Marco Polo: Long-established local favourite
This Italian restaurant has been in this location at the top of The Side for as long as I have been visiting Newcastle (about 33 years) and probably much longer. We used to come here from time to time but haven’t been for a long while, and in the meantime the décor has been modernised and the menu updated. But it remains a firm local favourite, and visiting recently on a Friday evening we had to wait about 10 minutes to get a table when other nearby restaurants were nearly empty.
Having got that table, in one of the small upstairs rooms, we perused the menu and chose to share some olives and Italian breads to start with – both good and in generous portions. My main dish of bucatini arrabiatta was also on the large side and had a good flavour. Chris enjoyed his wild mushroom risotto although it was maybe a little heavy on the garlic. With a bottle of beer and large glass of good red wine we paid £33.10 (not including service).
Caffe Vivo: Just off the Quayside
This is our latest Newcastle restaurant discovery, and a very good one! It's located in a former warehouse just off the Quayside, near the Law Courts, and has lots of character and an interesting menu. It's probably a little dearer than other Italian restaurants in the city, but judging by what we ate on this visit, the quality is higher too.
Favorite Dish: We decided to share a starter and chose the Chargrilled Calamari with Chilli, Lemon & Rocket. These were really excellent with bags of flavour - just as you might expect in a Mediterranean fishing village! For a main course I had the Pappardelle with Chicken Livers, Golden Onions & Sage, another fantastic dish, though with more pasta than I could eat. The chicken livers were cooked just right, almost melting in the mouth, and the sage was very flavoursome. Chris's Saffron Risotto with Luganega Sausage was perhaps a tad over-salted, but he enjoyed it nevertheless. We were too full for dessert but I'll try to make room on a future visit as they sound wonderful!
We spent a little under £50 - quite pricey for Italian food in Newcastle but worth the extra for something a little more special than you'll find elsewhere. And there's a more reasonable fixed-price menu on weekday evenings - £15.50 for two courses, £18.50 for three.
Pizza By The Slice: Real Italian Pizza by the slice
This is real Italian Pizza By The Slice in The Grainger Market in Newcastle city centre. The Grainger Market is not glamorous and sells some cheap rubbish but also has some great deli's bakers and craft stalls. These are fixed "stalls" more like shops. Pizza By The Slice is a new addition to the market.
Choose what pizza you want and pay about £1.75/£2 a slice. Go for cheese and tomato or chicken, sausage or veggie. Real thin base just like i've had in Naples. Last time i was there a huge family of italians where getting their slices in front of me. Drinks available. Either walk round with your slice or stand at one of the two tables available. Pizza is served on a paper plate which is then put in a bag. Friendly fast staff.
Favorite Dish: Got to be the margarita pizza slice.
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Marco Polo: Feels more upmarket than it costs
This is a nice Italian restaurant in Newcastle city centre. It does get very busy even on weekday nights so i would recommend you book a table. I have been going to this restaurant for years and have always enjoyed the food. A few years back it had a make over and now looks smart and presentable. It has quite a romantic feel as it is not too bright and they light candles on the tables in the evening. Alhtough I tend to meet with friends here so it's not like it's couples only ;)
There is a small bar area for you to sit and have a drink if you arrive early or have to wait for a table.
I hav enever had a problem with service here. The staff have little hand held computer/devices that they put the order into and i have always found them efficent and friendly.
Selling the usual italian fayre i think it is very reasonably priced. At about £8-9 a pizza the reastaurant feels more up market than the pricing. They also have a childrens menu priced at £4.95. I must admit i have never seen any children in here in the evenings but the website does say they are child friendly.
Favorite Dish: I love the pizzas. My favourite is the Fiorentina
(Italian blue cheese, pine nuts, baby spinach & a free range egg) priced at £8.25
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The Godfather: Disappointing - much better around
This is a typical italian with pizza, pasta and meat/fish dishes. Seems to be run by genuine italians.
I first went to this restaurant a few years ago and found it basic but tasty. I returned a few weeks ago with a friend. I was very disappointed. The service was extreamly slow. The starter took a very long time to arrive (about 45 mins) and when it did arrive it was stone cold. Main course arrived in due course and was tasty. We were not offered dessert. This restaurant seems to survive soley on groupon/living social vouchers which is never a good sign.
The one good thing i can think to say about it was that they had lots (and lots) of daily specials.
