NEW places to eat seem to spring up in Newcastle every couple of months, appropriately enough like mushrooms.
Some have shrivelled up, some have been replanted elsewhere and some have grown into mushrooms big enough for a pipe-smoking caterpillar to perch on top of.
Oak is a relatively new kid on the block, propping up a corner in the prime dining area of the Quayside and trumpeting itself as a one-of-a-kind bar, restaurant and deli.
We’d wandered past it on the search for Sunday dinner. The interior is a post-modern, kitsch mish-mash of deer antlers and wonky pictures, with the high ceilings and historic details of the Grade II-listed Milburn House.
The menu is also a bit of a mash-up, with pasta, burgers, pies, meats and fish all jostling for space, as well as a Sunday lunch menu.
I was intrigued by the sharing platters from Oak’s in-house deli, available in Greek mezze, Italian antipasti and Spanish tapas, finally settling on Italian.
My pal stuck with a two-course Sunday’s dinner, starting with potato skins and garlic dip. They were the right side of inoffensive – chunky and crisp with a flavour-laden dip.
I’d skipped starters to cram in all of my platter, deciding to overlook the sharing aspect of the dish.
When presented, it was a colourful mix of nibbles from the deli, including olives, mini-bruschettas and dolmades – stuffed grape leaves which I thought were a Greek dish, but I suppose it’s all Europe now.
I enjoyed picking away at the heaps of marinated veg piled on a trendy wooden platter, but there wasn’t a lot of protein going on.
A little meat, some anchovies, no lovely Italian cheese. You can add extra items to the platter for an additional charge, but the basic two slices of salami left looked pink and lonely – until I scoffed them.
My dining partner enjoyed his dinner, no more, no less. Homemade Yorkshire pud: “You can tell, as it’s a bit wonky,” and the chicken also passed the taste test.
We skipped desserts, despite a tempting range of banoffee cheesecake, sticky toffee pudding, or Marmalade Martini, for those fancying a liquid lunch, and mulled over two coffees.
Where the Oak scores big for me is that it opens its doors at 7.30am with a breakfast menu and pushes on through until the small hours, with accompanying musicians and DJs.
As one who struggles to buy a coffee in Sunderland before 9am most mornings, I approve of round-the-clock eating with entertainment.
However, I’d like to see the Oak put down some more roots in the kitchen before I make a return visit.