The Palm

After looking through their website, The Palm in Sunderland had all of the characteristics of being the new place to be…

Break free of the city to our tropical oasis of good times with cafes, late night bars, restaurants, dessert parlours, tropical gardens & street food shacks, perfect for wild nights, family fun, parties, private functions, weddings, corporate events and of course, Christmas. From the people that brought you Florita’s, As You Like It & Le Petit Chateau… we invite you to step into The Palm. Claim your place in the sun.

So one wintry night in December, I went to establish whether this ‘tropical oasis’ could overshadow the bitterness of the night…

There is only one word to describe my initial thoughts of The Palm and that was awestruck. Making our way through the Street Food Garden (serving cocktails and tacos) then by the Terrace where a delightful member of staff flung colourful garlands around our necks, up into the Pineapple Cove Garden Café, through the party at Tropicuba and then finally to the main restaurant to the right is The Wildernest Bar and Lobster Cabin (you can go straight to the restaurant but I was intrigued by the whole setting and the atmosphere). So attractive on the eye, my mind was ready to party but my stomach was screaming first. On with the food and drink!

The drinks menu at The Wildernest is extraordinary and at 20 pages long, it certainly has enough to get your tongue waggling. With so much to choose from it has to be the best selection of drinks in Sunderland and deserves a review on its own. So feeling something fresh, I opted for a Hendricks Rose Garden; rose lemonade, rose petals, cucumber and fresh raspberries… You’re not getting more feminine than that but when in The Wildernest, go wild. It was fabulously refreshing and went down a treat. Chin chin!

The food menu is just as enticing. To start, you can group up for sharing or just go with the original starting line-up so we were awkward and chose one from each. From a choice of eight standard starters, we went for the Half Rack of Ribs at £8.95 and from the sharers starters we chose Homemade Flatbread Dipping Strips at £5.95. The ribs, covered in the stickiest BBQ glaze, were huge and just fell apart. The crunchy pink coleslaw alongside them was tasty although the ribs combined spectacularly with the ruby coloured peanut and beetroot hummus that came with the flatbread – I need this hummus in my everyday life. The warm, soft flat bread was also served with garlic sauce, sweet chilli cream cheese and olive oil with balsamic. Our starters went down swell.

The night was in full swing as acrobatics and dancers began performing through the bar area of Tropicuba, even the restaurant’s bar was bustling with customers just enjoying drinks – it is safe to say The Palm can hold down a lively atmosphere.

For mains, you have the option of meats, fish (including the lobster cabin) or veggie and vegan. I decided on the Northumbrian Pichana Rump Cap at £17.95. A Brazilian cut served carved with seasonal fries, slow roasted on vine cherry tomatoes. Presented beautifully on a wooden board, it certainly looked the part. Cooked rare, the rump was slightly chewy however I probably should’ve ordered it medium because of the type of meat it was. On another night, where I’d only get one course and I hadn’t ate all day, I’d plummet for The Wilderbeast at £54.95 which seems astonishingly tantalising to the stomach – you must check it out if you ever think you could handle it.

For dessert, it was a simple choice for me. I had been craving chocolate all day so it had to be Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Strawberries. The brownie was thick and squidgy, and the ice cream subtly caressed my palette – I’d have it again and again. I could have it now. I need to go back…

The Wildernest at The Palm is a unique, outstanding setting that has all the makings of greatness – I expect it to create a longstanding pull in bringing people to SunderIand. If you want something a little more chilled then try Liberty Brown upstairs. However, I enjoyed being in the midst of it all and would certainly return. In fact, I am going back in March for birthday celebrations.

Topolino

At number 44 Dean Street, you’ll find a new Italian restaurant in Topolino. Adoring everything Italian, I had to check it out. Was it to be an enthralling Italian night of amore or was it to be a ‘Mickey Mouse’ charade? I was about to find out…

According to their website, Topolino states

Topolino Restaurant is an Italian restaurant located in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne. With an amazing atmosphere in our premises we aim to serve flavoursome dishes creating the most enjoyable experience. We have a fantastic variety of dishes available, cooked to the highest of standards with only using quality ingredients. We also have some great offers such as our Sunday Menu, Kids Menu & Happy Hour!

Inside the newly refurbished cute setting, Topolino has implemented a relaxed style of Italian culture using a wonderful array of past artistry and a stunning stacked book shelf in the left corner. As soon as you enter the building, you sense the great feel-good factor from their passionate staff who are at your mercy. With chilled Italian music playing in the background, I kind of knew then it was a night where serenading shenanigans would prevail. 