I don't want to be unkind but there are much better italians nearby i.e. Marco Polo and Portofino's
Favorite Dish: I had a veggie calzone main which was OK
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El Torero: Tasty tapas
This is a good Spanish restaurant specialising in tapas, situated in an interesting old building (a former Victorian office block I believe) near the Castle Keep. The waiting staff are friendly, the space attractive, the food good and the prices very reasonable. Being slightly away from any main thoroughfare it is also less busy than some other city centre restaurants, so all in all is a real find.
I really liked the room and overall ambiance. The minimum seems to have been done to what must have once been a clerks’ office or similar, and it has plenty of character while being quite light and spacious. Tables are well spaced out and there’s a separate bar, ideal for a drink while waiting for all your party to arrive or for a table to become available (though this wasn’t necessary on the Sunday evening of our visit).
Favorite Dish: We visited with a cousin of Chris’s and between the three of us enjoyed a good selection of tapas, including excellent calamari with good light batter and a garlic mayonnaise, a dish of lamb cooked in a wine and tomato sauce, chorizo fried with potatoes and eggs, meatballs and mushrooms.
Our six tapas dishes, plus a basket of crusty baguette, were just the right amount to leave us feeling pleasantly full; however we had already had a good sized lunch that day, so hungry eaters might want one or two more dishes. With two drinks each (four glasses of the house Rioja, two pints of draft San Miguel) we paid only £54 in total (not including service) – very good value indeed.
Pan Haggerty: Good food near the Quayside
There has been a high-quality restaurant at this address for some time, but we had never got round to visiting. Staying nearby recently, we spotted that it had changed hands, and that there was an early bird menu offer that sounded tempting £14.95 for two courses and £17.95 for three. This menu is available from 12.00pm - 2.30pm & 5.30pm - 7.00pm Monday to Friday, and 12.00pm - 2.15pm & 5.00pm - 6.30pm on Saturdays. So we went along about 6.45pm on a Wednesday and found the place already a little busy. Later it got much more so – it is clearly popular not only for this special deal but also for its full price menu.
We were welcomed by a friendly waiter and given a nice table by the window. The décor here is subdued and stylish, with a central bar dividing the space into two, “heritage” paint colours and dark wood furnishings.
Favorite Dish: The set menu is fairly limited but we both found dishes that appealed to us. My mackerel starter (served on a basil risotto) was by far my favourite – beautifully cooked and with an excellent flavour. Chris had some spicy little sausages with harissa and couscous, which he also enjoyed. For mains we both chose gnocchi with roasted tomatoes. The latter were packed with flavour but the gnocchi unlike any either of us has ever had – disc-shaped and rather dry, though again with a good flavour. Portions were on the small side (perhaps reasonably given the low prices) so we both opted for a dessert – I had a very good bread and butter pudding with ice cream and a super caramel sauce, and Chris had the cheese board (just three cheeses – a cut-down version of the five on the main menu).
With a shared side salad to accompany the mains, and a large glass of wine each, the total bill was £57.42. I loved the space, and the starter and dessert, but I think we’ll wait to go back for an occasion when we want to splash out on the full menu.
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Quay Ingredient: “A small coffee house underneath a big bridge”
Although our hotel, the Copthorne on the Quayside, offered breakfast, we thought that £14.95 was a little steep, especially as neither of us wanted to eat a large plateful. So we checked out the immediate vicinity and found that a new coffee shop had opened on Queen Street – very convenient. Quay Ingredient is run by a husband and wife team – he does the cooking and she takes care of the customers. It’s only small but there’s room for a handful of tables and a couple of comfortable looking leather sofas. It manages to look cool and light, and cosy at the same time – very nice. We received a really friendly welcome, especially when we went back a few days later and were greeted like old friends.
Favorite Dish: We found the breakfast menu slightly limited for our tastes. We both like muffins or pastries, and the latter are only served as a trio of miniature versions. When Chris tried to order this on our first visit he was told that none had yet been baked that morning (it was a Bank Holiday and they had opened later than usual) and they would prefer not to serve him with the stale ones from the previous day. So he chose the brownie, which is a low-fat version and ironically seemed a little dry – maybe yesterday’s pastries would have been no worse?
Other options include a range of breakfast rolls (served in a traditional Geordie stottie) but I suspected (rightly, as I saw when a couple near us ordered them) that these would be far larger than I would want. Instead I decided to try the “singing hinnies”. These are a traditional Tyneside dish, a sort of drop scone, and are rarely seen nowadays so I have never had them before. They came with a little jam and butter and were just the right size for me - I enjoyed them.
