A couple of months ago I pronounced my love of 9 Bar Coffee in the Theatre Royal and since then i've only grown fonder of my favourite little coffee and grilled cheese sandwich joint, stopping in there every other weekend or whenever there's a table free, which proves trickier than i'd like, apparently i'm not the only one with a soft spot for a good flat white.
When my lovely friend Ben, author of the fab Quiff Pro Fro blog and soon to be editor of the Newcastle University student paper The Courier (which I spent a very fun year editing the music section of, back when I could fool myself in to thinking I was in touch with current music and didn't spend all my time pondering where I could pick up some beef shin on the bone), asked if I'd like to go join him on a reviewing stint of Pasqualino's, also in the Theatre Royal and run by the same people as 9 Bar, it was unlikely i'd turn down the opportunity.
He was there to review their Graduation dinner menu - everyone wants their Graduation dinner to be a 'special occasion' (I tried and failed to get a table at Six even after enquiring a month in advance) and restaurants know this is an opportunity to rake in some big bucks during the quiet summer months.
|Pasqualino's Graduation Menu|
Rather than being a blatant rip off as these things often can be, the Graduation menu at Pasqualino's was very decently priced, and before you stop reading thinking you've got no interest in Graduation food, most of the dishes are available on their regular fixed price menu and I noticed if you go in after 7.30 you can get two courses for £9.95 which is insanely good value.
The room follows a similar design to 9 Bar with a relaxed decor, a distinctly Italian vibe with big well laid out bars and stands with authentic meat cutters and cheese boards. When we arrived the room was packed, so it was a little odd half way through dinner when the tannoy blared and the room emptied and we were literally the only people in there as all the old dears had left to watch some musical or other. It must be difficult to get the balance right between theatre restaurant and restaurant that's located in a theatre, but as the room started to slowly fill up with non-show attending cliental you could tell they'd got it right.
|Canapes at Pasqualino's|
We started with these lovely little mouthfuls; pea, mint, saffron and mozzarella arancini (which they also serve in 9 bar) were stuffed full of melted cheese and had a naughty deep fried crisp to them. The things on sticks were chicken and sage in a balsamic dressing and were equally moreish, sweet and sticky.
|Pea, mint and mozzarella Arancini|
Starters were equally pleasing, playing with italian flavours without a pizza or pasta in site. I've been on a no carbs diet recently (which I won't tell you about because I will BORE YOU TO DEATH) so a light salad of fresh buffalo mozzarella, grilled courgettes, pine nuts and pesto was very welcome and not at all oily.
The potted pork came with a pickled pear (although it looked more poached than pickled) which was a slightly strange combination, but bloody hell there was a lot of pork crammed into that mini Kilner jar with a thick layer of meaty fat across the top. You can see that Ben approved.
|Potted pork and pickled pear|
The Braised Irish Shorthorn shin of beef was gorgeously tender in a rich tomato ragu, fresh greens and soft and creamy polenta. A beautiful dish of proper Italian flavours and textures and in typical Italian fashion, the portions were huge.
Puddings were a mixed bunch, a creamy creme brulee with a cherry compote and almond crisp biscuit hit all the right spots, light and sweet after the powerful flavours of the main courses. The chocolate and pear tartlet was nice but didn't match well with the very tart orange ice cream. The tart had a bitterness from the dark chocolate, so could have done with a sweet accompaniment but was a pretty little pudding. My grainy iphone photo doesn't really do it justice.
|Chocolate and Pear Tart|
|Creme Brulee with Cherry Compote|
If you got all four courses it would set you back £30 a head - whilst the canapes were really lovely i'd probably plumb for three courses for £25. There are lots of pizza and pasta places in Newcastle but not many authentic Italian's and if you're looking for a laid back graduation night in a very well designed restaurant you can't go far wrong with Pasqualino's. Just avoid the odd cross over time so you're not left sat in an empty restaurant.
Pasqualino's is at 100 Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6BR, you can get them on 0191 2442513 to book.