Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Eating out: A North-Eastern hit-list of sorts

A restaurant somewhere that, in common with the ones in this post, I haven't been to.  Image: Sam Howzit/Flickr 
The end of the year is the great time for people who like a list. All year long things happen, and then at the end of the year we make a list of them, as if their mere happening in the first place wasn't enough. Some lists are clearly just rotten excuses for Channel Four to play a bunch of stock footage for a couple of hours as if it's an actual original tele program, while others can be decidedly more useful. Pitchfork's end of year top 50 albums is a great way of keeping in-tune with the music you should have been listening to over the previous year. Sometimes I download the whole damn thing and then systematically listen to it over the following year. Being musically a year out of date is a small price to pay for having your aural digest "curated" in such a hassle-free way, not to mention the contrarian thrill of being just slightly out of kilter with current hipster tastes.

When it comes to restaurants, people always talk about having a list they want to go to. Sometimes, worryingly militarily, they call it a hit-list. I don't know if these lists are real, or imaginary; certainly I've never seen one written down in real life. I think some people just want us all to marvel at how organised they allegedly are, even in their leisure time. The idea of reducing all the nice food you plan to have cooked for you in the near future, not to mention the company you'll keep and the good times you'll have in so doing, to a series of restaurant names on a bit of (real or imaginary) paper seems intensely sterile and soulless; it's as if fun is something that has to be hastily ticked off so we can get on with much more serious business, like watching crap Channel Four programmes or whatever.

All that said, and as I've already hinted at, I'm a bit of a sucker for the occasional list myself, and I'm certainly not above doing things that are clearly sterile and/or soulless, so here are, in the order in which they come into my head, a few restaurants in and around Newcastle that I intend to hit up in the not-too-distant. Basically this is a bit of an aide memoir for myself, but if you've been to any and they were great or terrible, do let me know. Oh, and if you happen to work at, or even own, any of the following and would like me to write something puerile but complimentary in exchange for free food fair and balanced about your place, do get in touch too...
  • The Raby Hunt. We've been planning to check this small country haunt in Darlington ever since it burst onto the collective consciousness of scran-fans by picking up the high accolade of a Michelin star in the 2013 guide. This was maintained in 2014 guide, and judging  from pics online there are some stunning plates coming out of James Close's kitchen. We met him at a lunch up at Vallum Farm and he seemed like a really nice bloke to boot. We're booked for January. Cannae wait.
  • Peace and Loaf. A recent and interesting opening in Jesmond. As a kid and student I've had countless meals just along the road from it at Santana's. It'll be nice to traipse along here for something just a tad more... contemporary. When they first opened I noted an "all-day breakfast" starter featuring a tomato sauce gel. Heresy and intrigue! Chef Dave Coulson is an alumnus of Masterchef, having made it to the final in 2010. STOP PRESS: Since I started writing this, we've actually been. I know, how slowly do I write?! I'm a shocker! Anyway, the food was good, of which more some other time.
  • The Staith House One of a number of places down on the Fishquay now where one can be optimistic about the chances of a good feed. Another Masterchef finalist helms the ship. "Meat from the farm and fish from the quay" says their website, and who in their right mind could argue with that? The Staith House joins the stalwart David Kennedy's River Cafe and...
  • Irvins Brasserie on the Fishquay. I read an interview with head chef Graeme Cuthell a while back and apparently he used to be a private chef for Andrew Lloyd Webber which sounds impressive, but for all I know Sir Andrew's taste in food is appalling, so we'll just have to go and find out. The place is housed in a lovely building and they seem to have a thing for offering the same dish in either main-course or smaller portions, freeing the diner from the strait-jacket of a standard three-courser. Nifty.
  • House of Tides I'm genuinely quite excited about this place opening. Kenny Atkinson was on Great British Menu a few years ago, winning both years with some stunning, complex plates of food. Having left Rockcliffe Hall in Darlo, he's now about to open up on the Quayside in his native Newcastle, and hurrah for that. Apart from anything else, I really like the name. It sounds a bit like a family or clan in a fantasy novel. But: what'll the food be like? Will it have pretensions to Michelin-bothering standards as, arguably, all his places to date have? Or, will it be a more pocket-friendly casual affair? All will be revealed soon as according to the man's twitter feed, opening is scheduled for the end of Jan.
  • COOP Chicken House About time Newcastle had a chicken place that isn't Nandos, and it looks like it's gonna happen. After a fairly revelatory fried chicken experience in Dublin's Crackbird a while back I was hoping this would be their chosen method of poultry prep, but it seems like they'll be grilling the things over coals. Located bang opposite the diamond strip on Collingwood Street, window seats will hopefully allow for some premium idiot-watching at the right time of day. No idea when they're due to open.
That's about all I can think of for the minute. Where is good that I've missed? Is there anywhere you're looking forward to chowing down in these parts over the next year? If so, do let us know. In the meantime, Happy New Year and all that jazz, and may the wind amply fill our collective mainsail  in this year to come.


  1. Sorry I really can't be of much help. Not one for going out to eat and I have never visited Newcastle so I will just take your word on everything that is said, has been said and will be said in the future!1

    Happy New Year to you both!!

    1. Very well; I appreciate your trust in this matter.


All comments gratefully received. Sorry about the word verification thing, but I've started getting bombed by spam.

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