Occupying the ground floor of a new block on the banks of the River Tyne at North Shields is 31 The Quay, with the most magnificent of views up and down the River Tyne. It was a glorious day when we booked for Sunday Lunch recently and I thought I had better book as it was bound to be packed as most places, good bad and indifferent, are on a Sunday lunch. I felt really sorry for them though as this thoroughly modern, light, bright, and cheery restaurant, was only half full, if that. There were almost as many people fishing off the quayside than there were diners in the restaurant.
Situated only a stones throw from the passenger ferry from North to South (or should that be South to North?) Shields and plenty of parking, I could not understand how quiet it was. It must seat around 80, and there were about 30 or so in when we arrived for our 1.30pm booking. Okay, there was a steady, but slow stream of people that came in after us, but as many left as arrived while we were there and I don’t know how many had been and gone prior to our arrival.
The restaurant has a great feeling about it, which I suppose could be different on a dull or rainy day but still it is nicely decorated, bright and airy with floor to ceiling windows on 3 walls.
Immediately on arrival we were greeted and taken to our table along with 2 menus and a wine list. It turns out that when I booked, (on line) I had left a note to say my wife has some allergies and the menu she was given highlighted the dishes that were suitable for her on the menu. It’s a nice touch when someone takes notice and acts upon a message, so often it doesn’t happen, so well done for getting it right, it was appreciated!
The menu has a good choice of dishes to suit most and one of the 1st courses carried a supplement charge of £5.00, something I had not noticed when ordering. I do feel it could have been highlighted to make this more visible as it wasn’t until the bill came that I became aware of the extra charge.
I chose the Poached Trout with Wild Leek, Smoked Fishcake and Lemon Vinaigrette; I like trout, both to fish for and to eat, however trout is not perfectly suited to steaming, it can be lacking in flavour and therefore needs a well flavoured bouillon, or similar, in which to poach it or they could have tried pan frying it, but if steaming is the cooking method of choice then it certainly needed seasoning better and possibly something added to it to enhance and introduce some flavour while steaming. While there are of course many other ways to cook that would definitely have suited the fish better poached with the skin on and left on to serve begs the question, “what is better than a layer of soft gelatinous fish skin for lunch,” well almost everything as it happens! No, I didn’t eat it, I removed it and left it on the side of the plate. The Wild leeks were not in evidence nor was the Lemon Vinaigrette. It came sat on a bed of samphire, had a light green cream around it which was okay but slightly under seasoned, as too was the fish, the fishcake was good and probably the best bit of the dish to be honest. 3/10
Jane went for the Barbecued Line Caught Sea Bass, Slow Cooked Calvo Nero, Parmesan Gnocchi, the dish with the supplement, she’s an expensive woman to keep! The Gnocchi around the Sea Bass was very stodgy, far too dense, gnocchi ought to be a fluffy pillow not something to play marbles with. The sauce with it was good and the Calvo Nero under it could have been substituted for lots of other things, how about the samphire which came with the trout but would have been far better suited to that than the trout was, but they would not have been so trendy I guess. The term Barbecued was used very loosely too, there was no hint of barbecue to it at all which was very strange. 3.5/10
It was Sunday Lunch we went for and it’s not normally when we go out for lunch as it tends to be focused around two or three different roasts and while I will eat a roast at home it’s not normally what I would go for when out. Sunday lunch sounds enticing but is often a real let down, delivering far less than the promise one has in ones mind.
The choice was Treacle Roast Topside of Beef, Butter Roasted Corn Fed Chicken or, the choice of us both, Crane Row Farm Pork Belly, Sausage and Sage Stuffing, Bashed Apple and Crackling. All of the roasts were to be served with the same vegetables, Duck Fat Roast Potatoes, Roast Carrot, Crushed Swede, Glazed Winter Greens, Creamed Potato, Yorkshire Pudding and Cauliflower Cheese.
The Pork was a very large portion; indeed, the whole plate was rather loaded, and I know we are in the North East of England, and a full plate of food is what most want and see as good value, but.
It really was too much, for us anyway. Not that we didn’t enjoy it mind you. Sadly, I didn’t find the Bashed Apple, the pork was under seasoned but the crackling was great, the stuffing, not so good and the Duck Fat Roast potatoes were over done thereby making then dry rather than crisp. Not sure if Tender Stem Broccoli qualifies as a Winter Greens though and the cauliflower cheese was a bit too wet and over cooked, while the cheese element should really have been Cheddar for me. 4/10
The choice of desserts was very good and enticing, I went for the Valrhona Chocolate Mille-feuille with Milk Ice Cream, while Jane had the Vanilla Roast Plums with Mascarpone Ice Cream and Brown Butter Cake. The chocolate was a bit too soft for my liking and the mille-feuille too thin but on the whole a nice dessert. The ice cream was very different to the milk ice cream I make and a very dark colour, not what I expected at all but it tasted homemade.4/10. Janes dessert however was declared delicious and the cake was beautiful so full marks there. 6/10
What does need pointing out is that the service was very, very slow. From arrival to leaving was just shy of 2 hours, the wait to be cleared after each course seemed to last forever, and then the wait for the next course interminable. Between ordering and receiving dessert I got up to have a walk around as I developing a square bum, I guess it was this that prompted a waitress to come over and apologise for the wait and to assure us dessert was on the way soon, it didn’t come that soon but it was nice of her to notice all the same.
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