When I first visited The Herb Garden a number of years ago it was green to Newcastle’s restaurant scene.
Back then I was pretty impressed by this stylish restaurant, sprung up in one of the city centre’s railway arches, which uses on site hydroponic cylinders (a way of growing plants without soil) to provide the greenery for its dishes.
There’s much still to like about this quirky site, but maybe the moss has grown over its shine a little. The service is still good at this restaurant which doesn’t take bookings and our waitress seemed well versed in juggling walk-ins with those waiting at the bar for a table.
We had a 15 minute wait for a table, but it’s got a good, relaxed vibe for drinks, with the industrial concrete floors, steel walls and duo of domed pizza ovens offset by antique pictures and a huge fibreglass horse on rollerskates at the entrance. An odd feature, but it works.
Drinks-wise, there’s a decent choice of locally-brewed ales from the likes of Allendale Brewery and bottled lagers, as well as a reasonably-priced spirits and liquor selection.
After a swift half at the bar, we were seated on a communal table under the arched roof - it’s all pretty informal here - but the ceiling of dozens of white paper globe lighting, which is such an Instagrammable feature, was missing a fair few bulbs. Looking at the images on their website that seems to be the norm, but if you’ve gone to the effort to put up so many lanterns, why not fill them with bulbs and let there be light?
It was also a shame to see the wall of hydroponic pods looking a little sorry for themselves, with empty cylinders - though our waitress said they’d be back in business soon, so hopefully this main feature won’t be missing for long.
So to the menu. It’s a straight-to-the-point affair with a good range of pizzas and salads and plenty of choice for people with dietary requirements. Vegans and vegetarians aren’t just an afterthought here, they’re positively celebrated with most options being suitable for diners of all persuasions.
The pizza options are imaginative - and as you’d expect from the name herb heavy - with choices such as broccoli, pecorino, walnut, gorgonzola, mozzarella, thyme (£10.50) and mozzarella, blue cheese, truffle, chive (£13.50).
I also liked the sound of a sinful Breakfast in Bed pizza, served at weekends which features chocolate, hazelnut, banana, ricotta, honey, and vanilla ice cream.
I chose the version topped with prosciutto di Parma with rocket, mozzarella and parmesan (£11.50), which was served swiftly in only a matter of minutes from wood-fired pizza oven to plate.
It was good, but not amazing. I couldn’t fault the freshness of the toppings and the satisfying slivers of wafer thin ham, but the base was a little too tough and a bit of tooth cracker. I much prefer the hint of fluffiness and tearable dough I’ve had at pizza places elsewhere in the city.