Food

Join us as we eat our way around the North East and further afield.

Turtle Bay, Newcastle

As eating experiences go, this was a hot one! Turtle Bay, the Caribbean restaurant opened its doors in Newcastle with the same pizazz and panache as on their menu. When you think Caribbean, what comes to mind? I’ve never been before, but my imagination conjurers up balmy weather, white beaches, sunshine, cocktails and lots of coconuts! This new eatery had a lot to live up to.

As soon as we walked through the door, the well rehearsed staff greeted us personally, shaking our hands and introducing themselves. Nice touch. Immediately offered a cocktail, we were onto a winner.

So let’s start with those cocktails. Wow! They pack some punch (pardon the pun). With plenty to choose from, and some including a 63 percent proof white rum, you definitely need to leave the car at home when you’re having a night out in the Caribbean.

As a bone-fide rum lover, I was in absolute heaven as the rum stocked bar offers a choice of over 40 varieties.

Wandering around, there was a great atmosphere, busy, eclectic, colourful. I was already looking forward to trying the food. Having never eaten in a Caribbean restaurant, I didn’t have any expectations. But if you love all things spicy, I imagine you’ll want to move in.

Turtle Bay Cutters

To the food. The sheer volume we got to sample was staggering (thank you Turtle Bay Newcastle for looking after us so well). Deliciously spicy, the ‘Cutters’ (starters) are inspired by Beach Shacks & Street Hawkers across the Caribbean Islands… Jerk Pit Prawns, Duck Rolls, Jerk Chicken Wings, Pulled Pork Salads, Flat Breads, there are any amount of choices to nibble at and washed down with a soothing Banana and Peanut Butter smoothie, this first course was a real hit on our table.

(I wasn’t sure if that smoothie would work, but we couldn’t get enough of them. Like a pudding in a glass it tempered the spices).

The main courses kept on coming, ‘One Pots’ rich, slowly simmered & uniquely Caribbean of Goat Curry and the scrumptious coco-nutty Run Down; my personal favourite, creamy, flavoursome with just the right amount of kick. A variety of salads and Jerk Pit BBQ food, there’s enough on this menu to satiate any appetite.

Run Down

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay to sample the sweets, but we left with brownies packed in a cute little brown boxes so we were happy ladies.

Nicola and Suzanne

As you’d expect, the staff were lovely, informative and friendly. We really did appreciated the time everyone took to greet us personally and shake our hands. Great customer service always makes the difference when dining out, and this service was great.

Unapologetic Caribbean really works. The décor is great, the eclectic mix of colours and murals represent the food; loud and made to be seen. This restaurant, like the food is not shy or retiring. Fun and frolics, a place to enjoy with friends and go cocktail-tastic.

This taste of the Caribbean in Newcastle has made me want to book my plane ticket to the real place. But in the meantime, I’ll be back to sample the other 39 or so varieties of rum.

Nic  x

 

 

St. Mary's Inn

It was going to be a long and busy week and the thought of a Friday night away just the two of us was what was keeping Richard and myself going.

The rural getaway was at St. Mary’s Inn the little sister to the renowned Jesmond Dene House. St. Mary’s Inn is in the village of Stannington north of Newcastle and just a hop, skip and a jump from the town of Morpeth.

Dinner, bed breakfast and fingers crossed a lie in; here we come.

The journey

Stannington is really well signposted off the A1 and there are signs for St. Mary’s Inn and even more poignantly St. Mary’s Hospital which are easy to follow. I knew my way to the Inn from memory but the winding road may benefit from a couple more signs.

Arrival

We arrived at 5:00pm and were welcomed by Zoe who showed us to our room we decided we quite fancied a nap before dinner.

Our bedroom – Greenlee Lough

When we opened the door we were greeted with an expanse of space and beds so high they were reminiscent of ‘Princes and The Pea’ – yay and I know a certain daughter of mine would have loved to bounce on them.

I’m a stickler for white bed linen and I was not to be disappointed. I love a chunky pillow or two and we got four, plenty to go around. The duvet was heavy but not too heavy. Simple quality. Of course “Mr. I sleep on the thinnest pillow in the world” didn’t like the pillows but he could cope for one night.

There was not one, but two sitting areas, one right next to the TV and the other with a lovely table to sit and read or work at.

bedroom

Having worked with Marlish Water in the past I was happy their water was on the tea tray alongside another local brand, Ringtons. I’m sure fresh milk would have been available if I had requested it too.

I crossed my fingers before I entered the bathroom. I so wanted a bath, we moved house in Feb 2015 and we have a double shower instead of a bath (this seriously needs to be rectified) and hotel stays are the only time I get to take a dip and luxuriate in some bubbles.

The bathroom was great. I loved the velux window in the ceiling, the sumptuous towels and I was looking forward to trying the products supplied as I hadn’t tried them before.

Relaxing time before dinner

I love the fact that Richard had packed us a cheeky bottle of prosecco, a perfect accompaniment to a bath filled with lovely bubbles (which H2B ran without prompting). I truly relaxed. We lay on the bed and drank and chatted before dinner (the TV wasn’t working). It was lovely. Even though we live together it seemed like an age since we’d had a chat that wasn’t interjected by, ‘mummy or daddy’ or the sound of our baby boy.

