La Tasca: A touch of Spain by the Tyne
Have just discovered this great restaurant down on the Quayside (I think maybe it's new). It's large (and part of a chain) but doesn't feel too impersonal thanks to the brightly coloured walls and wonderfully eclectic mix of pictures, pottery and other items that adorn them. At lunch time on a Sunday it was fairly busy but it was easy for our group of seven to get a table.
The menu consists almost exclusively of tapas and there's a huge range to choose from. The prices are reasonable and the service friendly, although our waiter assumed (wrongly!) that we weren't used to ordering tapas and tried to persuade us to have far more than we could have eaten. Everyone in our rather mixed crowd found something they enjoyed, and the prices were very reasonable - we had enough tapas to make us feel fairly full (plus bread and olives), a beer or wine each, and with service paid just £8 a head.
Favorite Dish: All the dishes we’d picked were a success with our group. I particularly enjoyed the seafood paella and the patatas bravas, which were pretty hot and spicy. The olive and sundried tomato bread was excellent too.
Brasserie 1883: Great food in Tynemouth
UPDATE October 2010: I have just discovered that Sydneys has changed its name to Brasserie 1883. It is still owned and run by the same people so I expect it's still just as good, but we will go back again soon to check :-)
Our latest restaurant discovery in the Newcastle area is Sydneys, just off Front Street (the end furthest from the sea) in Tynemouth. We went there for lunch recently and were very impressed. It’s a small, family-run place with just a few tables in the ground floor front room and some more downstairs in the basement. The décor is understated and stylish, with some impressive local photos on the wall when we visited (which were available to buy, at rather high prices).
The lunch menu is short but very good value. There’s a choice of 4 starters, 4 mains and 4 deserts, and the cost is just £12 for two courses at lunch, £15 for three courses. The same menu costs £15 and £20 for the early bird dinner. Prices rise considerably after 7.30pm and are high by Tynemouth standards but still seemed good value to someone used to London prices.
The service was very friendly, but then the waitress was a friend of ours! Thanks for a great lunch Stephie – and for taking the photo too!
Favorite Dish: Everything I ate was really excellent – the very tasty butternut squash & goats-cheese risotto to start with (in a sensibly small portion), good fishcakes served with wilted spinach, a superb spiced winter fruit compote (figs, apples, apricots) with cinnamon ice cream to finish. Meanwhile Chris also enjoyed his winter vegetable soup, beef braised in ale and selection of English cheeses.
By the way, it would be good if VT could add a category for "Modern British" food, because that's how I'd describe the food here, and in many other good restaurants in the UK!
Twin Farms: Always reliable!
This is where we go for a meal when we want to be confident of the quality and range. It's a particularly safe bet to take the parents - there's always something for the most conservative tastes on the menu, but plenty to satisfy the more adventurous eater too. The service is consistently friendly, even in the mad frenzy of partying and celebration that is New Years Eve on Tyneside.
The actual building is very attractive. It looks like an old farmhouse but in fact is newly constructed on the site of an old farm.
Favorite Dish: They do quite of lot of dishes with an oriental influence which I always enjoy.
Pitcher & Piano: Perfect location
With an unbeatable location on the quayside, this is our favourite spot for lunch on a sunny day. If the weather is warm enough you can sit outside in the sunshine enjoying the river views, while on bright but chilly winter days we make a point of arriving early enough to get a table by the huge windows where we can soak up the sun and watch the world go by.
You do pay a little for the setting and the view, with beer at London prices - but it's well worth the extra. There's a good lunchtime menu with salads, burgers and other staples, but for a light meal we usually go for one of their "sharing platters" such as the Mediterranean – salami, chorizo, chicken skewers, olives, mozzarella and garlic bread – at £12.95 for two people.
There’s a wide selection of drinks too - various beers on tap and in bottles, a good wine list and a tempting selection of cocktails (though I've not tried any of these - yet!)
In the evening I'm sure the vibe must change and the pub become caught up in the general party atmosphere of the Quayside, but our favourite time is during the day when the river sparkles in the sunshine and the dramatic curve of the Millennium Bridge frames the view.
Ridley Arms: A favourite pub
This pretty stone pub is in the equally pretty village of Stannington, about 15 minutes drive north of the city on the A1. It's a popular place for Sunday lunch and although it's quite large with plenty of tables you'll need to arrive early as reservations aren't accepted.
