Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Far More Than a Little Bit on Side; Table FOR 2

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Far More Than a Little Bit on Side; Table FOR 2

Article excerpt

Byline: GEOFF LAWS

Side Cafe, 1-3 Side, Newcastle

SOME restaurants chase after fashion, regularly changing their image to keep up with the latest trend. Out goes the old and in comes the new, with trendy menus to match. Newcastle's Side Cafe, however, is its own master. It was confident about its look when it started and has stayed comfortably chic and increasingly retro ever since.

Not for them the steel and chrome with spotlights illuminating miniscule nouvelle cuisine servings. No, they stoically ploughed the furrow of healthy platefuls and the people kept on flocking in, because they knew they'd get a good-sized, quality meal in a consistent setting.

We turned up with suitably healthy appetites, sat upstairs and meandered through the blackboard menu, which is where retro meets contemporary. The dishes on offer reflected our current taste for a combination of classic British recipes and Mediterranean cuisine.

The Doors (you must know who I mean) were buzzing along in the background as our waiter, a cheery sort, came breezing in, singing along to the line from L.A. Woman that Jim Morrison was currently crooning.

He swung on to a chair beside us and chatted away as he took our lunch order, returning a few minutes later with generously full glasses of wine and, a little later yet, with two steaming platefuls of food.

The menu offered pork loin steak, singular, with apple mash and rosemary jus, but the chef presented not two but three meaty steaks on a massive mound of creamy apple/potato mash, top-dressed with fried onions and studded with raisins.

The whole caboodle was draped in a juicerich, herb fragrant jus which, let's be honest, is gravy by any other name. Faced with such generosity, I felt honour bound to finish every last delicious morsel.

My companion was facing the same challenge with her chicken breast artfully stuffed with spicy merguez sausage. An outcrop of spiced potato wedges splayed across the plate. Halfway through she sighed. Was this a woman in the throes of defeat? No, it was just a brief breather before knuckling down to making the plate as clean as could be. A side dish of al dente green beans and pencil thin strips of pancetta was a dish too far for either of us. …

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