Thank you St. Mary’s Inn for the peace and quiet.

Dinner

Although tempting to stay in our lovely room, we were hungry so headed over the outdoor courtyard and downstairs to the bar admiring the frequently changing artwork on the way.

Before dinner, Richard opted for a pint of Peroni whilst I chose  St. Mary’s Ale made by the wonderful Wylam Brewery as my tipple. I knew from first sip that I’d be drinking it for the rest of the night unless of course I got the taste for gin!

At 7:30pm we decided to head along to the restaurant and I loved all of the areas and the relaxed feeling throughout. It was akin to a warren, people all chatting away with quite a few dogs (both real and wire sculptures) looking happily at home.

We were greeted by Phil the Duty Manager and chatted about the menu. He was genuinely enthusiastic about both the menu and St. Mary’s Inn. I appreciated the fact that many of the items on the menu were sourced locally, so locally in some cases that the chef could reach out of the window and place the veg onto the ‘Entremetier’ station.

The short and simple menu featured many starters and main courses that we wanted to try. To start, Richard opted for Lamb Koftas and I chose Smoked Haddock and Clam Chowder with Whisky and Bacon. Both were really tasty, but I wouldn’t have chosen to have mussels as part of the chowder.

starters and mains

For main H2B had the Aberdeen Angus Beef Burger which came with cheese, mayonnaise, tomato ketchup, pickles, coleslaw and home made fries, he’d sworn he was off bread but couldn’t resist.

I chose the steak and went for the bone marrow and parsley fries. The steak was cooked to my liking medium rare and the fries were good but I had chip envy and loved the look of the chunky ones on a nearby table.

Richard swore he didn’t want desert but there were two that I fancied so gluttony prevailed and I ordered both.

DESSERT

To satisfy my sweet tooth I opted for the custard tart with honeycomb and vanilla ice cream and for my savoury love was the selection of British cheeses with rye crackers and preserves. This was my absolute favourite course and Richard did help me (I promise). The custard tart was amongst the best I have ever tasted and instead of the typically dense consistency this was delicate and the bitterness of the honeycomb cut through the sweetness.  The selection of cheeses was just enough to end the meal.

Phil tried to lure us into coffees but we were embracing the no child night and the calling for bed was so loud.
We made our way to our room but we were waylaid by the bar as I did fancy a gin and I was happy that they stocked Fentimans tonic. Richard’s eyes were heavy so I selected a book from the shelves in one of the snug areas and we headed to bed.

Sleepytime

Our tummies were completely fit to burst so up the dancers we went. We crawled into bed at 10:30 and he was asleep within 10 minutes. I lay and read for a while which was an absolute luxury.

Alas I woke up a few times in the night as it was so warm (thermostat set to 71 degrees Fahrenheit, I have no idea what that is in metric) I’m also used to being awoken several times in the night and thirdly I thought I’d lost my other half, turns out that the bed is sooo big we could easily fit our family of four in the bed with room to spare.

Breakfast

This can be an absolute deal maker or breaker for me.

Zoe showed us to our table, she assured us she had been home as she was still serving at the bar when we went to bed.

This was the room we could see from our bedroom. It was light and bright and there was just us (well for a few minutes until many faces that we saw during dinner the night before).

continental and full English

Our toast and drinks order was taken and then we got to peruse the continental breakfast and gluttony raised its head again. Smoked salmon and meats donned our plates and the quality was fantastic.

We both ordered full English breakfast no beans for me, we both ate the lot, oink, oink. We drank copious amounts of coffee we have definitely missed our breakfast dates.

Full English

Before checkout I had little nosey in all of the nooks and crannies and decided that I really did like this place and would love a local like this.

Overall opinion

Although it’s known as Jesmond Dene House little sister I think St. Mart’s Inn has  everything it needs to have a stand alone reputation. It isn’t trying to be something that it is not. It is by definition a house providing accommodation, food, and drink, especially for travellers and this was done to perfection. I even forgot that it is unmanned overnight so the guests are left to their own devices, well sort of, we couldn’t have our very own lock in.

Having the right staff is so important and I think the brilliance of the staff shone through with their friendly and knowledgeable demeanour and nothing was too much trouble even bringing up an iron and ironing board before dinner.

We had a fabulous time and with a few tweaks it would be perfect. Before I left I was already recommending the Inn to a friend who was coincidentally staying at Jesmond Dene House as a surprise anniversary treat from her husband: major brownie points.

Incase you fancy a visit St. Mary’s Inn is open 8am to 11pm each day with dining until 9:30pm. Remember to book your table don’t just turn up and expect to be served.

Our stay would have been £140 for dinner, bed and breakfast and personally I think that it was most definitely worth that.

Now for the unexpected personal bit which I chose not to place at the beginning of the review.
There was a distinct reason that I wanted to stay and it wasn’t until we were offered a meal at the Inn that I looked into the history and I felt like an idiot when I put two and two together. I actually got a knot in my stomach and a tear in my eye.