On our second visit the pastries were fresh so I had these. They were good, but I would be happier if they offered full size pastries so I could have a large version of my favourite pain aux raisins! Chris chose the croque monsieur and enjoyed it (though unusually the bread seemed to have been fried rather than the more usual toasting).
On both occasions the coffee was very good (my main priority in the morning!) and – a nice touch – all hot drinks are served with a mini gingerbread man (see photo 4). I have since read on their Facebook page that they are expanding their breakfast offerings. This, combined with the warm friendliness of the place, will ensure that we return on future visits to Newcastle.
Saffron: Get the tandoori salmon!
This is another new discovery for us, and another restaurant to which we may well return in future as we were very pleased with our meal here. We were impressed from the start – the décor is quite restrained for an Indian restaurant and hints at the (from what we tasted) superior quality of the food. The appearance is only spoiled by the plastic rosebuds in a vase on each table, complete with plastic dew-drops – if you can’t do fresh flowers, better not to do any!
We were greeted by a friendly (even over-enthusiastic) waiter who later told us it was only his third day on the job, explaining the enthusiasm. Our only gripe with the service was that Chris’s main course dish arrived some time after mine, and only after some prompting – I had to start without him as mine was getting cold, which is something that I hate to do. But when it came there was a nice apology from the manager, and the food was so good we were quick to forgive!
Favorite Dish: To start with we asked for poppadums, which were accompanied by some excellent pickles, served in an unusual relish tray (see my main photo of Chris for a glimpse of this). My main dish was a wonderful tandoori salmon – succulent, full of flavour and very light for an Indian meal. Chris had the chicken madras, one of his usual favourites, and he pronounced it hotter than he would normally expect but very tasty – luckily heat is not a problem for him. We shared a mushroom bhaji, which was also very good, and some pilau rice, and drank a large bottle of Cobra beer each. The bill came to £38 including the drinks but not service – reasonable for the quantity and quality, especially in such a popular city centre location.
Café Neon: Popular, and great value
We have been to this café in the Bigg Market before, but only for a cold drink at one of its outside tables. This time we were in search of a light pre-match lunch – and so it seemed were many others. The place was packed and we were lucky to secure the last table in the basement (the small ground floor area was completely full and it was too chilly on this occasion to eat outside). Of course the fact that it was not only a match day but also a Bank Holiday may have been a factor in how busy the café was, but I have a feeling that it would be a popular choice at any time, given the great value that it offers. Certainly we will be back!
Although it may seem that the basement would be a gloomy choice at lunchtime, in fact it is brightly decorated with murals showing various sunny climes and seemed very welcoming on this rather cold day. There were only two people serving, but despite this and the number of tables occupied, service was brisk but friendly.
Favorite Dish: The menu offers lots of light meals and more substantial fare too. We both chose a wrap – mine chicken salad, Chris’s Greek salad. These came with a portion of potato wedges and were a very reasonable £4.50 each. The café is licensed but I was happy to settle for a freshly squeezed orange juice as I knew I would be drinking in the pub later (as I said, it was match day!) and Chris had a Coke. We were very happy with our lunch and as I said, are sure to return.
The café is also open in the evening with an equally good value menu offering more substantial dishes such as pasta and Greek specialities. It’s nothing fancy but I reckon would be a good choice for anyone on a budget wanting tasty food without breaking the bank.
Little Saigon: Vietnamese in the Bigg Market
A cousin introduced us to this friendly, unpretentious place in the famous (infamous?) Bigg Market, at the centre of Newcastle’s most raucous party atmosphere. But early evening on a week day the area was peaceful, with just enough people around to make the many cafés and restaurants pleasantly busy, this one included.
We got a friendly welcome from the waitress and were seated at a table just a little way inside, which suited us well (the restaurant is quite long and narrow and the table towards the back seemed a little dark and less inviting). The atmosphere overall is cosy, and the décor a little kitsch but appealing at the same time.
Favorite Dish: There is an extensive menu with each dish well-described, which is useful for anyone (like us) unfamiliar with Vietnamese food. There are also some set menus if you are daunted by all the choice.
We shared two starters between the three of us – Vietnamese Spring Rolls (similar to their Chinese cousins but a little smaller and lighter) and soft-shelled crabs. The latter were fried in breadcrumbs and scattered with chillies and chopped peppers – tasty, but I would have preferred a little more heat.
