Tom Anglesea.

So what of this Tom Anglesea fellow? What do we know about him?

Tom was born and raised in Durham and began his career washing dishes at the local bistro, Chadwicks. Tom is another super Chef with the Terry Laybournes pedigree, having stints in Café 21 and Bistro 21 before he too headed to London at the very tender age of 19 to work at Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café.

Tom then went on to train under Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York, Neil Perry at Rockpool in Sydney and also spent time at Rene Redzepis Noma in Copenhagen and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. Returning once again to England Tom took a sous chef position at the Red Lion rural pub in East Chisenbury, and whilst there was part of the team to win their first Michelin star in 2012. Now back in the North East he and Shaun could very well be the next wave of Cheffy Chefs to become part of Newcastle’s new improved dining scene. It is certainly something I would like to see.

The nature of the evening was a showcase of talent. Not only was it a showcase of what the two talents on the pans can do with ingredients, it was a showcase of the talents of the wizardry of the region’s most elusive specialist and stand-out specialist vegetable grower; yup you guessed it Ken Holland. You have as much chance of seeing this rare fellow as you have being introduced to The Scarlet Pimpernel or finding a packet of hen’s teeth and a pile of rocking horse pooh. However you will be able to eat his superb produce should you venture into the likes of Jesmond Dene House, Peace & Loaf, Raby Hunt, St. Mary’s Inn, House of Tides and a canny few other places of inestimable repute that I can’t mention, because Ken has not told me I can. I do what I am told by Ken, I know my place.

Anna’s Cook House was almost at its capacity with booked guests by the time we arrived; remarkably I actually knew 3 of the guests. The long table was bedecked with colourful crudités and dips on a roll of brown paper, cunningly low tech and easy to clean away as we found out when it was time to clean and make ready the next course.

On our arrival we were greeted with a clean zingy cocktail of rhubarb and blood orange & gin spritz. It had a fresh lightly tart flavour and was a very pleasant little gargle to sip while saying hello to our fellow diners.

The crudités that were on the table were pickled candy beets, raw heritage carrot, baby radishes, roast young parsnips, broad bean tips, forced pea shoots and fennel seed rye crackers, the dips were a fabulous, rich, colourful gochujang/black sesame, wild garlic/white miso and wood smoked baba ganoush. All the veg was undoubtedly crisp and fresh. Ken grows them to harvest when small so they are bursting with the sweetest taste. He even has a forcing tunnel where he is able to grow pale, sweet, tender sprouting vegetables. The pea shoots were testament to his skills. The ganoush wild garlic miso (this no doubt fresh from close to home) and fermented gochujang were superb everything that was dipped was enjoyable; the rye crackers were a fine example of a home-made crisp thin and brilliant for ladling lovely dollops of dip to my appreciative buccal cavity.

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The remnants that remained were all neatly rolled away to make way for a Waldorf Salad Gougere (a Parmesan choux bun filled with blue cheese mornay, brushed with apple caramel, celery salt and shaved walnut). Beautiful is what I will say about this. The pastry was perfect, the cheese filling, tangy sweet, the salt and sweetness of the apple caramel and saltiness of the parmigiano superb with the nutty walnut which has that slight edge of bitterness. All in all, a lovely combination of flavours.

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Details for roasted parsnip dish below coming soon

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Roast Onion Broth, Dumplings

This was a clear, savoury onion consommé with floating white pickled turnip, Parisian fine herb dumplings, onion compote settled on the base of the bowl bringing sugary sweetness into the dish, wild garlic. The charred onions and spring onions added a bitter caramel and mild fresher green onion taste on the palate.

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Beets, Leek & Horseradish

Horseradish bavarois topped with pickled beets, baby leeks, oyster leaf and forced beet leaves. I can only say this was a stunning cacophony of tastes and an absolute riot of flavours, beautiful vibrant colours to the eye too. The picked beets were sweet and vinegar sharp and the soft creamy (almost custard-like) smoothness of the horseradish bavarois created a near desert-like savoury dish. What never fails to impress me is the oyster leaf. My brain just cannot quite grasp the nature of its flavour, as it fools the olfactory senses into believing one is eating oyster or some fish oil flavoured substance; but it just not flesh it simply is vegetable. You must taste it at your earliest convenience.

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Cumin Roasted Carrots, Yoghurt & Flowers

Then was charcoal grilled heritage carrots, labneh, primrose petals, mint and coriander condiment and cumin oil. The composition of cumin, mint and yoghurt with the charcoal grilled carrots was super, real comfort food textures working well together. Colourful and pretty as a picture

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Thai Pumpkin

The Thai crown prince squash (family style) was rubbed with a paste made from lemongrass, galangal, Thai shallot, coriander root and palm sugar then filled with coconut cream and baked it until soft. This thickened the white subtle center to an almost cream cheese consistency. It was served and presented with some great soft flatbreads so that we could create wraps and have some glorious aromatic tasting finger-food. Satay sauce, tamarind water, chili oil, crispy shallots, Thai herbs and lime wedges, all gloriously combining in an Asian inspired fusion dish. It was great fun, and a good talking point with my adjacent diner; particularly as the whole of the squash was to be consumed, the skin softening during its cooking.

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Mint, Lime IcePops

As a freshener we were served ice pops, which were yoghurt, milk, mint and lime zest. I found them an interesting event in the meal, and the combination of ingredients suited my palate, however this I think was one of those ”marmite moments”.

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Tea & Carrot Cake

By the time the carrot cake made it to the table my girth was beginning to groan with the strain of so much marvelous food. Made with the heritage carrots, a walnut butter in the middle and a carrot and cream cheese frosting served with a scattering of toasted walnuts simple and comforting it was.

The tea was made from dehydrated carrot, verbena and star anise, and was a delicate final curtain to the gastronomic theatre.

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Throughout the night the atmosphere was friendly, convivial and fun. We enjoyed the food and conversation and appreciated the hard work and effort that made it all happen. Huge thanks to all, and my congratulations for a fantastic team effort

So what do we know now? Well, if the Trial Shift boys show up near you, court their presence and judge them for yourselves, it will be worth your time and your taste buds will thank you.

Cheers

Mr. Wolf