As you may have already read St. Mary’s Inn is situated in what was the administration building of St. Mary’s Hospital, the old Gateshead Borough mental institution. We were originally supposed to just head there for dinner but when I read the history of the site I asked if we could stay. A member of my family had spent quite a lot of time at St. Mary’s hospital and visited him often and unfortunately he didn’t have a pleasant stay there. I hoped a visit would air some demons. I haven’t taken the turn off for Stannington since 1995 and I was on auto pilot driving and the hospital signs were still in situ and threw me. What the heck was I doing when potentially I was unearthing a bad memory of a location.

I am glad I came as even though the admin building is clearly recognisable there were very few other points of reference and thinking of my uncle made me smile.

You can keep up to date with St. Mary’s in via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Thank you Phil and Nicky for having us and we hope to visit again when we are in the area.

South Causey Inn

Sometimes it’s the non-planned days out that are the best. After some debate about where to eat lunch (somewhere without the queues of frenzied-shoppers), Mike and I ended up at the South Causey Inn, somewhere I’d never been to before.

South Causey Inn is an independent hotel that has it all. The setting is beautiful, it’s situated in 100 acres of land in the beautiful Beamish Valley, close to the world famous museum.  It’s a hotel, restaurant and splendid event venue, including weddings.

But we just wanted a spot of lunch. And what a lunch it was.

As you can see from the photo, the portions are substantial, my “Slider” is considered a lighter bite! The honey BBQ pulled pork mini sandwiches (three of them!) were absolutely gorgeous, the meat was well-cooked and really tasty. The homemade red cabbage slaw set it off a treat, but the sweet potato fries were a little undercooked for me. £10.95

Mike’s cheeseburger was handmade (no packet burgers here) and came with onion rings, slaw, he upgraded to chunky chips (which were substantial and fabulous) and a really tangy homemade relish.

The staff were absolutely lovely, the venue is out of this world (if you like beams, fireplaces, and comfy couches) and we happily whiled away a couple of hours.

At £10.95 each, the meals were good value and I particularly love the amount of local produce used.

Nicola x

View of Grey's Monument and Christmas markets from the Botanist

The setting; The Botanist. The occasion; Suzanne’s 40th birthday.

We were celebrating like we were 10 years younger. We’d left the house at lunch time after a hairdressing pamper session. We’d hit the Quayside, not so much like it used to be in the “glory going out days” but a more sophisticated affair (those of us over a certain age will no doubt remember ‘The Boat’ moored on the Gateshead Quayside?).

We enjoyed lots of merriment and drinking and by three ish food was absolutely the only option. Where oh where should we head? To ‘The Botanist’ that’s where. The Botanist is in Newcastle city centre, a beautiful bar and restaurant, where we could watch the Christmas lights being switch on and discuss the benefits of buying a windmill or three for our gardens.

From walking through the door, to leaving several hours later, the staff looked after us wonderfully. You can’t help but be impressed whilst inside The Botanist.  That enormous tree in the middle of the bar is always an attention-grabber, as is the sparkling dome.

botanist lights_edited-1

A bottle of house red got us started, and eventually we made a decision to share a starter, have a main meal each and share a sweet.

To begin Smoked Haddock Fishcake – this was packed with flavour and had plenty of fish which was lovely as so many fishcakes are packed with potato to bulk it up. As always Suzanne was hungrier than me so ate more than her share!

The Botanist cheese burgerI opted for a burger with fries covered in delicious garlic salt (lush) and after long deliberations and recommendations from our knowledgeable waiter, Suzanne chose the 9 oz ribeye with garlic butter and mash.

Suzanne loved everything about her medium rare steak (she assured me it was cooked to perfection) the little squishing out of blood doesn’t appeal to me but apparently it’s nice. And the mash was creamy and lumpless, always a bonus!

David, the restaurant manager, popped over to see us and have a chat whilst we were waiting for dessert. We got the impression that he really did love his job and treated us to some birthday cocktails.

I chose ‘The Botanist’ a concoction of Ketel One vodka, Bacardi Carta Blanca rum, elderflower liqueur, red amaranth, mint, jasmine syrup, lime juice topped with lemonade.

Suzanne opted for ‘The Chocolate Rose’ creamy loveliness filled with Ketel One vodka, rose liqueur, rose syrup, liquid chocolate, milk, cream – think Fry’s Turkish Delight in a glass.

Botanist KebabFor desert we shared the strawberry and marshmallow kebab with Sailor Jerry chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. This was heaven we both adored it – not one bit was left.

Suzanne’s overall opinion: “Lots of steps to the main floor but it was good to see the numbers as you walked up (there is a lift though!). I loved the experienced staff who informed us that they have to try the menu themselves so they can talk about with knowledge. The food was good and wholesome (but not to die for). the birthday cocktails were a fabulous treat, the Botanist is a lovely place to meet friends.”

My overall opinion: I loved it. I really like the decor and the feeling of space, the staff were wonderful and the food was delicious. The view is cracking, there aren’t many restaurants in Newcastle that can boast such an amazing vantage point over Newcastle.

We’ll definitely be back.

Nicola x