Independent Spanish tapas restaurants are few and far between in the North East.
But Kaltur in High Bridge is doing a sterling job of flying the flag for a medley of Mediterranean flavours.
The restaurant is a spin off from the owners’ import business bringing Spanish olive oils, wines, cured meats and more to the North East and quickly became the perfect place to showcase their authentic ingredients.
So much so, that this year Kaltur announced plans to open a sister restaurant in Newcastle’s Dean Street.
The original site is one of many independents along High Bridge that make the historic cobbled street a breath of fresh air from the city’s larger, often soulless chains.
Like many of its contemporaries on the street it offers quality, casual food and drink executed with real individuality.
We’d booked ahead and it’s advisable to do so at peak times. The website isn’t the most sophisticated and I couldn’t find a sample menu anywhere, but the staff are good at manning the emails and keeping you in the loop about availability.
On a rainy Saturday night in Newcastle, the restaurant offered us a warm glow from the nippy air and has that relaxed bustle of tapas places you find in Barcelona’s side streets.
The decor is a mixture of barrels made into tables, cosy corners and Spanish produce peppering the walls, as well as an open kitchen so you can see what’s going into your tapas.
Despite being small plates, the food is big on flavour and there’s plenty of choice on the menu which changes regularly.
It’s all about sharing food here and we kicked off our foray into Spain’s melting pot of flavours with the meat and cheese board (£15.95), which almost buckled under the weight of all the Manchego and other hard cheeses, as well as a selection of cured meats, including particularly excellent slivers of Iberian ham. It went perfectly with the selection of bread (£4.95) - a mixture of sourdough and Northumberland flour bread – which we dunked in the Kaltur-branded olive oil. The latter is the import business’s bread and butter and it shows. This was bread and oil good enough to be a meal in itself.
It set the bar high but the rest of the tapas was good enough to hold its own. The chorizo cooked with cider (£4) was plump with rich, salty flavour and was as good as I’ve eaten it in Spain.
Meanwhile, one of the vegetarian dishes - courgette carpaccio (£5.75) - was a masterclass in meat-free foods. The wafer thin courgette slices were lifted brilliantly by a rich goats cheese with generous drizzles of dressing with a hint of sweetness, nuts and sundried tomatoes.
As you’d expect from any Spanish restaurant worth its salt, the house Tharsys Cava (£24) was also one of the best I’ve had in Newcastle. None of your French fizz here, this is unadulterated España.