Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Delicious Meal in Heart of the City; TABLE FOR 2 GEOFF LAWS the Bridge Restaurant, Vermont Hotel, Newcastle: Dining

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Delicious Meal in Heart of the City; TABLE FOR 2 GEOFF LAWS the Bridge Restaurant, Vermont Hotel, Newcastle: Dining

Article excerpt


THE Vermont Hotel in Newcastle is steeped in history. Firstly, it's at the ancient centre of the city, rubbing stone shoulders with the Norman castle built to keep away the marauding hoards.

Nearby, in the 14th Century, St Nicholas' cathedral rose to dizzying heights while, across the courtyard from the hotel, the Georgian Moot Hall completes the historic triangle.

The Victorians didn't want to be left out and we now have high-speed trains gliding gracefully across Robert Stephenson's High Level Bridge. Over the River Tyne, The Sage Gates head's reflective curved roof stamps the 21st Century on to the map to complete the picture.

For me though there's another piece of history here. Several years ago I had an outstanding meal in the Vermont's Blue Room restaurant at the hands of chef John Connell. Sadly, John left and his excellent skills went with him. But my interest was revived recently when I heard there was a new chef at the Vermont's Bridge Restaurant, and I hoped for another memorable experience.

Our starters arrived and the evidence of intelligent kitchen skills was there on the plate or, in the case of my companion's soup, the bowl.

She'd chosen chilled tomato consomme with concusses, peas and fresh herbs. Now, I'm not a great fan of chilled soup. Gazpacho and its like leave me cold, but this consomme had a delicate freshness that made me reconsider my view. The glassy soup, with tiny cubes of concassee and salad of fresh herb leaves, had a delicate depth of flavour that contradicted its translucence.

My choice of three cheese and herb beignets with herb salad garnish was a more robust-looking dish with a trio of deep fried cushions of herby cheese, each one a deliciously crisp coating to a richly satisfying interior.

The salad and pesto added splashes of colour to this very good dish.

Outside, the clouds scudded over the river and painted a new pattern on the silvery Sage roof as the evening train to Edinburgh took its passengers northwards. I doubted they would be dining as well as us, especially as I was now looking at my main course of roast pork fillet with grilled prawns, pommes puree and red wine jus.

The rounded fillet lay on a generous bed of buttery, well seasoned mash holding in place a series of prawns, with a mound of glossy, wilted spinach to one side.

This interesting take on "surf 'n turf" made me think again about flavour/texture mixes and the rich red wine reduction surprisingly pulled everything together.

My companion was as delighted by the finesse in her choice of rainbow trout with warm asparagus, hollandaise sauce and Parmesan shavings. Many chefs are wary of the delicate trout, but this one took it on and produced a lovely combination of crisp, silvered skin, slashed through to reveal pale pink flesh, soft, feathery and just as it should be. …

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