What with the recent up-tick in religious barbarism, and Europe threatening to fall apart in any one of a number of directions, you'd have thought there was enough negativity in the world at the minute without fools like me adding to it with sneering eviscerations of food outlets, and, of course, you'd be right. Yet, here we still are! The thing is, there were sufficient monumentally duff and dissonant qualities in the meal I shared with friends on a recent get-together at Miller and Carter in Newcastle that not to pass mention of it would be akin to dereliction of duty. Plus, the meal managed to somehow get even more annoying once I'd had time to - literally and figuratively - digest it. Life is short and people need to be told. That's my excuse for what follows, anyhow.
We tried to pin down the last time we'd been in this building, for this used to be the (allegedly?) Ant and Dec-owned The Lodge. Many years, and Irn Bru WKDs ago, is the answer. The interior has been done out in a way that probably says "ooh, fancy" to people that are impressed by lots of bottles of champagne (which, as we all know, goes brilliantly with steak) in a glass cabinet, and like the colour red. You know who you are. We were given menus, but not the one for the deal du jour they had on. Tut. These were duly fetched. The deal consisted of two courses for fifteen quid, not bad when one of those is a rump steak, right?
|Chargrilled chicken wings, blue cheese dip|
My starter was partly ok; the wings themselves were juicy enough and the meat came easily from the bone. However, they'd been lazily butchered - both sections of the wing still sharing a socket - which made eating them a bit of a messy operation. However, the "blue cheese dip" was a vile aberration, tasting like watered down industrial mayo, re-thickened to a jizzy consistency with some sort of starch powder. It did not in the slightest taste of blue cheese. Some semi-wilted undressed leaves sealed the deal. Other starters involved tempura prawns that were nothing of the sort, and some cheesy mushrooms for the veggie in our midst.
|8 oz rump steak|
Which leaves the two more baffling components of "Their Steak Experience" (natch) to relate. "Onion Loaf" consisted of a tangle of battered alliums, like the reformed slight seconds from the onion ring factory. They say on their menu it's famous. Is it bollocks. What's wrong with onion rings? These did at least taste ok.
|Lettuce wedge, stilton, blue cheese dressing|
An honour not shared by, frankly, one of the most puzzling, and certainly shittest things ever put on any restaurant table that I've seen. Ladies and gents, what we have here is a quarter of an iceberg lettuce, liberally ejaculated over with more of the pointless white git-slop that came with those wings, and scattered with a few crumbs of stilton. They're obviously quite happy with it as they've given it its own wooden bowl. I think the idea is that it arrives while your steak is resting so you know your meat is in the post, but ours all rocked up as one. It tasted rubbish, obviously. If you were to purchase this item alone, it would set you back two and a half of your British pounds. "Lettuce wedge"? Unbefuckinglievable.
We didn't have pud. Perhaps they're brilliant. I doubt it.
A couple of points. They make a big play about how great their steaks are. Admittedly we went for the stingiest option, but it just had so little flavour I wonder where the hell they got it from. I normally really like rump as it's a bit of a chew but has some proper taste. In this case the mastication was scarcely worth it. I note they dry age these for 10 days, then wet age for a further 20. Wet-aging involves vac-packing the thing and storing it in the vac bag. No loss of moisture= more weight of steak, but less flavour.
Depressingly, the place was doing the kind of trade on a February Wednesday that most restaurants can only dream of. But how? Between us we cobbled together a theory. This, in the taste (in the boader sense of that word) department, is truly lowest common denominator stuff. It's a Wetherspoons meal deal with slightly better furnishings and a few bottles of champers on display. It's food for people who understand that meals out are an essential part of the grammar of modern living, and yet don't really like food! And they're making a killing off it. I've heard that this place is packed on a weekend, full of people paying a fiver for some bread and olives or well over a tenner for a burger. It's grimly corporate cynicism and it's wildly dispiriting. Still, what do you expect from the same crowd that own Toby Carvery? Nothing against the people who work here either; there was nothing especially wrong with their efforts. Just following orders innit.
I harbour feelings about this place similar to those espoused by Mark Kermode about the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. People eating here are blithely contributing to the downfall of western civilisation. It needs to stop. It needs to stop now, or we'll have no-one but ourselves to blame for whatever hell the machine spits out next...
3/10 (mostly for the fries, and the service, which was perfectly good)
Miller and Carter, Mosley Street, Newcastle, NE1 1DF
0191 261 2028