BARLUGA is a stylish gem of a find in Morpeth, Northumberland. We’d heard promising things about this new restaurant/café/bar from friends living in the vicinity and were keen to give it a whirl.
It’s the sister establishment to Barluga in Newcastle city centre, part of the Fluid group, but has a very different feel.
We liked the Morpeth laid-back but stylish vibe much better. We felt very comfortable as a family popping in for a casual lunch.
I could also see myself dropping in for a coffee and cake with girlfriends or a glass of rose after hitting the shops in the stylish Sanderson Arcade.
The emphasis in Morpeth seems to be more on the food and deli style offerings, and less on the drinking side.
They even sell their own brand oils and chutneys and deli produce – and very tasty they all looked on the counter display.
It was fantastically hot and sunny (for March!) the Saturday lunchtime we popped in. We’d allowed extra time for the nightmarish one-way traffic system still in operation, but really traffic kept moving, so that wasn’t a problem.
It was lovely and cool inside and it had all the feel of an upmarket New York deli. Shoppers were enjoying casual lunches and coffees downstairs where the deli produce is on sale, and there is seating for about 20.
We headed upstairs where it seats another 100. We liked its style, the pared-back décor, the comfy leather seats, wooden floors and large windows overlooking the street. We were particularly taken by the giant double-height ceiling, huge display of bottles along one wall, and the clocks projected on to the wall, showing times in Edinburgh, Seattle and Bruges.
Our waiter, a chatty young chap, told us it used to be a social club and has been open since November.
Clearly, there has been no expense spared on the revamp.
Our spot on the mezzanine floor had a great view over diners downstairs. Although I hear they are making some slight changes to the building this week, so it’s more of a bar downstairs but the restaurant remains the same upstairs.
I sipped a rose, a Californian white Zinfandel, £3.90, the other half had a bottled Peroni, £3.10, and the daughter, who turned a teenager that day, an Appletiser, £1.70. Her catchphrase, now she’s turned a teen, is “I’ve got the right to be ragey!”
Well, we hoped the food didn’t disappoint.
It offers everything from breakfasts, sandwiches and deli-style platters and a seasonal market menu.
My starter of baked Camembert with caramelised red onion chutney, and assorted breads, £8.95, was delicious.
The cheese, still in its balsa wood case, was warm with a chalky rind and just-right claggy interior, and came with a rosemary garnish. It was served with a mound of slices of warm, crusty white bread and sliced baguette.
It was a decadent treat and all three of us dipped in. The home-made chutney was exceptional, too, a sweet and tangy touch.
The other half dived in to his starter portion of mussels, prepared with a creamy, white wine sauce, and served with crusty bread, £4.95. The mussels were sweet, but a bit on the small side, the creamy broth lovely for dipping the bread into. A decent size portion, it made a lovely appetiser.
Soup of the day, butternut squash and carrot, with garnish of oil, £4.25, came with slices of good white crusty bread.
It was a diminutive bowlful, which suited our little one who was saving herself for a giant burger. It was smooth, flavoursome, with a spicy kick, and described as ‘a hug in a bowl’.
Hubby and I were in snacky mode and it was too warm for a heavy lunch, so the taster plates from the deli menu looked ideal.
My Northumbrian platter, £8.95, served up on a wooden board was a medley of local ham, Northumbrian nettle cheese, Keen’s cheddar, pickled silverskins, coleslaw, smoked salmon, pease pudding, caramelised red onion chutney (as before) and two hunks of excellent focaccia, peppered with rosemary and tomato morsels.
It was delicious, a lovely pick and mix kind of dish, perfect for when you fancy a bit of everything. Although the focaccia was moist and very tasty, I would have preferred some plain bread, too, to pile on the wonderful mild Keen’s Cheddar and creamy, smooth nettle cheese. The ham was delicious, the coleslaw pretty boring.
Across the table, the New Yorker platter, also £8.95, consisted of chef’s homemade meatloaf, salami, dill pickle, coleslaw, roast turkey breast, sun-dried tomatoes, and green and black olives, also with focaccia bread.
The meats were good, the beef meatloaf, like a pate, but with a coarser texture, and a perky herby flavour, the olives encased in a salami ‘basket’, the sun-dried tomatoes full of sweet and tangy flavour.
Daughter’s Barluga 8oz Aberdeen Angus burger, with her choice of classic French fries, £9.45, was not cheap, but then it was no ordinary burger.
It was a substantial piece of meat, excellent quality, and completely cooked through, encased in a floury white bap with melted cheese topping, red onions, tomato and gherkin, plus a salad garnish. Let’s just say there were no complaints. I tasted the beef myself – and it was really very good.
Daughter still had room for a dessert so finished off with lemon posset with honey crème fraiche and biscuit, £5.25. This is a family fave – I use food writer Jane Lovett’s recipe – but this one was sadly disappointing. It was served up in a glass with a dusting of popping candy. The dessert itself had a lovely lemon flavour but was too runny – it just simply hadn’t set. The waiter did offer to replace it but we were just about finished.
The lightweight parents couldn’t handle full desserts but the coffee and mini sweet treats did appeal. We had Central Bean coffees (the coffee houses are also part of the Fluid group) with three petit fours, £4.95, and a mini chocolate and walnut brownie, £4.95. The petit fours were overly-sweet, enough to set the teeth on edge, and my brownie was slightly dried out. But the coffee was excellent and we drained every last drop of the cafetiere.
Barluga is a very welcome addition to the Morpeth gastro scene.
Address: Barluga, Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth. Tel: 01670 505000, www.barlugadeli.co.uk
Open: Food served, Mon - Thur, 11am-9pm; Fri, 11am-10pm; Sat, 10am - 10pm; Sun, noon - 6pm.
Welcome: Bright and cheery.
Style, design and furnishings: Stylish, contemporary interiors. Dramatic double-height ceiling and mezzanine floor.
Cuisine: Modern British with Continental offerings
Service: Smoothly run, no hitches. Staff all very smart, and crisp white linen napkins on tables.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.
The dessert itself had a lovely lemon flavour but was too runny – it just simply hadn’t set