There's some fine eating to be had around the Quayside these days, much of it bearing the imprimatur of Terry Laybourne. Cafe 21, Caffe Vivo and The Broad Chare are all within the lob of an olive pip's distance from each other. Must be handy if the ice machine breaks down, or you get shafted on a cheese delivery. The last man to hold a Michelin star in this fair city, these days Laybourne's places are more about good food at a reasonable price. The Broad Chare was just awarded a Bib Gourmand for doing that exact thing. On a rare weekday sans travail, we had a very enjoyable shuffle round the river (The Daniel Buren thing at Baltic is great, especially when the sun shines- you've got until 12th October before it packs up) before, after much indecision and the toss of a coin, we headed for Cafe Vivo.
Sharing a building, and indeed loos, with Live Theatre, Caffe Vivo is nicely done out in a straightforward kind of way. Large windows and mirrors set into the walls give a very airy feel. Those windows are adorned with all manner of rustic what-nots and dried meat. The semioticians in the crowd will not take long to suss out the manner of fare being offered; simply prepared Italian dishes - meat, fish, pasta and rice, but not a pizza in sight - are the order of the day. I have to say, just about everything on the set lunch menu (3 courses for £18.50) sounded flat-out great, and I like the fact you can have pastas as a starter or a main. You'll be relieved to hear we managed to choose in the end, otherwise this would be a pretty forlorn and rubbish review. Here's what we done and ate.
|Nocellara olives; Cantabrian anchovies with Normandy butter|
Nocellara olives are the new sun dried tomato, or black or whatever. They're everywhere. Fine, by me, I love them. These were dinky little things, but meaty and sweet as ever. Some cantabrian anchovies and Normandy butter were calories brilliantly well spent when generously applied to the dinky little crostini. I was gutted when the remaining half of the amazing butter was whisked back to the kitchen; I'd assumed that we'd be getting a house bread as it wasn't on the menu. No deal. Sigh. Is that pat of butter really meant to be applied to four tiny crostini, each then to be adorned with an anchovy? Decadence!
|Calves liver crostini, cavolo nero|
|Grey mullet, new potatoes, cherry tomato stew|
|Fusilli with prawns and zucchini|
|Mirabelle plum crumble, custard|
|Valpolicella chocolate mousse, chantilly cream|
I had a very nice glass of Piedmontese red, Kasia was on the pop and the whole shebang, including pre-added 10% service, came to just over £60. Service was a bit patchy but then we did have a somewhat dud table, hidden from the main thoroughfare; I had to get up to ask for the bill as staff seemed more concerned with planning the evening's service but worse fates have befallen other dwellers of this realm, I shouldn't wonder.
The word to sum up this lunch is "nice", with the occasional foray into "really nice". There seemed little danger of our socks being blown off at any stage, although with just a tweak there and a touch more care here, these could have been stonking plates of food. Perhaps not everyone wants their socks blown off anyway. If you don't, but you do want to be well fed in a nice room with an excellent choice at sensible prices, Caffe Vivo could well be the place for you.
Caffe Vivo, 29 Broad Chare, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3DQ
0191 232 1331