With a simple but effective drinks menu, we ordered two large glasses of house red wine at £5.50 each. Maybe it was because I was in a romantic mood, but the wine was an embracive winter-warmer and magnificent for the price. 

For our antipasti, our waiter (who I must say was full of charming panache) offered excellent advice on the menu and he was surprised I could converse with him in Italian albeit with my Geordie twang. So to start, from a list of nineteen breads and hot or cold dishes, we chose Bucce di Patate; Crispy skins served with garlic mayonnaise dip at £5.95 and Zuppetta di Cozze; Fresh mussels in a white wine garlic and parsley sauce at £8.50. The mussel dish was spectacular – fresh from the clear waters of the sea, draped in a compelling creamy sauce – it looked as good as it tasted. My colleague was equally impressed with the potato skins. I just don’t know how he ate them all but he did. It was safe to say Topolino do not hold back on portion sizes too – both starters were mammoth.

 

From a choice of risotto, pizzas, pasta, fish and meat for our mains (again our waiter was with us all the way in advice of what to choose) we chose Lasagna Al Forno; Traditional pork and beef mince lasagne at £9.95 and Beef Stroganoff Strips of fillet steak cooked in a creamy sauce with onions, mushrooms and paprika, served with rice at £14.95. I cannot speak highly enough of our main courses. Thick, dark, alluring, mouth wateringly good stroganoff with the chunkiest strips of tender steak aside to a sphere of sticky white rice; it was mesmerizingly impeccable. My colleague’s huge slab of lasagna was presented perfectly compact and was one the best he’d ever tasted. Brilliant. Molto bene!  

With the night in full swing, our waiter providing us with all of the entertainment and of course such high quality Italian food, I was beginning to cave at the fact that love was in the air… My love for Topolino.

So to end, from a list of seven desserts, we ordered Lemon Sorbet at £5.50 and Caramel Cheesecake at £5.50. Creatively presented in a lemon in a glass, my lemon sorbet was just what the food doctor ordered as it was refreshingly subtle on the soul after such a substantial amount of starter and main foodage.  My colleague specifically asked for the slightest slice of cheesecake and thankfully it was. Delicately placed on the plate alongside vanilla ice cream, he enjoyed every spoonful. He was in his element as his choices on the night were all his guilty pleasures. Both desserts went down a ‘treat’.

In fact, Topolino pulled off all three courses – I certainly had amore in my eyes, mind and soul but most of all in my stomach as it was applauding inside. Not only that but with good prices and good vibes, hand on heart Topolino is one of the most fun times I have had on a review thanks to their charismatic staff – big love for an amazing night. Grazie Mille! Topolino deserves to be at the ‘top’ of your places to eat at next… 

Briar Dene

As part of the Sir John Fitzgerald Group, situated in the vicinity of Whitley Bay’s coastline and St Mary’s Lighthouse, Briar Dene is a modern, spacious detached bar and restaurant that incorporates the essence of beach life to its visitors. According to their website, Briar Dene states

‘What could be better than a long walk across a windswept beach? Settling down afterwards in the recently-refurbished Briar Dene is the perfect reward. Enjoy a relaxing coffee in our bar area or step into our restaurant for table service and a menu which offers the freshest local seafood and twists on modern British classics. We’ve also got an inviting terrace for dining outside on those elusive sunny summer days and a Take Away counter for those wishing to experience our delicious fish and chips on the beach or at home.

With all that in mind, we had to establish for ourselves what Briar Dene could offer.

On probably what was the wettest Friday evening of the year, we were hoping the experience would be worth it…

Impossible to miss and lit up in all its glory, Briar Dene is a lovely sight by night, even in the pouring rain. Inside the huge room, the subtle colours are brought to life by the ensemble of decorations of the sea… For example, it’s not every day you get to sit below a giant whale hanging from the ceiling. It was a quirky yet relaxed environment.

Megan, our waitress throughout the duration of our stay, handed us their menu. The menu was short, simple and sufficient with nine starters and twelve mains served from 12 until 9. When I told her I was coeliac, she returned with the ‘Food Allergen Information for Customers’ guidebook which was easy to follow and helped me decide on what to have. Therefore to start, I decided on the Tandoori Crab Cakes with Coriander Yoghurt and Charred Lime and my colleague went for the House Smoked Salmon, Spring Onion and Chive Potato Pancake, Poched Egg and an Avocado Hollandaise Sauce. Thankfully our food arrived in no time at all. Three stacked delicate fishcakes, resting on a salad garnish alongside the fresh yoghurt… I couldn’t wait to tuck in. The spiced fishcakes were amazing and the yoghurt complemented them well although I would’ve liked the yoghurt to have been a little thicker. My colleague’s plate was huge. Chunks of salmon merged between a hefty poached egg and a crispy pancake – it was a starter for champions. Briar Dene had got us in the mood for food. Rain? What rain?

