When a restaurant newcomer is born from the 21 Hospitality Group stable you can expect great things.
One of the North East’s most respected chef restaurateurs, Terry Laybourne, opened his latest venture, St Vincent, in autumn last year, and though it may well be a new kid on the block, it’s a place with legs.
The ethos is down-to-earth quality dining with a strong emphasis on independent wine producers and simple dishes done well.
It’s an informality reflected in the decor which is industrial chic meets Parisian wine bar with its exposed pipes and bare brick walls which are softened by red banquette seating and shelving that’s chockablock with wine.
It’s a lot classier than some of its Quayside contemporaries, without being stuffy. Its location – in the old Caffe Vivo spot which had enjoyed a decade of popularity before the St Vincent facelift – also means it’s ideal if you’re wanting a bite to eat and a glass of wine ahead of a show at the Live Theatre.
If you’re going to name your place after St Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of wine makers, you better make sure your wine list is good, and this one is a wine lover’s heaven.
It’s one of the most comprehensive you’ll find in Newcastle and is a list loaded with personality, with familiar faces rubbing shoulders with lesser-known independent producers who are rising through the ranks with organic wines. The menu is also an illustrated masterclass in wine notes and provenance, delivered in a fun, unpretentious style.
We were spoilt for choice but our knowledgeable waiter was more than happy to give us some tasters before we chose our bottle of Gascogne Rosé, Cuvée Jean Paul, which was pale, crisp and easy to drink. We paid £20 for the bottle, but there’s plenty of choice by the glass if you want to mix and match your tipples.
Our choice was the perfect light accompaniment to the small plates from the food menu, which is designed with sharing – and plenty of drinking – in mind.
There’s nothing you won’t recognise on there: it’s classic, fuss-free dishes which are big on flavour.
We got stuck into a cheeseboard (£12.50 for four hunks of cheese) which took our taste buds to France, the Netherlands and Staffordshire with choices of Comté AOC, L’Amuse Oude Beemster Gouda and Innes goat’s cheese, which we smothered in fig jam and intense Amarena cherries. There’s also a blue cheese available but we chose to substitute it and double up on one of the other choices, which wasn’t a problem with our accommodating waiter.
We also enjoyed grazing on the charcuterie selection (£13.50) featuring a satisfyingly chunky saucisson sec, duck rillettes which were crying out to be smothered on our fresh sour dough and a sinfully-good pork and pistachio terrine, all served with plump capers.