Prices are very reasonable and there's a good selection across all three courses, although the choice for vegetarians is perhaps a little limited. You need to order at the bar and your meal will then be brought to your table. There's also a good wine list and several real ales.
Favorite Dish: On our recent visit I particularly enjoyed my starter of whisky cured salmon and potted prawns (£5.75). Chris had a generous portion of crispy duck salad (enough to make a good light main course). Mains (with prices from £7.50 - £8.50) included roast beef, Cumberland sausages with mash, good fish & chips, wild mushroom risotto, and the marmalade ham with red cabbage and excellent garlic mash which I chose. Desserts were around £4.00 though the choice was limited as several had sold out, even though we didn't eat very late in the day.
Joe’s Bar & Grill (was Cafe Pacific): Handy when shopping
The ground floor of this building is a bar which we've never been to, but the restaurant on the floor above is a regular choice when we meet up with relatives for lunch in town. Its advantages are its central location just off the main shopping street, its wide choice of reasonably priced lunchtime favourites, and staff who don't seem to mind how long you sit over your meal and drinks, no matter how busy the place is. And it does get busy, so come early if you don't want to wait for a table. We normally aim to get here soon after midday as we usually want a table for around eight people, and of course we can always enjoy a drink while we wait for everyone to arrive and make their choice - once the first priority of exchanging the best bits of family gossip is out of the way, of course :)
The building is quite striking, especially for its side street location - lots of glass (including a glass elevator) and a modern colour scheme. I wouldn't recommend this as a place for a quiet romantic encounter though - it's noisy and busy, with Sky Sports on the TV and people continually on the move.
UPDATE Jan 2008: The restaurant has been renamed Joe’s Bar & Grill but little has changed apart from the name, although there is a large cow in the entrance hall (!) and Sky Sports is no longer shown in the restaurant, only in the bar.
Favorite Dish: I usually have a baked potato or something with a Mexican influence. I've been told by the others that the burgers are good , and there are plenty of salads and sandwich choices too.
Falcon's Nest: Another pub to try
We tried this pub for dinner on a recent visit to Newcastle, mainly because freinds were atying in the adjacent Innkeepers Lodge motel. It's part of the same chain as the Badger (see one of my other tips) and very similar, although I didn't enjoy the food quite as much - but that may have been due to my choice rather than their cooking. Certainly the service was friendly and there's a good selection of standard pub favourites like fish and chips, plus some less common dishes such as my warm black pudding, bacon and flat mushroom salad. The latter was very tasty apart from some unnecessary (and unnecessarily large) croutons. I washed this down with a couple of glasses of very reasonable Rioja and followed it with a pleasant Irish Cream cheesecake.
Service as I've said was good, though it took us a little while to realise that we had to place our order at the bar. Once we'd done that the staff were very attentive and were happy to take further orders for desserts and drinks at our table.
We all assumed the building was old and spent some time speculating about its origins. It looks like several cottages knocked together and has a wonderful brick fireplace with a mysterious door in the centre of the dining area. I've since read a review that claimed that the building is actually a new build, but I'm still not sure I believe that. If true, it's an amazing piece of deception!
The Badger: Good pub food
This large pub is just south of Ponteland on the A696 (near Newcastle Airport), sharing land and parking area with Dobies garden centre. There's a good menu with a mix of pub standards and a few more adventurous dishes. Mains cost from £6.50 (pasta) to £13.50 (fillet steak). There are several fish specials each day - I had some excellent sea bass fillets in crab sauce, served with mashed potato and rocket. The service was very friendly and one nice touch was the great selection of dressings and sauces brought to our table. There's a very comprehensive wine list for a pub, with most available by the glass, and a good selection of draught beers, though I drank a great bottle of Leffe.
An interesting board in the entrance tells the history of the building. It was built in the late 1700s as a "gentleman's residence" and later split into three houses, which were occupied through the years by a succession of farmers, yeomen and a cattle dealer.
Waterford Arms: Lunch in Seaford Sluice
If you follow my "Off the beaten path" tip and head to Seaton Sluice for some bracing sea air, you could do worse than finish up here for a refreshing pint and a spot of lunch. It's a traditional pub very close to the sea and with a typical pub menu in which the locally caught fresh fish takes top billing! There are also good value roasts on a Sunday, though I find these less to my taste - the Waterford Arms, like many of the more old-fashioned pubs I've eaten in, tends in my view to over-cook the vegetables, resulting in a fairly tastleless experience. So I recommend you stick to bar snacks or the excellent fish and chips - and after all, what could be more appropriate in this location?