Now that we were comfy and felt more at home in our surroundings, we were ready for our mains. We decided on Roast Chicken Breast, Roasted Roots, Creamed Onions, Fondant Potato, Confit Garlic and Parsnip Crisps and The Blagdon Estate Award-Winning Steak Burger, Mature Cheddar, Pickles, Crispy Gem Lettuce, Tomato, Thousand Island Dressing, Crispy Onion Rings and Skinny Fries. Excellent presentation should come as a given in today’s world but I have to congratulate the chef on how beautifully they organised my chicken dish – it was first-class. Everything about the dish was enticing and it tasted as good as it looked. The chicken fell off the bone as it was exceptionally tender. The concoction of mixed roots and crisps were a massive delight. My colleague obviously hadn’t realised he had chosen two of the biggest portion sized options on the menu until his burger came – it was so enormous it was as if it was henched. Topped with three crispy rings and plenty of fries it was a mammoth main course. Not only was it tantalising on the eye but it was just as much on the palate. My colleague devoured as much as his stomach could handle but couldn’t manage it all. I mean I challenge anyone to do so. Both fabulous main courses.

Although we were both full to the brim, I had to have dessert. So, from a selection of six desserts, I went with what I was hoping to be a cleansing trio of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry Ice Cream from the Handmade Ice Cream Company. How does the saying go? ‘There’s always room for ice cream.’ There was room; I’d be lying if I said I left any. Sweet, smooth and refreshing; it was even more cleansing than I had anticipated.

Overall, Briar Dene is a pleasing restaurant and bar set in a perfect location. It offers hearty food that is served without any hesitation. Not just a go to on a hot summer’s day but even on a wet, November evening. So give Briar Dene a visit, I can safely say it will certainly be worth the trip.

The Ship Inn

Well I never. A new experience was on the horizon as I was about to venture in the land of the Parmos. Yes, you heard me correct. I was off to sample a Parmo at one of the largest selection of Parmos in the country in The Ship Redmarshall at Stockton. According to the website, they state

Our team believe in, where possible, making dishes using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. They pride themselves on delivering beautiful dishes that taste and look stunning. The team is growing all the time! Each member complements each other’s skills to deliver a positive experience where they hope all customers will want to come back for more.

Was I going to enjoy the Parmo and return for more? I was about to find out…

It was Friday night on a wintry December evening. I was struggling to get into the Christmas spirit until I arrived at The Ship that was; it wasn’t particularly filled with decorations but it just had that aura, the one I always associate with Christmas, which is subtle lighting, a comforting atmosphere and smiling faces at every turn.

But what about the service? What about the food and drink?

With plenty of drinks to choose from, I ordered a gin and lemon tonic (why not? I was beginning to get in the Christmas swing) and my friend went for rosé wine. The nighty had begun!

The Ship has an excellent food menu, there’s so much choice! I can guarantee your favourite dish wish will be on there from curries to burgers and steaks. However it’s a dish I hadn’t tried before that I was intrigued about…

First though, we ordered nachos to kick off the night. Loaded Cheese and Chorizo Nachos served with salsa and guacamole. Sticky, stringy cheese holding the salty chorizo and crunchy nachos together, they went down a treat especially with the rich, creamy guacamole which was the pick of the accompaniments. A good start.

Now for the pièce de résistance, the Parmo! Available in small, medium and large, the Parmo is a breaded meat dish originating in Middlesbrough. The Ship has gone one step further and created varieties of Parmo linked to culinary cultures around the world (there were 28 on the menu). Examples include: Thai Spice Parmo, Kiev Parmo, Spanish Armada and The Katsu Parmo. I’m not going to lie, it took us ages to decide but when we did I went for The Polite Parmo hailed from Canada and my friend went stateside for PB and J, both medium. Each Parmo is served with chips, salad and a choice of slaws – I went with BBQ and my fiend chose garlic and herb. When the waiter brought our gigantic plates over, I couldn’t help but think ‘How am I going to eat all of this?’ This was only a medium too! Parmostruck! Flattened, crispy, tender chicken the size of the plate, topped with salty, streaky bacon resting below a layer of cheese and maple syrup on top, alongside a tub of homemade chunky chips, BBQ slaw and salad – it looked naughty but I was in a naughty mood. It was marvellously naughty. The cheese, the chicken, the bacon, the maple syrup all complemented each other and the chips were amazing. I didn’t manage it all (I challenge anyone to do so) but I gave it my best shot. My friend enjoyed her Parmo just as much. Peanut satay sauce with ginger and chilli jam, it was unique tastes from around the world brought to enhance one of their own. A very clever idea and I can safely say an idea that works tremendously. The Parmo was definitely a yes from us!

