Review: Blackfriars, Newcastle
Blackfriars has been on my wish list for years, but it was always knocked back by others for being a bit '˜fancy and expensive'.
But the internet is a wonderful thing and with a bit of detective work, I sussed out when the cheapest menu would be on offer.
And while it was somewhere I’d reserved for a special occasion, spotting its £18 for three courses, £15 for two or £12 for a main at lunchtime made payday excuse enough.
The restaurant may be set in a 13th century former monastery, but its owners are clued up when it comes to enticing in diners online.
They post that season’s menus, so we’d picked our dishes beforehand, and I’d booked through its site, so had been able to give them the nod two of our four are vegan.
Helpfully, the options are already marked for them, vegetarians and those with a gluten intolerance.
I’ve spotted during December, in both its restaurant and banqueting hall, it’ll only be serving up from one menu, with three courses £27 for lunch or £32 for dinner.
There are still a few of the same dishes on offer and the quality of cooking is bound to be just as good.
We meat eaters opted for starters of black pudding fritters and poached egg, a variation of which is still available.
The three triangles of crispy black pudding were plenty ahead of the main event, with a scattering of pickle shallots cutting through the crunch, although I didn’t find the smear of brown sauce appetising, even if it added to the seasoning of the dish.
Meanwhile, our friends tucked into locally foraged mushrooms on toast, which is no longer served from next week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it made a swift return in season, given the venue’s passion for regional food.
For mains, I went for chicken with potato gratin, peas and bacon, which was comforting and tasty, with the peas adding a fresh element and the potato, crisped on the bottom, a different texture.
Another went for pan haggerty, with cabbage, a poached egg and a sage and mustard cream, which was ultimate autumn food, with the vegans picking roast pumpkin gnocchi, with candied seeds and dressed kale, which was a pretty and vibrant sight.
Steaks, fish and chips, pork faggots and rainbow trout were also there for the picking.
Desserts were also a master class of straightforward, classics, from spiced apple and bramble crumble with custard, lemon posset and brownie.
My error, in ordering a beautiful sticky toffee pudding, was asking for a mead too (well, when in a monastery ...), but I’m glad I tried it.
The carrot cake and cinnamon ice cream proved punchy and packed with nuts, with the slice so big enough to be saved for later.
Assured the sorbets were vegan, our two friends took their pick from flavours, including blackberry and blood orange and Amaretto – they probably chose the wisest after such a big meal.
Heads up if you’re looking to improve your own skills, as Blackfriars runs its own cookery school – we gate crashed a class trying to find the door.
While this restaurant didn’t quite wow me, given I’d built up my expectations for so long, the food and service was faultless, and I’d definitely recommend making the most of the lunchtime menu for value.
Find it online via www.blackfriarsrestaurant.co.uk/