Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Review: Electric East, Newcastle

The other week I went down to the first Boiler Shop Steamer at the Stephenson Works just behind the station with some friends on a whim. It was a Friday night and we'd had plans to do something involving both food and drink, so this with the addition of music fitted the bill quiet nicely. Amongst us we sampled burgers, fishy things, dumplings, several pints of a really, really nice beer from Wylam who were on refreshment duties, and also some food from the Electric East stand.

With a couple of notable exceptions, Newcastle's "street food" (which is a phrase I will use out of necessity but annoys me almost as much as fucking 'foodie' which when I hear it makes me want to eat nothing but dry Weetabix for the rest of my life so I don't have to be associated which such an irritating, infantile non-word) differs from the scenes in American and London that kick started the whole interest in this sort of thing.

Whereas there it was individuals wanting an easy and low cost way to sell food and have fun with it, and from that many have had the opportunity to expand and open restaurants. Up here it is mainly restaurants with the ability for outside catering, for example Electric East being a sizeable restaurant in the centre of town. I'm unsure if this is the intended result from restaurants having stands at these sorts of things but after the Boiler Shop Steamer event Electric East made some rapid movements to the top of our post work dinner destinations list.

Formerly Barn Asia, which was always a favourite, we hadn't really considered visiting after it got bought out and rebranded as Electric East. I'm not really sure why but the fact their menu was written in comic sans definitely played its part.

Now with menu in a much more appropriate typeface, I was pleased to find out the place is still much the same as it was in its Barn Asia days and the food just as good.

The menu features many of the old Barn Asia favourites (hello scallop, pork and peanut heaven) but has a clearer emphasis on smaller plates and sharing dishes. We didn't go wild, ordering 5 dishes and a side of rice and I'd say unless you were planning on stuffing yourself this was adequate.

Favourites were the salt and chilli squid and the nonya chicken which had previously been sampled at the Boiler Shop. The salt and chilli squid (£5.50) was lightly battered and resembled a pot of fries and came with a sweet, tangy dark dip and a dish of finely milled pepper.

The nonya chicken had a thin, spiced crumb and a satay peanut sauce that I just want to put all over everything from now on. While the rocket wasn't necessary the bean sprouts gave a good complimentary fresh crunch.

The other dishes we ordered were a very nice rendang beef (£6) which for a side I thought came as a very reasonable portion size. Succulent braised beef in a nicely hot rendang sauce topped with a fresh salsa. The roti bread was slightly on the greasy side but was good for mopping. Another beef dish of glass noodle and fillet steak (£7.50) was good, better were the very meaty crab cakes which came with a lots of chilli and a rough avocado sauce thing. 

With two beers the bill came to £46.20, and it felt like we'd got a good amount of food for our money but puts in into the higher price end of Newcastle restaurants. Electric East is a bit of an odd one to write about, the food is well above the average for Newcastle, and it's fun, relaxed dining in an attractive room, so why wasn't it more busy?

It was by no means quiet and it's a larger than average room, but in Waterloo Square it straddles a strange line between hidden gem and difficult location. We know it's there and we know it's good, but if it was in an easier to find spot with higher footfall I wonder how many more people would enjoy it. But then I wouldn't want everyone else eating all of my satay sauce either.

Electric East is in Waterloo Square and open for dinner Tuesday - Saturday. Find out more here

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