Christmas was coming and I was beginning to get a tummy like Santa by the second. Ho Ho Ho lets order a dessert though… Somehow I manage desserts after devouring so much. Tonight was one of those nights where I had to give it a go. So for the grand finale, from a selection of seven desserts, I went with Chocolate Brownie and Vanilla Ice Cream (unfortunately they were out of White Chocolate Chip Brownie). Again, The Ship provided another massive portion, if you like them big, go to The Ship is all I’m saying… Curved like a heart, two huge chunks of gooey chocolate brownie rested on the centre of the plate, topped with ice cream and lashings of caramel and chocolate sauce. It was decadence of thei highest degree but I like my sweets sweet and it was worth every calorie and the loosening of the belt.

The Ship Redmarshall says they have something for everyone and I couldn’t agree more; there is a wonderful selection of dishes available particularly local cuisine with a cultured twist.

I must congratulate The Ship on being a great, family setting that provided me with a new experience I will always remember; I left smiling from ear to ear. I am already looking forward to my return for my next Parmo.

Antico

Jesmond has always been good to me so when I got the opportunity to review Antico’s Italian Restaurant, I was hoping it would continue the trend. The question was, could it stand out in amongst quality competition? I was about to find out. 

According to their website, Antico states The Antico experience is based on the simple principle of ‘Good food, Good Wine, Good times!’ It’s the Italian way of eating and it is something that should not be rushed. We are not interested in turning our tables around five or six times a night – we believe that food should be savoured in an unhurried environment, where you can relax with your friends, family, or partner and eat your meal the way it should be eaten – slowly and with an appreciation for the extra effort we put into making every dish special. Our mission is to deliver incredible food and this starts our commitment to quality.

Ready to relax that Friday night, I could sense we were in for a treat because as soon as you walk into Antico you automatically feel its class; it is a fabulous, soothing setting. We were greeted by the smiling Antonio who took us to our table for two. Yes it was Friday night but there wasn’t an empty seat – the place was bustling.

To drink, we had to sample one of Antico’s fine wines from their drinks menu.

According to Antico, We complement our food offering with the best Italian wines – you won’t find any other nation represented, as only Italian wine can complete Italian food in that special and unique way that has made this cuisine so loved all over the world.

Therefore we chose two glasses of Nero D’Avola – a full-bodied Sicilian classic with plum and peppery overtones with hints of vanilla. Cheers to a perfect start.  Although the antipasti had many of my favourites such as Zuppa di Cozze (mussels) and calamari, I decided to skip on the starters and begin with the mains. Though we were in an Italian restaurant (the home of pizza and pasta dishes) the waiter urged us to try one of their Le Specialita Della Casa (House Specialties) especially as Antico state,

We use 27 day matured Gran Reserva quality steak and all of our meat, fish and vegetables are sourced seasonally. On the subject of seasonal foods, if it’s not in season we don’t serve it.

With all that in mind, we opted for Il Filetto di Manzo con Salsa al Pepe (Fillet Steak with peppercorn Sauce) and Pollo agli Asparagi (Chicken breast served with a creamy asparagus and sunblushed tomato sauce). Our waiter put me at ease by highlighting each element served as gluten free. After around fifteen minutes, our faces lit up when our plates arrived. Bulging alongside the homemade chips and mixed salad, the steak was ordered rare and was outstanding, particularly with the peppercorn sauce. The star of the chicken dish was the creamy sauce that caressed the palate, enticing you in for more. The chicken itself was perfectly tender with the skin crisp. Served with chopped asparagus and a scattering of sundried tomatoes as well as vegetables on the side, my colleague peacefully patrolled his way through the plate. Both our mains were spot-on. Molto bene!

As we didn’t have a starter, I had to attempt a dessert (I have to admit I was struggling) so I decided to go with the traditional Italian dish Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel… If you’re going to go sweet, make it its superlative. The gleaming white cooked cream’s indulgence was intensified by the salted caramel sauce – I’m glad I was in a decadent mood. In typical Italian style, we were greeted with a Limoncello to finish off a wonderful evening… Thank you Antico, it was a night to savour.

San Lorenzo

San Lorenzo is an Italian restaurant that has two bases, one in Gosforth and one in Washington. This review is from the Washington restaurant.

With very few options for a bite out, San Lorenzo has taken it upon themselves to create a modern, Italian dining experience in the heart of Washington’s community.

