Sunday, 12 May 2013

Restaurant Review: The Broad Chare, Newcastle

The dining room at The Broad Chare
You know that feeling you get when something you both fully expected, and wanted, to be great turns out to be actually not that special at all? I experienced exactly that sense of anti-climax with the last Radiohead album. Repeated listens revealed nothing new, and I had to give up and accept it was just...pretty average. Radiohead being who they are, this was probably a deliberately contrarian ploy on their part to question the viability of the album as a musical form. I'm going to assume that The Broad Chare weren't similarly trying to problematise the three-course meal as a format of dining during our recent visit, and that the fact we had a fairly mediocre meal was down to error rather than design.

The reason I was looking forward to a top-notch feed in the first place is that I've been before and had a fantastically cooked liver and onions dish, which seemed to sum up what The Broad Chare is about; hearty British classics, accurately cooked from well-sourced ingredients. The bar snacks menu is also great, full of deep fried things and porcine bits and bobs; Stuff That Goes Brilliantly With A Pint, basically. It's a nicely done-out room too - plenty of sturdy wood everywhere - and feels like a suitably relaxed place in which to get thoroughly acquainted with some premium scran.

Lots of Enjoyable-sounding Things To Eat
More promise on the specials board
And so our meal actually got off to an unimpeachably flying start, with a selection from the bar snacks menu to share by way of starters; crispy pigs ears, cauliflower fritters with curry mayo and a scotch egg. I was on an excellent ale called "Suarez: Beer with a Bite". Lol etc. Perfectly cooked egg with a phenomenal sausage coating (did I detect some black pudding through the mix?), light and greaseless fritters with a punchily curried mayo, and crisped pigs ears being surely the tastiest way there is to enjoy cartilaginous animal bits.

Unfortunately things went steadily downhill from there on. I plumped for the burger as I had it on excellent authority that The Broad Chare's was up there with those available in Lahndon Tahn. Encouragingly, it was offered cooked pink. Hurrah. Discouragingly, when it arrived it was cooked through. Boo.

Ain't no pink
On the plus side, the bun was sturdy and well up to the task and the sauce was pleasingly tangy. In the debit column, the burger just wasn't thick enough for the amount of bun, there wasn't enough cheese to make the whole thing cohere and I'm just not up for tomatoes in a burger, although that last one is personal preference, so whatever.

More problematic yet was Kasia's rib-eye steak. Asked for rare, it was delivered more like well-done, with just the merest suggestion of pinkness at its heart. It had a good char, and was pretty tender, so clearly well rested, but had a slightly odd texture inside, as if it had been cooked off then rested somewhere far too warm. We were asked by the waitress if everything was alright, we reluctantly pointed to the overcooked steak. In fairness, the restaurant manager did offer to replace it, and maybe we should have taken up the offer, but we were halfway through by that point, and conscious of having to make it to the Sage Gateshead for a gig in due course.

Rib-eye, onion rings, watercress. Criminally overcooked interior not pictured.
Also surprising was that the chips were not great. Although crisp, they had the slightly dried-out interior you get from fried spuds that've been hanging around for a bit too long.

Not completely disheartened, we shared a treacle tart for pud, but no redemption was found here. It was served cold, which struck me as odd, especially when it came with an ice cream. The filling tasted more of breadcrumb than jaw-achingly sweet syrup, which is the exact opposite to what I want from a treacle tart. The pastry wasn't a short, sweet affair, but was actually quite hard, and not pleasant.

Looks quite good. It wasn't.
Ho hum. The weird thing is that I would still probably recommend The Broad Chare to anyone who asked about the better restaurants Newcastle has to offer. Those bar snacks are really very good indeed, and as for the rest, I'm willing to believe this was just an off night. If this was in a lot of other places, with perhaps less of a reputation, you'd probably shrug it off as an alright-ish meal. But as part of Terry Laybourne's 21 Hospitality Group, you expect a bit better here. Not least as that burger alone, including service, weighs in at over 12 quid.

Before we ordered, we fleetingly considered the char-grilled rib of beef for two (£48), but decided to keep our powder dry for a special occasion. I'm not sure we would now, but if we do I'll be hoping for In Rainbows rather than King of Limbs.


The Broad Chare Website

The Broad Chare on Urbanspoon

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