When it comes to claiming awards, Newcastle has far more to offer than just Ant and Dec. The North East’s restaurant scene has had a glorious year, harvesting an exceptional number of awards in the last few months, including Newcastle’s first Michelin star for over 15 years.
Tyne and Wear is a region which has accelerated in terms of its food offering in recent years, with new ventures popping up across the area and old favourites continuing to pull out all the stops to put themselves on the culinary map. In the words of Michelin-starred adorned and Newcastle-based chef, Kenny Atkinson, “the Tyne and Wear region has something for everyone, from the hustle and bustle of Newcastle city centre to the beautiful coastline and stunning countryside our county has to offer.” He calls it, “one of the most exciting regions within the British Isles.”
We couldn’t keep these gems to ourselves, so here are a few places that we think you simply MUST visit. The award-winners obviously make an appearance, but we’ve thrown a few of our favourite eateries too…
*The award winners
House of Tides
Perhaps the most notable of the award-winners is quayside eatery, House of Tides, which this year laid claim to a Michelin star – the first in Newcastle for 18 years. House of Tides has been open for a mere two years but Atkinson’s bold and imaginative cooking has brought him national acclaim and numerous awards. Just this last year, House of Tides also scooped Best Newcomer at the Secret Diner Awards and was crowned the AA Restaurant of the Year for 2015-2016. While Atkinson himself is no stranger to accolades, having retained three AA rosettes for over ten years and having been voted The Caterer’s Cateys Chef of the Year in 2009. You might recognise him from his appearances on BBC2’s Great British Menu, which he won with his starter in 2009 and fish course in 2010. More recently you will have seen him alongside James Martin on the BBC1 hit TV show Saturday Kitchen, and on Sky TV’s Good Food Channel in Market Kitchen and Perfect.
The Staith House
The Staith House is run by Masterchef: The Professionals finalist John Calton, and this year has been a busy one for the restaurant – when it comes to awards, they simply haven’t stopped. You want a taste? Well, The Staith House has recently been singled out by Sawdays as a special place to eat and landed a spot among the Top 50 Gastropubs. It also claimed runner-up in two of the Observer Food Monthly categories: Best Sunday Lunch and Best Restaurant. You’ll also find The Staith House gracing the pages of Hardens, The Good Food and Good Pub Guides and the Michelin Guide 2016. You might think that’s a ridiculous amount of coverage for one year (and that’s not all of it), but it’s really no wonder when you see the passion and care that goes into this gorgeous restaurant. I advise getting yourself down there for a Sunday roast; I hear they are divine.
Blackfriars Restaurant and Banquet Hall
Gutsy, traditional British cooking at its best, Blackfriars Restaurant and Banquet Hall is every bit as grand and glorious as it sounds. From al fresco dining in the cloister gardens to full medieval meals, banquet-style in the grand hall, this restaurant has made a name for itself and is a definite destination venue in Newcastle. It lays claim to the title of Best Newcastle Restaurant and a Taste of England award in the North East England Tourism Awards. Here’s another place to pop on your all-important list for Sunday roasts. The Sunday offerings here have earned the proud owners a nod from readers of The Independent, who voted Blackfriars as serving the best Sunday lunch in Newcastle.
Tyne and Wear boasts some brilliant Italian restaurants, and one worth a visit is Angelo’s Ristorante, located in a beautiful historic building and located close to Sunderland Docks and the river. Angelo’s was placed among the top ten Italian restaurants in England at the English Italian Awards 2015 and with its head chef, Nello voted best Italian chef in England, Angelo’s is a clear choice for perfect pasta and thin, authentic pizzas.
*Newbies on the scene
Saltwater Fish Company & Ko Sai
Terry Laybourne is one of Tyne and Wear’s most prolific chefs, having set up a number of fab restaurants across the area, such as the well-known Broad Chare and Café 21 (which was originally the Michelin-starred 21 Queen Street), and picking up many awards along the way, including an MBE for services to the hospitality industry. New for 2015 are Saltwater Fish Company and Ko Sai; two exceptional dining areas, located in Fenwick Food Hall.
Saltwater Fish Company is a bright, sophisticated space where you watch creative chefs at work in the open kitchen. It’s the perfect after-shopping eatery – think winding down and resting tired feet with a glass of Champagne and an oyster or two. Saltwater operates as both a restaurant and a fishmonger, and there’s something wonderfully simple about the concept. There’s no fuss, no frills, just exceptional seafood. It’s definitely made its mark already.
Ko Sai, too, is somewhere you can see the chefs at work and it’s a leisurely place to meet friends and enjoy Thai food over a natter and a drink or two. It’s also a popular place for lunch, thanks to the open dining area and quick dishes you can grab, such as stir-fries, curries and broths. Eating cooked-on-the-spot food from street-hawkers is a way of life in Asia and Ko Sai is head chef Pla’s and Terry Laybourne’s version. It has certainly hit the spot.
Newcastle’s recently opened Solano’s is the first Peruvian restaurant outside London. The name pays homage to Newcastle United’s Nobby Solano and his heritage as the first professional Peru-born footballer to play in England. Solano’s opened to much acclaim in June 2015 and has been a roaring success. The menu here is exceptional, as the chefs combine the unique flavours of Peruvian cooking with innovative, modern cooking techniques. Everything looks so delicious; you’ll find yourself struggling to decide what to order. My advice is to go, and go again – keep trying everything!
McKenna’s at the Northern Stage
The Northern Stage in Newcastle puts on a range of beautiful shows. Any discerning theatregoer will recognise the quality of the line-up, which ranges from street operas and thought-provoking dramas to ballets and Shakespeare productions. With quality theatre comes quality cuisine, and the venue’s restaurant McKenna’s is renowned across the city for its exquisite food offering. Pick at a few tapas dishes while you sup a drink and wait for the show, or make an evening out of it with a full meal and really soak up the atmosphere.
Step into Bouchon Bistrot and you’ll be transported to a calmer place. Close your eyes and the tastes, smells and sounds of France are yours to savour. Bouchon is a little corner of rural France in Northumberland and is one of the stalwart restaurants of Tyne and Wear. It’s somewhere you simply have to visit. This charming restaurant is French-owned and run, and is modeled on the classic country bistrot (hence the classic French spelling, with a ‘t’). The style at Bouchon is traditional, with signature menus featuring classics such as assiette de charcuterie, salade landaise with cured magret and gésiers de canard, steak frites, and monkfish cheeks with shellfish sauce and wild mushrooms.
Head under the streets of Durham, down some stairs and though the Cellar Door into a 13th Century haven, dishing up amazing food. The Cellar Door is one of those restaurants that you stumble on by accident and then wonder how you ever lived without it. Cosy up inside, under the arches of the old cellar, or, did I mention they have riverside views and an alfresco area? Roll on summer. Food and wine is something the guys here feel so passionate about, so you’re guaranteed the best flavours of the season and the perfect tipple to match. Cellar Door is definitely one to seek out.