On arrival, we could tell the restaurant was busy as the carpark the restaurant has available to its customers was almost full. When we walked in, our initial impression was correct – the place was rammed! Considering it was only midweek, I couldn’t believe my eyes particularly at how many groups there were. A good sign of things to come… Although our table wasn’t ready, we had drinks (from the vast range available) at that bar whilst we waited. I went for a refreshing Hendricks Gin and Tonic and my colleague went for a pint of Italian lager Peroni. After around ten minutes, Kara – our waitress on the night – took us to our booth and handed us our menus politely.

The main menu consists of various Breads and Olives, Starters, Meats, Fish, Salads, Sides and the two main powerhouses of Italian cuisine, Pizza and Pasta. I would like to point out with pleasure that San Lorenzo does gluten free options which include bread, pizza and pasta! Wonderful, fabulous, grazie mille! As I’ve just returned from Sorrento, locating gluten free bread, pizza and pasta over there was tricky and even then, I was fairly disappointed when they were available. Therefore, we couldn’t resist and ordered gluten free Garlic Bread at £4.50 along with a starter of Pollo Asiatico at £7.50 which was marinated sesame chicken skewers, cucumber and spring onions and a peanut dipping sauce. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for our starters to arrive as my anticipation was building and my excitement was growing by the second. Yes, it’s been a while since I last ate garlic bread as it is rarely available gluten free in restaurants but I can safely say this garlic bread was the best I’ve ever tasted, like ever! It was brilliant. It was like my subconscious was applauding to the joys of my endorphins. Not only that, but for a moment, it was like I didn’t have Coeliac Disease and I could be happy eating bread again! Tutto Bene San Lorenzo! The trio of succulent chicken skewers – complemented by the thick, smooth and golden peanut sauce – enhanced our delightful start to the evening. Passionate for more, bring on the mains!

Kara, who was a good-humoured and considerate host, brought us back the menu to order our mains. Feeling quite filled but extremely content with our gluten free bread starter, I kept pizza and pasta for another time and we decided to take on San Lorenzo’s meat and fish. We ordered a medium rare 10 ounce Steak with sweet potato fries, tomatoes, mushrooms and salad garnish at £18.95 along with Dianne sauce at £2.50 (it would have been served with onion rings but not for me as they contained gluten) and my colleague went for the Salmon Alla Barbabietola which was oven roasted salmon, crushed new potatoes with olive oil, beetroot salsa and spinach fritter at £15.95. Hung for a minimum 28 days, the local Hadrian’s Heritage steak was cooked perfectly. Juicy and tender with its entire natural flavours bursting out – it was everything you’d want a steak to be. Additionally, I absolutely adored the combination of the steak with the Dianne sauce. No words were required; I was smiling through my eyes. I was in my glory. Cute, vibrant and alluring, my colleague was also in awe of the picturesque presentation of his salmon dish. Crispy on the top and a melt in your mouth base, the salmon was magnificent. The beetroot salsa gave it extra colour, depth and refinement. My colleague thoroughly enjoyed the taste combinations. Both mains were incredibly satisfying but substantial. So much so we couldn’t even attempt dessert.

San Lorenzo has pulled off a masterstroke at their Washington restaurant as it is the only one in the vicinity that delivers awesome food at a good price with superb customer service. If you live in Washington think yourself lucky you have this great restaurant on your doorstep. If you live further afar, it is worth a trip in the car for a couple of drinks and some satisfying scran. I for one cannot wait to return to try some gluten free pizza or pasta and for more garlic bread! Buon Appetito!

Holy Hobo

Formally known as Mr Lynch, Holy Hobo has just rebranded to provide chirpy comfort to the heart of Jesmond…

The Holy Hobo is a Mecca of Good Vibes, a place of worship when you want great food and a good pint, and a place where you can make yourself the most comfortable.

Their mission states,

When we say there’s truly nothing like Holy Hobo, we’re not just saying that to catch your eye, it’s said with gusto and bravado because we’re confident in the fact that Holy Hobo represents and provides that feel-good feeling that can only be compared to when you see your crush, the moment when you take off your shoes after a long day, or finally slip into those warm and soft PJ’s.

When I arrived at Holy Hobo that Saturday night, it didn’t take me long to agree. No, I didn’t go in my PJ’s. Nor did I take off my shoes. Yes okay one out three, I did see my crush, however the main phenomenon I took away with me was the cheerful ambience Holy Hobo flaunts. It’s a cool, vivacious setting. For example, as you walk in, you are met by a unicycle attached to the wall – ideal for a photo. Although the walls are made of brick, you barely notice as it has striking, attractive plants scattered about adding a rustic edge. It’s certainly a unique style that’s for sure.

