I’M not sure you find a better class of celebrity dining out at Jesmond Dene House, but in my experience they’ve always been the ones in the news.
Last time we dined there, troubled striker Andy Carroll was a few seats away at a time when he was making headlines for all the wrong reasons (does he ever make them for the right ones?)
This time it was Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’s Tim Healy trying to catch the eye of the waiter while his wife Denise was in the Celebrity Big Brother house almost putting someone’s eye out with her bosom.
He was dining with members of Lindisfarne and, no doubt, given the antics of his soon-to-be ex-wife, wishing for a Fog on the Tyne to swallow him up.
If celebrity spotting is your thing, then the glitterati of Geordieland can often be found in this impressive hotel restaurant. The draw? Well, to be honest there are many.
The hotel is off the beaten track down picturesque Jesmond Dene yet just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Osborne Road and the city centre.
The rooms are top end boutique chic, housed within one of Newcastle’s finest buildings full of what the owners describe as architectural “bravura” (I looked it up, it means a display of daring, bold).
Surrounded by such opulence we decided to follow suit and ordered ourselves a couple of decadent cocktails in the lounge as we checked out the menu.
The chef has changed since our last visit but the ethos remains the same: traditional locally sourced foods cooked to capture the imagination.
My starter summed up that ethos - an East Coast cockle and clam risotto provided the local angle; the Laphroaig single malt whisky sauce, the imagination. The contrasting elements worked surprisingly well.
For mains I was tempted by the Belted Galloway beef fillet with mixed beetroots, Swiss chard and bone marrow crust. So was my wife, so to be different I decided to try the Robert Latimer’s wild turbot.
Robert is a Whitburn fishmonger and on this evidence he’s doing a great job. The meaty turbot was served with Perigord truffle, Swiss chard and chanterelle mushrooms.
Both dishes were works of art in looks as well as execution.
What is just as enjoyable as the food are the surroundings. There’s a mix of the contemporary with more than a hint of Downton Abbey grandeur. The subdued lighting and wooden panelling adds an intimate atmosphere to proceedings while there’s also a smattering of modern art and eccentric adornments to be enjoyed. I particularly liked the signed black and white prints of Seventies Leeds United star Duncan McKenzie leaping over a Mini Cooper at St James’s Park. I found that in the washrooms!
But back to the food and the star of the show, chef Michael Penaluna’s salty chocolate ball (don’t laugh), or to give the dish its full and far grander title the Milk Chocolate, Salted Caramel and Banana Sphere.
In keeping with the ostentatious nature of the dishes, this dessert was delivered and then melted down via a gravy bowl of hot chocolate poured by the table waitress. Theatrical and absolutely delicious. Not that I would know on this occasion. My wife went for the sphere while I tried something different … parsnip ice cream!
While it sounds like every child’s worst nightmare, when served with honey parfait, honey comb, lemon sponge and iced lemon, parsnip ice cream proved the sweetest of sweet treats.
Alas, such splendour comes at a price. The desserts were all 50p short of a tenner while the mains start at £15.50 before racing near the £30 mark.
That said, they were well worth the money, but for those on a budget they do three course deals for £28 that are just as appetising.
Jesmond Dene House is a treat that ticks all the boxes when it comes to style, atmosphere and dishes with imagination and more than a little inspiration.
Jesmond Dene House
Jesmond Dene Road
Tel. 0191 2126066
Jesmond Dene House has a Catch of the Day special featuring dishes, as the name suggests, caught that day. They also run a number of special events for big dates on the calendar such as Mothers Day as well as special offers and packages on overnight stays available on its website.
You can also follow the hotel on Facebook and catch up with latest offers on Twitter by following @Nicky_Sherman