The pub also has some B&B rooms but I've never had any reason to stay here so can't comment on these.
Café Royale: Bistro meal in the city centre
This is another good choice for lunch in the city centre, whether you want just a light snack or a full meal. Tables are on two floors; the ground floor serves lighter café-style items such as coffee, pastries and sandwiches, and is counter service, while the first floor is more like a bistro and has full table service. You can only reserve tables on this latter floor, and as the place is popular you’ll need to come early if you want to eat in the café, or be prepared to queue.
On our recent visit there was a line out of the door for a table in the café, but several available upstairs where we wanted to eat, even though we hadn’t booked. The menu is chalked up on a board and includes several bistro favourites such as moules marinieres, pasta dishes and a steak sandwich. There is also a daily specials menu and we both chose from that – I had a delicious warm goats cheese and puy lentil salad while Chris had a steak burger with Swiss cheese and string fries. He drank mineral water (he was going to be driving later) and I had a small glass of rioja. The meal cost £20.20 (service not included) which I thought was good value for such tasty food and the pleasant service we received. The bistro attracts quite a mixed clientele – we saw an older couple, a family and several groups of friends all enjoying the food there. Highly recommended!
The White Swan Inn, Dinnington: Too much choice
Dinnington is a small ex pit village to the north of the city centre and the White Swan the largest of several pubs here. We had dinner here recently on New Year’s Eve. It was my in-laws’ choice and probably not what I’d have selected for a special occasion meal, but this would make an okay place for a basic pub lunch.
There is a huge menu, which always rings alarm bells with me as I can’t believe any kitchen can turn out that many different dishes and do them all well, but I have to admit that everything was more than edible! My calamari were unexceptionable but the frisée salad they were served on was fresh and had a tasty balsamic vinegar dressing. The same salad accompanied all the starters – one way they manage to offer so many dishes of an okay quality. My in-laws both chose the asparagus to start with, a strange thing to see on a menu in December and it looked tinned, but they both enjoyed it, as did Chris his rather safer choice of potato skins.
For my main course I opted for the ostrich medallions which I was told came from a local Northumberland farm. The meat was good and cooked just the right amount, though somewhat swamped by the peppercorn sauce – in fairness I should say that I could also have chosen to have the meat simply grilled, and would do on another occasion. My new potatoes were also cooked well, but the other vegetables a little over-done – I’m not a fan of soggy cauliflower! Chris enjoyed his chicken served in the same sauce (another short-cut to offering a wide selection) and the other choices also seemed to go down well – one a classic pub offering of cod and chips, the other a broccoli and cheese bake. The chip I pinched from my mother-in-law’s plate was excellent – crisp and fluffy!
Favorite Dish: Not favourite dish - just a continuation as I ran out of room!)
The dessert menu was less extensive, with about seven choices. Chris had an orange and chocolate sponge cake with fresh cream, which seemed to disappear quite promptly, while my father-in-law and I both chose a vanilla ice cream with toffee and pecan sauce. I was disappointed to find that this turned out to be one of those bought-in, frozen-in-a-pot desserts, but it was tasty enough.
The prices here can’t be quibbled with. We paid about £24 a head for our meals (three of three courses, one of two), pre-dinner drinks and a bottle of wine. Would I come again? Yes, for a basic pub lunch and if my in-laws wanted to, but probably not if the choice were down to me.
Thali: Reasonable Indian food
Only in Newcastle could this happen! We went to this Indian restaurant on a Sunday evening after a match, and as the waiter showed us to our table for two he asked not if this one would do, or could he take our coats, but, “What was the final score, sir?”
Anyway, to the meal, which was pretty standard Indian fare. We started with a couple of popadums, which I followed with a tasty starter of Chicken Chat Masala (shredded spicy chicken served with mini half-moon shaped puree breads) and then a main of prawn palak (cooked with spinach in a medium spicy sauce) with pilau rice. Chris started with a selection of pakoras and followed with chicken madras. We also shared a mushroom bhaji, and had a beer each, and paid £35 (not including service). There is an early evening special for £9.95, which offers a choice of starter and main course, plus vanilla ice cream for dessert - Chris's choices came from that menu, though he skipped the ice cream, which helped to keep the prices down.
