Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Restaurant Review: Raval, Gateshead

"We should totally go there for food sometime". God knows how many times, peering inside as we scampered down towards The Sage, we've said that about Raval. An Indian menu that avoids the usual Bangla-tastic clichés, some luxurious ingredients and a recommendation from no less a curry fanatic than Cliff Richard: there's plenty going on here to pique the interest. En route to what turned out to be one of the best gigs I've ever seen (John Grant- honestly, what a bloody show) we finally did what we'd threatened to for about five years and popped into Raval for a pre-music dinner.

Raval is perched just over the Tyne Bridge on the Gateshead side. If you're from round these parts you've probably driven past it about a zillion times. I wonder if the position of the place does it many favours; unless heading to The Sage, you're not likely to be wandering past. There were three or four other tables in during the time we were there, which isn't ideal for a Friday night.

Mint Yoghurt, Carrot and Pineapple Pickles with Poppadom wafers
Inside the place is a long, fairly narrow room, with a bar/lounge on the lower level and the restaurant upstairs. It's all very nice and comfy in a self-consciously modern kind of way. There are some nice views of the iconic bridge, depending on where you're sat. We were given the a la carte menu. I'd seen online that they do a cheaper early evening express-type offering so asked for that menu too. I'm sure the waiter just forgot about it, benefit of the doubt... I've got to offer a quick word on the music, which was especially recherché. If you like the sound of a more ambient version of Squarepusher or Aphex Twin - and I really did! - you'd have been fine with it.

Poppadoms and pickles boded well. The carrot and pineapple chutneys balanced spice and sweetness expertly, while it's nice to see mint yoghurt that isn't a nuclear shade of yellow.

The express menu offers up a variety of main dishes, each served with the same daily rice, lentil and vegetable sides for a very reasonable £15.95. We added a Malahari Paratta bread and some Lentil Vada.

Lentil Vada
What's a lentil Vada then? Doughnut innit. When you're hungry and someone offers you a doughnut, even one involving lentils, you tend to say yes don't you. Well we did anyway; we're only human. They were pretty nice, stodgy and crisp all at once. The splodges of sauce stuff - yoghurt, tamarind and something spicy and fruity, maybe mango? - kept them interesting. The unpictured Paratha was a flaky joy of a thing, like a flattened coconut-laced mille feuiile.

Macchi Platter
Kasia went for the Salmon curry platter. Generous chunks of perfectly flaking fish lurked in the shallows of a first-rate sauce. The balance of the thing was bang-on; based on fresh tomatoes, tamarind gave tang while richness came from the coconut milk. It really let the flavour of the salmon shine out before delivering a complex dose of spice. Just about perfect really.

Gosht Platter
I'm a sucker for lamb when in a curry-centric environment. The lamb curry here was just as superb as the salmon, maybe better. As with that dish, the striking thing was how powerfully good the protein tasted. A fine beast must have had been despatched in it's making. After the initial blast of lamb came galloping a shockingly rich cavalry of flavours. The depth that onion gives up after being cooked far longer and slower than anyone can usually be arsed was an ideal foil for a mix of spices centred on cinnamon, nutmeg and chilli. Curries like this are the reason that people love curries so much. The supporting cast of spuds, chickpeas and rice were all very nice if unremarkable. You get a shit-load of food for your £16- the extras we ordered really weren't needed.

We'd mentioned that we were off to The Sage and therefore on a budget, time-wise. Raval sorted us out admirably, serving up this lot fast enough for us to get in, fed and out in under an hour. I had a beer, Kasia was on soft drinks and the total bill, including added service (meh) came to just under £60. Despite ordering off the "secret" express menu, that isn't exactly cheap, but I didn't begrudge a peso of it, as we'd had two very different but equally lovely renditions of yum. We'll defo be back before another musical event in the near future.

The more interesting question is would we return for an a la carte blow-out from a menu where scallops and lobster offer the opportunity to push prices further north? I reckon yes. We've had a couple of not-very-inspiring scrandowns lately (here and here), so deliciousness has been at a premium. The only worry is that I've rarely seen the place with more than a few tables in, which does make you wonder how they can rotate food stocks. No doubt about the cooking though, not on the basis of what we saw. So, do us a favour, get yourself down there and keep us company.


Raval, Church Street, Gateshead, NE8 2AT
0191 477 1700



  1. Agree completely.John Grant was beyond awesome

    1. Too right. Ps, the gig is available to stream here, from today:http://blog-uk.livingindietv.com/post/103403924924/john-grant-live-streaming-sage-gateshead-sinfonia


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