Suzanne HarissaNow when it comes to lovely dining, Sandyford in Newcastle might not spring to mind but our recent trip to ‘Harissa Mediterranean Kitchen’ has definitely opened our eyes. In fact we were a little reticent to share this gem of an establishment but since the blooming ‘Secret Diner has outed it as, “being so good he visited it twice” I only think it’s fair to give our view too.

This place most definitely has curb appeal and we were greeted by the owner (James/Jamie – depending on what day of the week it is) and we instantly felt as if we were at home, quite strangely as if we were going to a friends for dinner. Jamie was so friendly we were sure we’d already met him but couldn’t place where!

With a glass of ice cold water in hand, I started to talk to Jamie whilst Nicola took photos aplenty. My first question was; “What is Harissa” as I had visions of bottles of Harissa sauce in my head as my partner is a lover of all things spicy!  I on the other hand am a bit of a wuss, so Jamie talked through the menu and helped to select flavours that married well but weren’t overly spicy on the taste buds.

flowersThe decor is clean and crisp with such fab attention to detail. Jamie let us into a secret about the copper piping on the ceiling housing the Edison lamps (we’re not going to reveal his secrets though!).

Once all in-situ we were introduced to the restaurant and the concept of Harissa Mediterranean Kitchen or Harrisa for short.  Jamie explained the history of sister company Food Nation (at which point Nicola and I turned to each other and remembered Simon Preston who we’d worked with when promoting The Great North Eco-Feast way back in 2009 and is a director of Food Nation). You can read more about it here to stop me going off in on a whole other tangent!

Now back to the food. I was starving. I’d done a round trip to Leeds and back that day and Nicola had had a mega busy day and still had some prep for her LinkedIn training she was delivering the next day. Two tired, hungry ladies meant ‘eyes bigger then belly’ food consumption!

We started with a melody of nibbles in the form of spiced roasted nuts (hint go for the ones with less dusting for less spice), Honey, Cumin, Coriander & Smoked Paprika Marinated Olives (they warned us they weren’t pitted so all was good) Lemon, Chilli & Fresh Herbs Harissa House Pickles (punchy and well balanced).

Alongside this we ordered some marinated and char grilled Halloumi and some hummus – great flavours but I don’t think I will ever get used to the squeak of that particular cheese.

Fresh and lovely food Harissa

Next, mains. Be careful not to over order; at one point we had everything on our table as we hadn’t yet finished the starters.

We both opted for slow roasted shoulder of spiced pork with apple, grilled spring onion and crackling – they got me at crackling as it’s one of my all time favorites. It was tasty, but there was something missing and Nicola hit it on the head; honey. The very savoury taste needed to be lifted just a little with something sweet.

Et voila, a squirty honey pot was given to us and it really lifted the meal. Thankfully, the team didn’t think we were cheeky in-fact quite the opposite; the chef is going to make this part of the dish.

Mains HarissaDesert. We weren’t going to indulge but couldn’t resist and went for the honey, tahini & pistachio parfait and sesame praline orange and saffron polenta cake. Both were super scrummy but we couldn’t help coveting Laura’s and Kayleigh’s chocolate torte it was a ‘special’ and not on the menu. As we had already ordered it was a tad too late to change so we’ll go for that next time.

honey tahini and pistachio parfait

Overall:

There was a nice blogging buzz in the restaurant and it would be amusing being a fly on the wall watching us all trying to get ‘that perfect angle’! What was even nicer though, was people who saw us eating started to walk in and sit down and were greeted with open arms and the waitress (I’m so sorry we didn’t take your name) looked genuinely chuffed to be helping, ‘real customers’.

Hats off to food, your mission and your fabulous customer service, we’ll thoroughly recommend Harrisa.

Love Suz and Nic. x

 

River Beat Asian Tapas restaurant, GatesheadOh yes. Tapas. Asian food. Could there be a better combination?

It’s 15 years since I visited Thailand, a country that’s stunning, eclectic, busy, quiet, frantic (Bangkok literally overwhelmed my senses) and relaxing at the same time. The food is no different, spicy, sweet, mild, hot and always tasty.

Food and importantly sharing it with family and friends, is at the heart of Thai culture and River Beat owner, Andy Drape set out to capture that essence of sharing great food with great company at his restaurant situated right on the south bank of the River Tyne.

Calming and blue River TapasSuzanne and I decided (on a random whim, as you do) to pop into River Beat for a Saturday lunchtime treat. As soon as we walked in, the great atmosphere hit us. It wasn’t busy but the calming blue decor and the view of river relaxed us in an instant.

Tapas (the Spanish variety) is one of my favourite foods; it such a good idea to be able to try lots of different types of dishes rather than be confined to one, although Suzanne isn’t often one for sharing.

But neither of us had ever had tapas influenced by Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai & Vietnamese cuisines. We were in for a real treat, the menu caters for literally every taste and we love the ethos:

“Salty, spicy, sour & sweet, enjoy them together, your dining experience can be as relaxed as you like”, have what you want, when you want it”.

Our absolute favourite dishes were the Cambodian yellow curry with cauliflower pakora which you can see at the top of this blog post. The quick seared scallop and pork belly (top) and the fig and blue cheese filo tartlet with dukkah crumble (bottom), in the image below.  This food is seriously well cooked. Really, really lovely. Andy (owner and chef) demonstrates his passion for this area of our world with great skill. The portion sizes were spot on, if you have a couple of dishes you’ll be satiated but not stuffed. And the presentation was really pretty too.

scallops on pork and fig blue cheese filo

We contemplated a sweet. We weren’t hungry. We’d eaten enough.  But. Lemon posset with a raspberry meringue won us over and was worth it. Tangy, tangy lemon cleansed our pallets and was the perfect end to the meal, the meringue had an unusual consistency which we couldn’t quite put our finger on but was yummy.

lemonThere’s something about water that just makes me relax, wind down and switch off. As we sat sipping coffees, we chatted about coming back to the restaurant in the late spring, and summer when the sunshine will be beating down on the outside terrace (we hope).

This restaurant may be a little off the beaten track, but it only takes a minute to park up at the Swing Bridge and walk across, or along from the car park under the Tyne Bridge on the Gateshead side.

And it’s well worth it. Suzanne and I could have sat looking out at the river until we were hungry enough for round two.

Check out their full menu and simply enjoy x