The décor is simple and, like the food, reasonable without being exciting in any way. One helpful touch is the provision of a stairlift to enable disabled customers to reach the basement loos.
Favorite Dish: My starter was definitely the standout dish – the rest was OK but fairly ordinary.
The Briar Dene: Safe pub choice in Whitley Bay
This pub at the northern edge of Whitley Bay offers a large if somewhat unexciting space, but its several distinct areas make it feel less impersonal and provide a separate area for families. The fairly extensive menu offers pub classics including locally caught fish and chips, which has been very good on the several occasions I have had it. Good sausages and home-made burgers satisfy the carnivores, while there are usually a couple of interesting vegetarian choices too. The prices are very good value, with most mains around £6, and both starters and desserts about £4.
There are always quite a few real ales to choose from, with several guest beers on a monthly rotation. On a recent visit I had the local (Allendale) Red Grouse, which was described as porter style but actually quite a bit lighter, though with a good hoppy flavour and lasting head.
Oldfields: Good lunch time value
THIS RESTAURANT HAS NOW CHANGED HANDS BUT I'M LEAVING THIS REVIEW AS A RECORD FOR MYSELF.
To read about the new restaurant on this site, check out my review of Oak
Looking for somewhere a little bit special for lunch we came across Oldfields, a relatively new addition to the Newcastle restaurant scene. Located in a Victorian block on the steep hill of Dean Street as it leads down from the city centre to the Quayside, the interior decor has been designed to bring out the best in this oddly shaped building. You enter down a short flight of steps into a circular room with a cosy atmosphere. When we were there this was the only one of the three dining areas in use, but further exploration after our meal revealed the smaller area in front of the pass, and a much larger room at the back. Walls are decorated with some interesting old photos showing the construction of this building in 1904, and I was also fascinated by the original plans that had been framed and hung in the back dining room - do check them out if you come here to eat.
We were warned when we arrived that because a large party (clearly an office outing) had just been seated, there would be a delay in serving us, but if we were happy to wait ten minutes or so they would get to us as soon as possible. Meanwhile we could have a drink at our table, nicely situated against one wall with a view of the rest of the room and its lovely old fireplace. We agreed to this, but our one gripe about the place was that no one then arrived to take our order for said drink so that in the end I had to chase down a waiter to ask for two glasses of wine. But when the wine, a good merlot, did arrive it was accompanied by friendly apologies which were repeated several more times during our meal. And when we came to pay at the end we found that the wine wasn't on our bill and on querying this were told that it was on the house - so all was more than forgiven!
Favorite Dish: At lunch time (and pre-theatre) there is a set menu - £10 for two courses, £15 for three. On studying this I realised that while many of the starters appealed to me I was less enthused by the mains. I asked if I could have two of the former and was told that was indeed possible, and that my "main" course starter would be served in a larger portion. I therefore chose smoked salmon with capers to start with, followed by black pudding on toast with fried egg (which was doubled up as promised). Chris started with the soup of the day, a warming vegetable broth, and then had the potato dumplings with a blue cheese sauce. He enjoyed the soup and accompanying bread, but found the main course a little salty. Overall though we were impressed by our meal and the friendliness of the service, and will be back.
Oldfields prides itself on sourcing all its food locally and the menu is short but appealing, with an emphasis on traditional British dishes such as sausages, braised beef, fish and chips etc. If you like basics done well and with a little flair, this could be the place for you. Throw in the strong sense of history in the old photos and decor, and I think the owners are on to a winner.
La Tasca: Tapas by the Tyne
Just set back from the quayside near the Millenium bridge is La Tasca, one of a chain of tapas restaurants, which tempted us with its array of Tapas dishes. Good selection of veggie and meat options.
Favorite Dish: We enjoyed lunch here before we set off on a walking tour of Newcastle. The smoked tuna was delicious as were the meatballs and aubergine bake. We had several dishes as you can see from the pic - all quite tasty but the only disadvantages with tapas is that portions are small (hence you need to try a few dishes) and you just get to think ooh thats tasty when its alll gone! Paella would have ben choice as a single dish - but only available in the evenings - could have as a tapas dish at lunchtime bizzarely!
- Book now for big savings!
- Hotels.com Outstanding choice of hotels all over the world at fantastic prices.
- Plenty of choices
- Agoda.com Save up to 75%, Don't miss! Live support, Instant confirmation.