Saturday, 7 July 2012

Review: Caffe Vivo, Broad Chare, Quayside, Newcastle

Caffe Vivo is somewhere you can get a 1kg perfectly cooked steak. Go.

Ok, so maybe I should flesh out the details a little, but it's always good to get to the point. You all know how much I love my meat and if Caffe Vivo have always had this on their menu I struggle to comprehend how it's taken me this long to visit.

Not that I haven't wanted to of course, Caffe Vivo is yet another restaurant owned by that man with the golden touch Terry Laybourne (see here and here for some of his other places around town), this time showcasing well cooked, classic Italian. It's pretty amazing that one restauranteur could be so successful which each venture they undertake, like Russell Norman in London with his string of hip, no reservation venues + one recently released amazing cook book. The recipes in his cook book seem to come from the same source of inspiration as many of the plates available at Caffe Vivo.

Anyway, it was my birthday last week. The big 22. Vivo had been on 'the list' for a while and what with all this beautiful weather we've been having recently I thought escaping to Italy through some beautiful food was the perfect way to celebrate.

The space is located in the front of the Live Theatre but very much feels like a restaurant in it's own right - a vibe that Pasqualino's struggled to capture - a spacious, modern room with some hams hanging in the window just to make sure you definitely knew this was an Italian restaurant.

I wouldn't want to cast wild accusations, but i'm pretty sure they must put crack in the bread because by god, it was so moreish. There were some hard, salty bread stick things and wonderful light, freshly baked ciabatta. I refuse to bore you with my no carb diet and how I dream about bread during the week, but shitting hell I could have eaten nothing but this bread and been happy.

Menu, Cafe Vivvo, Newcastle
The menu was made up of cicchetti (small, bite sized plates), antipasti, secondi and meat courses. Knowing before I even looked at the menu that I wanted the steak, I had to think through this logically, filling up on too many pre-courses could significantly impair by meat consumption.

I opted for a light starter of sugar snap, peas and pancetta (£6.50). It was a fresh, lively plate of vibrant colours and contrasting textures - crunchy toasted croutons, the sweet peas, the fatty bits of crispy pancetta - plus generous shavings of pecorino and a drizzle of quality olive oil. I've been craving these simple and delicious flavours and was so taken in by it that when I saw fresh peas in the market this week I recreated it at home. 

The other half also opted for what on paper looks like a basic dish - charred asparagus and balsamic. With ingredients this good, you don't need to piss about adding smears, foams and any of that bullshit. 

I can't even express how much I loved the main course - 1kg bone in rib eye for 2 (£48). There was nothing fancy about it, a 1kg rib eye served on the bone, cooked to medium rare perfection, with a thick charred coating of black pepper and parmesan. Being cooked on the bone meant the steak kept so much flavour. We had it with parmesan fries and spinach. 

And see this picture doesn't even do it justice because our waiter had already served us 2 huge slices before I could get in and take a snap. 

Granted, the few bits of wilted rocket on the top did seem a little unnecessary, the chips were light and crisp as they always are at a Cafe 21 place and the spinach was a well chosen accompaniment to the  steak. 

I was never in doubt that I would finish the steak, however that was sadly at the sacrifice of pudding or cheese or going out for cocktails afterwards. All we could do was finish our bottle of wine (a very well priced bottle of the house red if you're interested) and pat our plump bellies. 

The bill came to £84.10 including drinks and service, which was great value but sadly for me although I plan to go back to Vivo at the next possible occasion, the steak might have to be resisted. The people on the next table to us got these incredible looking sharing platters which i've got in my sights. 

I love the Broad Chare (which is next door and also a 21 property) and represents this same style of no-fuss proper cooking with real ingredients, but I think I loved Caffe Vivo that little bit more. I bow to the brilliance of the Laybourne empire. 

Caffe Vivo is at 29 Broad Chare, NE1 3DQ and is open 10am - 10.30pm with drinks and snacks served all day, dinner service starts at 5.30pm on week days at 12pm on a Saturday. Closed Sundays and Mondays. Book on 0191 232 1331.

1 comment:

  1. You've answered my question - that looks a fine steak, perfectly cooked.

    The only thing I quibble about is the price. I feel £42 a head for two courses (one of which is a salad) and a bottle of wine is steep,even if you take into account that the cost of beef has increased by 25% in the last year.

    I won't go as far to say it is typical of Rip- Off Britain because the quality is undoubtedly excellent.

    Broad Chare is however surrounded by Newcastle's largest legal firms and other businesses, and therefore any restaurant around there is catering for the corporate and hoping for the company credit card.

    Not that that's anything to moan about.


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