Sunday, 15 September 2013

Review: Six Restaurant, Private Dining Room at BALTIC

When you go away on holiday or to a foreign city and you visit these sights and monuments, that perhaps you are familiar with because they've been recorded in pictures a million times, and you get a sense of really being Somewhere.

The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, The Sydney Opera House for example, these places you know so well before you've even seen them in person and you think imagine living here and getting to see these beautiful, momentous sites every day, so they become just part of the fabric of the city that you call home and loose their iconic value.

The Newcastle Quayside and all of its many bridges is a sight similar to those world famous icons, it is instantly recognisable, and having walked along it most days for a year there's definitely, never, ever going to be a short supply of photos. But most of the time I don't even notice it, the bridges get me to work and could be any steel, functional structure. Then, every so often you look at it and realise 'fuck that is a really special view'.

It's this view that the private box and Six Restaurant at the BALTIC is dining out on.  Those lovely views, lit up at night change a meal into a spectacle, give it a sense of occasion. I was recently invited to the relaunch of the private dining box at a blogger and journo evening, which is the space at the front of the building on Level 5 just below the main restaurant. Apparently I came 'highly recommended' off of Lauren Archer from Scran on the Tyne, and there were a fair few familiar faces there.

I love the BALTIC as a place, it's one of Newcastle's main attractions but have never eaten at Six. The food over the course of a meal was good but by no means the best I've eaten in the city, and because of the weird yellow lighting and my out-right refusal to use flash on food, all my pictures have come out like this:

The pigeon and ham hock terrine had a firm meatiness and a well spiced fig chutney made a balanced accompaniment, but the savoy cabbage coating was limp and wet.

The main course was a plump duck breast, and although I suppose serving 25 plus people at the same time will always make timing difficult it was luck warm at best. There was also a non-descript green puree with it, which I supposed must be pea but just tasted of green-ness.

The pudding was a sweet but not too rich and well textured cheesecake and sorbet with plump blackberries which rounded things off on a high. The wine and champagne had been plentiful and very good all night, always good for me when I overcome my social awkwardness in situations where I don't know people very well with over wrought sarcasm.

Depending on why you'd want to higher a private room for 15 - 25 people, I'm thinking large family affair or corporate event, Six Baltic is a very well suited space. Starting the evening with champagne and canap├ęs, over looking that view, does give your evening a certain memorable, uniquely special feeling. The food, I selected from a menu of 3 options for each course, had enough interesting-but-not-out-there choices to please a wide variety of people and the staff were polite and attentive.

I then had a thought, what would I think if I had this meal, night out and view but wasn't used to seeing it every day? I'd probably have thought, Imagine how nice it would be to see that view everyday and then felt very lucky.

You can find out more (and probably a lot more helpful) details about private dining at Six Baltic and Fresh Element on their website.  

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Review: Ernest, Ouseburn, Newcastle

As you may be able to tell, I only like to write about things I like. Or at least I feel strongly about. I don't want to write posts after every meal I have out that say "I went here, and ate this, and ordered that and it was all very pleasant", because that's boring, for me and for you.

I like to make a story out of a meal. I don't want to be a helpful source of information, rather something you read occasionally cause there's a slim chance I might be slightly amusing. So if I haven't been blogging (which I haven't as of late), it's because I'm 1) terribly lazy 2) ludicrously busy 3) don't want to bore you when I don't have anything interesting to say to keep up my 'blog impressions and view counts' because if that's why you're blogging, you're doing it wrong.

Anyway, I do have something to say, about somewhere I really liked. Which I would have blogged about a month ago, but point 1 stipulated above came into play.

I've always said Newcastle needs more casual places and bars to eat where you can grab a drink and some food and relax, preferably with some space so you can fit lots of friends round a table. Ernest, in the Ouseburn, is just such a place. Its got a cool, quirky decor without it looking like some conceptual brand designer put it together for them. Look out for the awesome Star Wars figurines. It's not a pub, but it's not a restaurant either, and sits happily somewhere in between.

I've been to Ernest a couple of times just for drinks, and it's a very nice place to spend an evening, music and vibes and an ok, although no means fantastic, selection of drinks. The food I've tried on more recent visits however made me pay much more attention. There was flatbreads i.e. pizzas with interesting combo toppings like gruyere and pancetta, and spiced lamb and pine nuts. Good dressed side salad too.

This latest visit to Ernest was pretty much the best way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon. Breakfast dishes served all day, good company. I opted for a build your own breakfast deal which included bacon, herby sausages, perfectly poached eggs, rainbow rosti which was sort of like shaved vegetable crisps i.e. really good, toasted muffin and homemade beans with a good dose of smokey spice. It came to around £8, which was perfectly reasonable given the premium quality of all the ingredients.

Other breakfast dishes a little different from the usual fare you'd find include this chorizo and potato hash with poached egg and hollandaise, for around £6. It's dishes like this which is why breakfast should really be eaten 3 meals a day.

A good bar, with good food and good people. It's sort of the perfect neighbourhood venue where you can imagine people spending hours reading the papers and easing their selves into the day. Not that I give much consideration to things like this normally, but it also looks like a good place to go with kids, which can't be said of many places in town.

The only problem is, it's not in my neighbourhood.

Ernest is at 1 Boyd Street, Newcastle, NE2 1AP. Their website has limited info, but you can find them on twitter @weareernest