REVIEW: Salsa Cafe, Westgate Road, Newcastle

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How do you solve a problem of eating with a vegan?

Quite easily, as it turns out – by taking them to the Salsa Cafe.

I’d arranged to go out for drinks with a pal – Echo digital editor Ross.

The tapas bar has been a constant on the ever-changing Newcastle food scene since I moved to the city and trades on its reputation of a laid-back atmosphere and affordable fresh food.

It is often packed at weekends, but just a smattering of diners on our mid-week visit meant we could grab one of the coveted squashy leather settees.

The Salsa Cafe’s menu is a simple combination of sandwiches and light tapas during the day, with nachos and traditional tapas joining the party after 5pm.

I was guided by our waitress to a delectable-sounding dish of pork and leeks in a creamy-mustard sauce, plus a mouthwatering cheeseboard, both from the specials menu.

Although its combination of Spanish manchego, blue cheese and Brie for £7.95 was intended for two or more people, I bravely decided to take it on myself, in view of Ross’s specialist diet.

It arrived teetering on a wooden slab, a triumph of eyes over stomach, as huge chunks of each cheese topped a pile of fresh salad and fat green olives.

My tapas-sized portion of pork for £3.95, steaming away in its own small bowl, was a rich delight of creamy mustard sauce, studded with tiny, hot grains and green slivers of leek – full of flavour and absolutely fantastic.

Ross was equally happy with his lot and the remainder of the review goes over to his musings, noting the Salsa Cafe is a venue where both carnivorous and herbivorous types can eat happily side-by-side.

He was delighted to find even vegans can find enough to fill their boots on the menu, with staff happy to allow off-piste orders and adaptations for those wishing to dodge dairy and eggs.

In a world where guacamole is so often cut with mayonnaise, Salsa Cafe happily remains a bastion of the unadulterated original version.

The eclectic £9.50 “Light”’ Tapas menu has plenty of vegan options, ranging from the ubiquitous patatas bravas, oozing with spicy tomato goodness, and the arguably incongruous rollitos de primavera (spring rolls).

These Oriental treats may not be traditional tapas fare, but the crisp, more-ish rolls served with a right-side-of-cloying sweet chili sauce made this a good choice nonetheless.Our meal for two with soft drinks came to £32.

Jane O’Neill