The word about town is a good chunk of Newcastle’s chef population prefers to wake up over breakfast at this edgy little eatery.
When one glimpses the brekky menu it’s easy to understand why: Creamed eggs with smoked salmon, rocket and herbs on toasted sourdough and a side of truffle field mushrooms, anyone?
We’re interested in lunch and the good news is the menu is equally fetching. Best of all it’s small – heaven for both kitchen staff, who can perfect each dish and provide consistency, and indecisive diners who quiver like panna cotta at endless options.
There are tables in the atrium adjoining the Greater Building Society building and inside the cafe.We choose the latter. With hanging artwork, adult furniture and staff that flit about silently to slick tunes, the ambience is warm and contemporary, with the open plan kitchen appealing on both a design and transparency level.
There are hearty pre-made baguettes but we’re keen to test the kitchen’s on-the-spot creations. Croque Monsieur (ham, gruyere and Dijon sandwich with cornichons and green salad); steak sandwich (150 grams of scotch fillet with salad, onion jam and a green bean
salad); and the asparagus and bacon jam with poached eggs on sourdough appeal, but three other contenders win out.
For starters, we plan to divvy up the peach salad. In a nice touch, our eager-to-please waitress arrives with two plates – apparently the kitchen thought it best to divide our portions, and we couldn’t agree more.
Circled by streaks of glossy balsamic reduction, the salad bursts with colour, the vinegar and fruit contrasting perfectly with the smoky ham, gruyere cheese and peppery rocket, all dressed in a light Dijon vinaigrette. It is a perfect summer dish, it’s just a wee
shame that the in-season peaches are not quite ripe enough.
Our mains impress. Despite its small size, the butterflied quail is moist and succulent, its slightly caramelised skin providing great texture. It sits on a vibrant bed of blanched beans, grapes and a tomato and musky tarragon salsa; the accompanying celeriac and rocket remoulade a fresh take on coleslaw. Reclined on mash, the lamb chump steak makes a bed for three heirloom carrots – one purple, one white, the other orange – so
exquisite on the eye it’s hard to find a reason to eat them. Basil is the herb usually on chummiest terms with tomato but it’s mint that stars in the fresh salsa, which works with the meat’s raspberry vinegar to add flavour.
For dessert we try the chocolate and and fig tart, decadent with a slab of dark chocolate on top and panettone-style middle, and sour cherry and pistachio crumble, which is moist enough but would sing with a dollop of cream or ice-cream, which is available on request.
With a competent and creative kitchen staff and a focus on local and organic produce, there is everything to love about this lunch.
And I for one will be back for breakfast.