Sunday, 30 March 2014

Restaurant Review: David Kennedy at Vallum

A table with a view
I think we've now attended the full set of David Kennedy's north-eastern restaurants. From the rather fayne daining of the original Black Door to the more informal DK Food Social and its now-defunct sister outpost in Morpeth, the River Cafe on the fish quay, an excellent al fresco-ish lunch and now the main restaurant at Vallum Farm, the one word that has united all these eateries past and present is probably "reliable". Hopefully that doesn't sound like damnation by way of faint praise as we've had some stonking meals at Kennedy's places. Always good local ingredients, generally cooked very well indeed for a reasonable price. A meal at any of Kennedy's restaurants is one to be looked forward to safe in the knowledge that one's hard-earned dollar will not be spent in vain.

The attraction of the Vallum Farm venue is to a large extent just that; the venue itself. From a window side table we had lovely views across the fields and back towards Newcastle. The farm complex houses a veritable smorgasbord of food-related action, with a butcher now added to the ice-cream parlour, smoke-house, polytunnels and deli that were here when last we visited. On a bright and breezy Friday afternoon it was a very agreeable spot to inhabit.

The view from our table. Just pretend the car park isn't there.
Restaurant interior
From the minute you walk in and up the stairs to the restaurant itself it is clear that it has had a bit of cash and taste splashed on it. Muted greys and a lot of mismatched antique wood furniture occupy a handsomely light and airy room.

I kicked off what was to prove a very pescetarian affair with a salad of skate and new potatoes. Very light and subtle, perhaps almost too much so. Thinly sliced carrots and celery had I think been lightly brined, rendering them crunchy and well seasoned. The fish suffered slightly for being fridge-cold, with the very tasty spuds being the most flavoursome thing on the plate. Some sort of pesto or lemony sauce would've brought this to life. Nice nonetheless.

There was no such shortage of citrus tang on Kasia's starter of Salt Cod Brandade, which perched atop crispy toast and came adorned with a slice of lightly preserved lemon. This was lovely, the brandade having been whipped into a cloud-like splodge of deliciousness.

For mains I went for Baked Crumbed Haddock on a North African-inflected stew of chickpeas and squash with more new spuds on the side. The fish was spanking fresh and perfectly cooked to a shade of almost-still-transluscence, the spicing of the stew moreishly moorish.

Kasia's Fish and Chips heralded more spot-on cooking of the same fish in an excellent batter and a great tartare sauce, but lost points for pallid and sadly uncrisp chips, clearly something of a weak point being as a similar faux-pas befell the same dish at the River Cafe.

Along with some decent bread and a very nice side salad of rocket, chickweed and parmesan (I had to know what chickweed looks and tastes like as it allegedly grows as a weed all over allotments. Answer: nice, sort of green and spinachy) this lot was sufficient to see us stuffed so we skipped pud. This was a good if not quite great lunch, but at around £13 for two courses the value is excellent and we'd happily return, especially to see what get's served up of an evening. Service was assured, friendly and attentive even allowing for the fact that we were one of only a few tables in.

The deli shop downstairs has an excellent range of cheeses and a few really interesting bottles of wine among all sorts of other comestibles. We picked up a bottle of Chateau Musar Lebanese white for drinking later that night and it was powerfully good stuff, every bit as complex and interesting as the famed red. Home made jammy dodgers were also a triumph.

We burned off some of these recently acquired calories by staggering up to the "Robin Hood Tree" just off the military road, near Twice Brewed. A first for me, this comes mega-highly recommended. Stunning views, and an entirely fine way to round off a lovely afternoon.


David Kennedy at Vallum Farm, East Wallhouses, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE18 0LL
01434 672 406

David Kennedy at Vallum on Urbanspoon


  1. Sounds like you enjoyed another lovely meal...I sometimes wonder when you get chance to eat your own

    Why is it called the "Robin Hood Tree"?? It's definitely not in Sheerwood Forest.

    1. Glad you asked! It featured in "Prince of Thieves", to my mind Kevin Coster's finest work...

    2. Surpassing Waterworld or The Postman? Good heavens!

  2. I know, I know: there are some real crackers to choose from. You didn't mention Field of Dreams! But no, for me, "Thieves" is the most powerful of the ouevre.


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