For my main course I had Caramel Pork, which consisted of thin slices of meat cooked in a clay pot with onions and chilli – again more heat would have been good but the dish was pretty tasty. Our cousin chose the Flaming Beef, which looked spectacular (see photo 3) and tasted great – slightly sweet and sour. Chris enjoyed his chicken and mushroom curry, and we shared some egg fried rice and pak choy (the latter nicely cooked and scattered with sesame seeds). The bill came to £66 for three without service, but including four bottles of beer, a glass of wine and a soft drink – very good value. I’m pretty sure that now we have found it, we will come here again!
Blackfriars Restaurant: A quiet haven
The quiet haven of Blackfriars has long been one of my favourite spots in the city centre, but it is only recently that we have got round to visiting the restaurant that is part of the complex. Looking for somewhere special, but reasonable, for a New Year’s Eve dinner, I discovered that here the menu would be the same as throughout December – no exorbitant mark-up, no unwanted “entertainment”. What is more, the menu looked delicious, with a strong emphasis on locally sourced food, so we booked ... and were not disappointed!
Firstly, the restaurant is in a wonderful old building, the former Dominican friary which dates back to the 13th century. It occupies the friary’s former refectory and thus can claim with some justification to be the country’s oldest dining room! On a chilly New Year’s Eve it was very cosy and welcoming, and the service was equally so, with our friendly young Polish waitress making time for a brief chat about her home country despite being kept busy on the liveliest evening in Tyneside’s calendar.
Favorite Dish: But the food is what really counts of course, and it was excellent. My game terrine was rich and meaty, Chris’s pigeon salad fresh tasting and generous in size. Mains too were great, with my halibut being my favourite course of the evening (great wild mushrooms and a delicious sauce). For desert I had a wonderful bowl of plums poached in cinnamon which were refreshing and suitable festive for the season, and Chris raved about his chocolate torte. Incidentally in the photo of this (number three) you can see the distinctive Blackfriars placemat which carries a sketch map of the region annotated with all the local suppliers used for the food and drink served here.
Being New Year’s Eve, we may have had the odd drink, and for these, the three courses and service we paid a little over £100. Not cheap, but reasonable for the amount and quality of what we had and in such a lovely setting too. If you want to experience the latter without splashing out, they do a great value set menu at lunch time and early evening (before 7.00 PM) which costs £12 for two courses or £15 for three – check the website for details. There are also lots of special events here (cookery classes, wine tastings and more), while the next-door Banqueting Hall can be hired for special occasions and also stages Medieval Banquets from time to time – again, see the website for details.
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uno,s: nice on a afternoon
Reviewed 21 August 2011
went down the quayside yesterday, nice sunny day derby match was on, visited UNO,s first, sat outside enjoyed the sun, 2 pizza,s lager and wine total £18 done the job, pizzas were freshly made, staff were attentive and quick , small problem with wasps at the moment, but that did not put us off, def to go back!!!
Favorite Dish: pizza and a pint
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Lau's 202 Buffet House: Chinese
This restaurant is spacious but filled with customers. The main buffet is at one side with dishes named in English in two sections. Behind these there was the dessert table.
In another section of the restaurant is the sushi section. Because it is a buffet, customers help themselves to what they like. There is a large choice including lamb, beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetarian dishes. Also a choice of different kinds of rice, and noodles, and a selection of sauces.
Most of the dishes were delicious, but the aromatic crispy duck was awful. None of us managed a second mouthful.
Adults £13, children £5.50
Favorite Dish: Lemon chicken was out of this world. Crispy sweet and sour beef was a close runner up.
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The Restaurant, Marks and Spencer: disappointing
The first time I had a meal in the new-style restaurants at Marks and Spencer , I was impressed. This time I was disappointed. We waited a long time to be seated, though there were plenty of empty tables. Several of the dishes were no longer available. Then We had a very long wait for our meals. The children's portions were very small, and the adult portions were little better. The surroundings were good and decor tasteful.
The children had fish and chips, but no ketchup was available, nor vinegar. £4.00
The tomato and basil soup was good £4.00. A plate of hummus with pita bread was £3.50.
Salmon fishcakes with lemon sauce was acceptable. £7.45
Favorite Dish: I wouldn't really say I was over enthusiastic about any of the dishes.
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