Moving on swiftly, what about the food I hear you say?

According to Holy Hobo’s website,

Sourced locally where possible, our high-quality fresh ingredients shine through and showcase the beauty that is Holy Hobo’s food. Personified as the ‘100’ emoji, our food will take you on a journey that would blow even the most hard-boiled Hobo away and help you find a new belief.

It was time to make me believe Holy Hobo…

When we arrived, we couldn’t have asked for a more inviting welcome from Cara, our wonderful, polite waitress for the night. The place was full yet calm; Cara told us they hadn’t stopped all day – a great sign of things to come. As we were taken to our table, I was singing along to the song the DJ was playing in the background. Seated at a table by the window overlooking the street, guess how it felt? You got it. Comfortable. cosy.

Cara asked us what we would like to drink but it took us longer than usual as the drinks menu is so vast, particularly for cocktails. From beers from a tank, posh shandies, flower teas, infused cocktails, slush cocktails, candy cocktails, I could go on. If you get the chance, I recommend searching through their twenty-four page drinks menu on their website before visiting as it will save you time and give you an idea into what to order as there literally is so much to choose from. Eventually, we ordered a Rum Cooler at £6.25 – light and dark rums combined banana and blackberry liqueurs topped with pineapple, orange and grenadine all in a deep-purple-masked-designed glass and a Ginger 24 at £7.95 – almonds, grapefruit, orange, Chinese green tea zested up with additional grates of orange and grapefruit, a handful of raspberries and juniper berries and topped with Ginger Beer. Both cocktails looked the part and although they were very different, they were both awesome.

On with the food! From the fabulous menu, which was coded for Vegans, Veggies and Coeliacs, we started with some snacks and nibbles: Sweet and Sour Crispy Kale at £2.50, Maple Glazed Lincolnshire Chipolatas and Chip Shop Curry Sauce at £3.95, and Chilli Salt and Pepper Squid with Garlic Aioli at £4.95. The chipolatas were amazing and combined impressively with the thick curry sauce. The kale could’ve been a little thicker in texture but it still had a strong crisp to it. The squid was slightly sweet and salty and had a real kick too. A pleasant start.

On to the mains! Now we’re talking. The mains concise of burgers, salads, grilled cheese sourdoughs or Holy Hobo’s signature kebabs which is what we went for. Served with a naan style bread, make your own kebab by choosing a filling, a salad and two sauces. For my filling, I chose the Tandoori Marinated Rotiserrie Chicken with Superfood Salad, Peanut and Beetroot Hummus and Garlic and Ghost Pepper Sauce at £9.95. All gluten free! Even the bread! My colleague decided to go with the Moroccan 12hour Slow Cooked Lamb with Posh Salad, Lime and Coriander Sauce and African Coconut Piri Piri Sauce at £11.95. When the enormous plates arrived they were like flying saucers coming to take over our world and didn’t they just! Absorbed in what lay before my eyes, I couldn’t wait to tuck straight in. Spiced marinated chicken fell off each of the two skewers. The gluten free naan style bread was divine and the best I’ve ever had of its kind (if you’re coeliac, you must try these out). The superfood salad of cauliflower couscous, pomegranate, cucumber, fresh avocado, goji berries and spring onions, along with both my hummus and sauce made this everything I could have ever wanted in a kebab. My colleague enjoyed her kebab just as much as I but she proudly suggested that she chose best. I disagreed, I enjoyed mine more. That’s the great thing about our mains. I decided on my kebab style, it was down to me. As Backstreet Boys sang it all those years ago, I want it that way… That little bit of ownership is what I enjoy about a menu. The mains went down a treat!

Unfortunately, there was no room for dessert. Instead, we were ready to dance as the DJ set was in full motion to take us into the early hours…

To conclude, Holy Hobo is a cool, chilled bar and restaurant that has an extensive menu of amazing drinks whilst serving up excellent food catered to your needs. Something I must add is it has great offers on for students too. We absolutely loved our night; we left with huge smiles on our faces. Well done Holy Hobo, another great addition to Jesmond – 100 percent!

Liu Dining

Bringing Chinese cuisine to Newcastle’s Quayside, Liu Dining is an ideal choice for oriental flavours and aromas. According to their website, Lui Dining offers

‘Modern contemporary Chinese cuisine being crafted by an exceptional chef and team under the management of former owner Kevin Liu and son Arran.’

On walking through the entrance – the beautiful scent of Chinese aromas instantly enticing us in – we were greeted with an inviting welcome and taken to our table located to the left of the entrance. Out of the ten tables within looking distance, nine were taken. In a flash, prawn crackers were brought to our table with smiles all-round. The night had begun!

