MARCO Pierre White’s flashy new restaurant is the hot must-try place in town at the moment.
It’s part of the chic £20m boutique Hotel Indigo on Fenkle Street, formerly the Eagle Star House office block, which had stood empty after the insurance firm moved out more than a decade ago.
It’s been open about six weeks now, so it was with a sense of anticipation we pulled up in the adjoining car park – although the dash from there into the hotel in the pouring rain was far from glam! And the car parking prices – not yet in operation when we visited – looked eye-wateringly high compared to old Fenkle Street prices.
However, that was all forgotten the moment we walked through the door. We were warmly greeted by George Liddle, restaurant and bar manager, who quickly spirited away wet brollies, coats and pashmina.
He’s charm personified (he’s won top awards for his cocktail shaking, has worked at The Ritz, Rockliffe Hall and Jesmond Dene House) and has a soothing manner. He settled us with drinks in the stylish Grainger lounge area adjacent to the steakhouse.
It’s the legendary three-Michelin star chef’s first venture in the North East, although he has a string of other restaurants including several steakhouses.
The Newcastle eaterie is run by executive chef Matt Castelli, while Marco is set to visit around three to five times a year.
The great man himself is, in fact, due for a visit on July 19, but lunch and dinner are already fully booked that day.
The restaurant’s decor is classy, contemporary and inoffensive, with muted colours, a plush herringbone carpet picking up the geometric wallpaper design of one wall, cream lampshades and black chiffon curtains.
An army of chefs can be seen bobbing about in the semi-open kitchen and the smells of sizzling meat waft across.
We liked the informal and relaxed buzz. The noise levels are high when it’s busy, and it was heaving the night we visited.
Each of Marco’s steakhouses is slightly different in its offerings. Marco designed the menu and chose the catering staff at Newcastle.
Front-of-house Jamie told us the beef and lamb are supplied locally by Warren Butterworth, their cheese board is made up of Northumberland cheeses and they use Ringtons loose teas.
Hubby sipped on an award-winning local brew, Grainger Ale, by Hadrian & Border Brewery, which has become one of their signature ales. It’s pricey though at £4.90 a bottle.
As you’d expect, there’s a good selection of grilled and roast meats plus fish and pies (including Marco’s Wheelers of St James’ fish pie, shepherd’s pie and the steak & ‘The Governor’ pie).
The idea is that these are simple dishes, cooked really well, using quality ingredients. You get what you pay for, as they say. Steaks ranged from £23.50 for a 10oz rib-eye to £28 for a 16oz T-bone.
It can add up, though, if you order bread, £3, side orders, another £3, and sauce, £3 again.
Staff were unfailingly polite and cheerful, making time for a chat, and are a huge asset to the restaurant. Service is key, especially at these prices, and staff have grasped this.
We were first presented with the a la carte.
Staff later came across with a table d’hote menu (two courses £25, three courses £29.50), saying we could choose from this if we couldn’t see anything on the first menu.
It’d have been nice to have both at once to make an informed choice! It’s worth checking out their value lunch offerings, too. We ordered from the a la carte having already made up our minds.
We decided on light starters to save ourselves for the meat-fest ahead.
My beetroot and goat’s cheese salad with walnut dressing, £6.50, was prettily presented. It was a delicate display of overlapping crimson beetroot petals interspersed with chunks of sweet goat’s cheese and crunchy walnut chunks. The excellent cheese (Rosary Goats Cheese from Salisbury) was creamy, sweet and soft, melt in the mouth.
Hubby’s cocktail of prawns in Marie Rose sauce, £9.50, was a sea-fresh offering, the fetching pink sauce adding plenty of tang.
The presentation, too, was arty – the lettuce perkily displayed at an angle, in a pretty cocktail glass, and two triangles of brown bread and butter accompanying. Mains for me was roast rump of lamb a la Dijonnaise with pomme Dauphinoise, £16.50.
The meat was exquisite, chive-encrusted, in bite-size slices, almost cooked through, soft and tender as can be, on a bed of crunchy green beans. The jus was rich and alcoholic.
The Dauphinoise of wafer-thin slices of potato, enveloped in creamy sauce, had a delicious aromatic nutmeg flavouring.
I ordered a side of creamed cabbage and bacon, £3, which was unfortunately spoilt because it was just too salty.
The other half’s 8oz fillet steak, (aged for 28 days) £28, was a perfect round of two-inch thick meaty goodness, pink in the middle, as requested. It came garnished with grilled beef tomato, giant onion rings (crisp as can be) and triple-cooked chips in beef dripping.
He opted for robust sauce au poivre, £3, a great choice, served separately.
I popped off to powder my nose and the loos were looking less than their best at 11pm with used flannels strewn around the basins. Nice Elemis handwash and body lotion, though!
I’m a puds kind of girl and the desserts, along traditional lines of burnt cream, classic chocolate mousse and bread and butter pud, did not disappoint.
Box Tree Eton Mess, £6, was my choice. In a cocktail glass, it was a delightful, deliberately messy, creamy meringue offering. A huge portion too, full of raspberries and strawberries. I liked that it wasn’t overly sweet.
Sherry trifle Wally Ladd, £6, was no lightweight dessert either. It’s a signature dish from his Yew Tree restaurant and so, so good. It’s a trifle with substance... layers of black cherry jam, sponge and creme Chantilly, topped with flaked almonds and pistachios.
We were full to bursting, but really enjoyed the experience. The salty cabbage aside, the food was excellent and prepared with finesse.
Dinner was not cheap (it bills itself as ‘affordable glamour’), but it makes for a great special night out and only enhances the foodie offerings in town.
Address: Hotel Indigo, 2-8 Fenkle Street, Newcastle, NE1 5XU. Tel: 0191 300 9222.
Open: Breakfast – Mon to Fri 6.30-10am, Sat and Sun 7.30-10.30am; Lunch – Mon to Fri noon-2.30pm, Sat and Sun 12.30-2.30pm; Afternoon Tea – all week 2-5pm; Dinner – Mon to Thurs 6.30-9.30pm, Fri and Sat 6-10pm, Sun 12.30-9.30pm.
First impressions: Smart contemporary restaurant on ground-floor of boutique Hotel Indigo in Grainger Town area.
Welcome: Warm and friendly.
Style, design and furnishings: Stylish and contemporary. Muted colour scheme, herringbone carpet, accent wall of geometric wallpaper, tables dressed in white linen.
Cuisine: Steakhouse and grill offerings. Simple comfort food dishes done well.
Drinks: Errazuriz 1870 Penuelas Block Sauvignon Blanc, £6.80 per 125 ml glass. Grainger Ale, Hadrian & Border Brewery, £4.90.
Service: Slick and professional, but friendly too.
Value: Pricey for a la carte, but some great lunchtime and table d’hote offerings. High-quality food.
Disabled facilities: Fully accessible.