IT WAS late Saturday afternoon and my family and I did not feel like battling through the busy town centre.
We wanted to enjoy a pleasant night with great food and a good chat and so decided to try Fratello’s in Jesmond.
Fratello’s is part of the Holiday Inn hotel and the stylish venue is open to the general public as well as hotel guests.
First impressions always count and Fratello’s scores pretty highly.
The feel is very chic and spacious but there is no hint of aloofness, which is just what you want when you have three children in tow.
Our table was ready for us as we had booked ahead and arrived at 5pm to accommodate our three young charges.
The menu brings together traditional favourites and Mediterranean dishes.
The restaurant’s pizzas and pasta dishes are given a modern slant, with locally sourced ingredients.
After we settled our excited youngsters, staff produced special menus for them to colour in complete with crayons.
During the meal they also had a mini snakes and ladders game presented to them, so a huge tick for the staff for looking after the crayoning classes so well.
I sipped a small white wine, £2.95, while the other half (designated driver) and the children had Diet Cokes, £1.60.
There were at least 11 starters, priced from £3.50 for the soup of the day. They could also double as small dishes and there was plenty of choice for vegetarians.
Choices included everything from marinated artichokes with roast peppers to a warm goat’s cheese and beetroot tartlet with beetroot puree, pine kernels and rocket. They all sounded wonderful so it was hard to choose.
After much thought, I went for the battered prawns with chilli jam and lemon mayonnaise, £8.95, and the other half had a dish of homemade spicy meatballs with garlic roasted ciabatta, £6.50.
Three crunch-coated shellfish curled across the plate and more than held their own with the tasty mayonnaise.
The other half’s meatballs were succulent mini-rounds of beef coated in a rich tomato, onion, garlic and herb sauce.
Our waiter recommended a garlic bread with mozzarella, £4.50, for the children. The generous portion arrived pretty swiftly and was tasty enough.
It was just right for our family as everyone liked different bits.
The main course proved just as appetising.
I went for the chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella, tomato and basil set on a rich butter sauce, £13.95. It was very nicely done. The chicken was succulent and the butter sauce was delicious.
I also had a side dish of seasonal vegetables, perfectly cooked, £2.95.
Another perfect dish was the other half's roasted duck which came with braised savoy cabbage and kumquat jus, £15.95. Extremely tasty and filling, he reported.
The restaurant’s Bambini menu is for under-12s. Children can have a main course and two scoops of ice cream for £4.95.
They can choose from pasta in a tomato and basil sauce, a cheese and tomato pizza with a choice of two toppings, cheeseburger and chips, beef burger topped with cheese in a seeded bun and fries, breaded chicken strips, fries and tomato ketchup and bolognese pasta.
Our panel of two boys love pizza and pasta almost more than life itself and opted for the pizza.
On the face of it, pizza should be fairly easy to get right, so it always amazes us when we're faced with soggy dough and the bare minimum of toppings.
But these were just right – surprisingly large for children’s portions with crisp bases.
Our youngest guest went for the chicken strips and, again, he was a happy chap.
The portions were good, the oldest pointed out.
We’ve been to some restaurants where the children’s pizzas need a hunting party to find them, they’re so small. The main courses were all demolished.
When it came to desserts, it was a struggle, but we opted for the rich chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream, £5.95, and a white chocolate panna cotta, also £5.95. Both were sublime.
The kids gave a thumbs up to their ice creams, which were served up with chocolate sauce and wafers.
Fratello’s is a super chic venue, which also has a relaxed atmosphere – perfect for a family outing.
The other half’s meatballs were succulent mini-rounds of beef coated in a rich tomato and herb sauce
Address: Fratello’s Italian Restaurant, Jesmond Road, Newcastle, NE2 1PR, tel: 0191 212 5500.
Open: 6-9.30pm every day for dinner, and noon-2pm for Sunday lunch.
First impressions: Good.
Welcome: Very friendly and especially attentive to the children.
Style and design: Dark wood tables and chairs, tiled floor and black and white carpet, comfy upholstered banquette seating and elegant chandeliers. You can also watch the world outside go by from huge windows – and good sound-proofing we noted, since it is located on Jesmond Road.
Cuisine: Old school Italian given a modern twist. Choose from everything from pizzas cooked before your eyes in a fiery oven to fresh fish, meat and poultry.
Service: Excellent waitress service. Staff friendly, attentive and smartly turned out.
Value: The children’s meal for £4.95 is excellent.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.