Settled, we decided to be a little adventurous with our drinks choice. Even though there are many options of wines, spirits, beers and ciders, we ordered the Japanese fermented rice wine ‘Sake’ served hot heated in the wok. To my surprise, they brought us a huge wine-sized bottle of it! It was strong! Be prepared is all I’m saying…

From an extensive food menu, we were ready to order our starters. It was a tough choice as there were many options but especially for me as the menu didn’t state which options were gluten free. In the end, we went for Spicy Hot and Sour Soup (Roast Pork, Shitake Mushrooms, Tofu and egg), Steamed Dim Sum Siu Mei Pork Dumplings and Long Ribs in a Spicy Barbecue Sauce. The ribs were unbelievable. I haven’t seen them glazed better! Hot, sweet, tickle the taste bud good, I mean really good. The pork dumplings are a Japanese classic that are becoming ever so popular. They were thick, succulent and full of meat. They were meaty. We were enjoying our meat. The warming bone-marrow-esque soup was packed full of bold flavours. Liu Dining couldn’t have had a more seamless start.

Before we were about to order our mains, I couldn’t help but witness the pride in which the waiters had in providing a wonderful service to their customers. Even with the place just about full, they couldn’t do enough. Again, it was a difficult choice to choose from such a vast selection of dishes on the menu. We decided on Lamb with Curry Leaf and Onions Mongolian Style and Cod Bites with Sugar Snaps, Tofu, Asparagus, Cashew nuts and hint of Oyster Sauce (Hotpot). We also ordered Jasmine Rice to accompany our dishes. When our dishes came, they both looked fabulous but it was the smells… It was like I was breathing our main courses in towards our table. Come to me, come to me my nose was conveying. Salty and tender, the lamb was amazing. The crispy fried onions and jasmine rice were perfect accompaniments although the rice could’ve been a little stickier. The cod bites were another winner and my colleague would certainly return for the dish again. With food this pleasing and with so much to choose from, Liu Dining has to be a front runner when it comes to the best local Chinese restaurant in town.

As we were fairly full but had to attempt dessert, we went for Mango Sorbet and Banana Split Ice-Cream served with fresh cherries and raspberries. Yes cheesecake and other cakes were available but this was an ideal choice to cleanse and sooth our stomachs at the end of the night.

Although we didn’t finish the Sake – we would’ve never made it home – our experience was a treat. Liu dining prides itself on excellent customer service. Just don’t forget they provide quality food to go with it. For goodness ‘sake’, go check it out…

 

Fat Buddha Newcastle

Situated in the heart of Newcastle, at the roundabout just off the Tyne Bridge, is Fat Buddha, a fancy, luxurious restaurant that sets out to dazzle its customers. Fat Buddha Newcastle states on their website,

Housed in the magnificent Royal Arcade, our contemporary restaurant frequently commands the wow factor. With first class service and exceptional Asian fusion cuisine, Fat Buddha Newcastle will take you on an Asian adventure like no other. Simply relax in our exclusive surroundings or join us for a unique venue for your private celebration or company event, with a number of contemporary bars, intimate private dining rooms, cosy booths as well as a heated outdoor terrace, we really do have something for everyone.

Seeming fabulous, could Fat Buddha Newcastle deliver? We were about to find out…

It was a Wednesday night, the restaurant presented itself in all its glory and it was fairly busy. We were taken to our booth which was pretty although more suited for private groups rather than couples. Taking in its beauty, the room is exceptional. The décor is unparalleled to most of the competition in town. The elevated part-glass ceiling, the descending, elegant chandeliers and the luminous streams of cohesive covers arranged to provide you with your private experience – it is impossible not to be impressed by the scenery. So far so good but what about the service? What about the food?

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch our waitress’ name but she hurriedly asked us twice which drinks we would like and rushed off as we hadn’t decided yet as we were still taking in the surroundings. On her return, appearing all the more flustered and stressed, our waitress asked my colleague abruptly what she wanted. We ordered a bottle of white wine called Ceps Du Sud Viognier at £18.95. We waited around ten minutes for our wine. When it came with two glasses, the wine was sat in a silver wine cooler bucket and was left there for us to pour. To my dismay, my glass had a ruby lipstick blotch on the rim – I hadn’t had a kiss from a fat Buddha before and I never want another one. Thankfully, the wine had a wonderfully aromatic tone with peach and plump dried apricots on the nose. Soft and fruity, with a hint of spice, the wine left a fresh finish.

Moving swiftly onto our food, the Evening Menu consists of a set menu or you can choose your own dishes at separate prices. I must add, the menu is easy to follow and is excellent for customers with food allergies as each dish clearly states who can order it. From a range of starters, tapas or sharers, our waitress (who was a little more patient and polite this time around) took our sharing order of Peking Duck at £9.95 – crispy aromatic duck, shredded and served with spring onion, cucumber, steamed pancakes and a rich Hoi Sin sauce. The board arrived stunningly with everything on apart from the steamed pancakes that came in a bamboo steamer. The Hoi Sin sauce was aromatic, sweet and salty. It was lovely. However, the duck could’ve been crispier and less ‘claggy’ – it had more of a tuna consistency. A satisfactory start.

For our mains, we ordered Malaysian Chicken Curry with Steamed Rice at £11.95 and Beef Ribeye Rolls with Salt and Chilli Chips at £14.95. Unbelievably, as were waiting for our mains, the fire alarm in the restaurant began to ring. Maybe that was the warning bell for us to leave… After around ten minutes, it finally stopped ringing. The manager told us there had been a problem with our Beef Ribeye Rolls but now everything was fine and that the mains would be out soon. You couldn’t make it up. Shocking or should I say alarming? Hopefully Fat Buddha had been saved by the bell.

Finally, our food had arrived! Courteous and obliging, a different waiter brought it this time. The Malaysian Chicken Curry had big flavours and although it wasn’t as good as Revolucion De Cuba’s Malaysian Curry I’ve recently tasted, it was pleasant surprise. However, the steamed rice could have been more sticky and fluffy. Even though my colleague’s Beef Ribeye Rolls nearly burnt the place down, she was also pleasantly surprised. In fact, the asparagus wrapped in rib-eye beef served with black pepper sauce on a sizzling platter with the salt and chilli chips was the Dish of the Day. The deep, dark, thick, pungent sauce was outstanding and was a great accompaniment to the sizzling beef and the spicy chips.

Overall, I’ll never forget my experience at Fat Buddha Newcastle. From the enticing allure of the setting, the night just faded into bedlam and left me in disarray throughout. Although the food at the end did improve matters, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at our time at Fat Buddha Newcastle.

Manjaros

It was a Thursday night and I was in Newcastle. I had been to the gym that afternoon and I was starving so I needed something fast. I decided to head to Manjaros, close to St James Park. It’s a great spot for students who live in the area to get some cracking scran at great value. Already a well-established restaurant in Middlesbrough, Manjaros states

‘Manjaros cuisine is based on a blend of African and Caribbean flavours. Our mouth-watering spices originate from the heart of Africa and isles of the Caribbean. Selected dishes have been prepared to create a sensational zest of spices commonly used throughout different generations in Africa and the Caribbean islands.

Only the finest selection of natural ingredients is worthy of our famous “Manjaros Sauce”, which is used to season and spice up our signature dishes. This signature sauce comes in a variety of flavours and spice levels from the very mild alligator peppers to hot bird eye chilies.’

We were up for this. Manjaros we were at your mercy. Feed us. It was around 7pm and the place had a few tables taken. In no time at all, Hassan took us to our table by the window and presented us with the menus. With a great selection of starters, I went for Lamb Flambé Chops with salad at £4.95 – Juicy lamb chops marinated in our signature Caribbean and African spices, Flambé on natural char grill and drizzled with Manjaros sauce. Messy and excessively marinated in sizzling, spicy sauce, I still wanted more. My colleague demolished his Hummus served with warm pitta bread, blended with rapeseed oil and seasoned with fresh garlic and creamy natural yogurt at £3.50. Bish bash bosh. Starters went down a treat.

Next up, for our mains, I went for the massive Waka Waka Chicken with steak chips and salad at £9.95 – Special cut of succulent boneless chicken marinated in house-made allspice, flambé on the grill with our famous Manjaros sauce . Brilliant butterfly chicken barbecued. I say butterfly but it was more like the size of an eagle. No wonder Manjaros do such large plates. The salad, chunky chips and coleslaw were all good too. Finding it hard not to compare, I was beginning to realise Manjaros has a Nando’s feel about it. The most important thing with that though is it is much better value and the food is simply better. My colleague went for the Manjaros speciality; Pepperoni topped Chicken Parmesan at £9.95. Cheese, cheese and more cheese! Layers of it smothered over the chicken, chips and salad. My colleague was hungry and it was a good job. He managed to eat it all but it did take him a few stabs at it. We were stuffed and couldn’t move. Manjaros also do pasta, pizzas, rice, burgers, wraps, grilled meats, platters and kids meals. They’ve got something for everybody.

Overall, Manjaros is very much like Nando’s but bigger, tastier and cheaper. Give them a try, especially if you’re hungry, you won’t be for long…