TUCKED away, behind Popolo’s, in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, Paradiso is a little haven of Mediterranean eating.
The narrow street door belies the extensive rooms upstairs.
My friend and I were there on a Friday night and the place was already bustling with theatre-goers, couples collapsing under the weight and the cost, no doubt, of their Christmas shopping and those celebrating that Friday feeling.
Our attentive waiter explained that the restaurant’s philosophy is to use fresh, local produce and let the taste speak for itself. So we had high expectations.
While we waited for our food to arrive we were able for the first time to take in our surroundings.
Located in an old print works, the three-storey venue also has a sun terrace if the temperatures are a bit warmer.
We were on the first floor, which is also the main seating floor, and this contains the bar area and has 60 covers.
The exposed brick, wood floors and stylish glass-partitioned booths and shiny, chrome seats give this particular continental cafe a distinctive design.
The welcome started with a bowl of obese olives, some of Paradiso’s renowned homemade bread and dips and we sampled a glass of an excellent Pinot Grigio. Dawdling through the two menus with this before us was a pleasure in itself.
First you can try the set menu, available from Monday to Friday, from 6pm to 10.30pm and Saturday from 11.30am to 10.45pm. Two courses will set you back £13.95 and three courses £15.95.
The other option is to try the a la carte menu, our choice for the evening, with starters from as little as £3.50 and main courses starting at £8.95.
On the menu you’ll find dishes like homemade fish cakes served with fennel and orange salad followed by Moroccan tagine of lamb with dried prunes, cinnamon, toasted sesame seeds and fresh pomegranate, new potatoes and lemon and coriander flatbread.
From the choice of eight starters, including two vegetarian options, I couldn’t resist the Paradiso classic fishcakes served with fennel salad and a sweet chilli sauce (£4.95).
My fishcakes were delicious salmon in herby oatmeal, lightly roasted until the coating was crunchy and golden.
The sweet chilli sauce proved the perfect accompaniment and the restaurant’s delivery proved they are not the poor relation when it comes to seafood.
My dining companion opted for lamb skewers with hummus and coriander flatbread. The chunks of skewered lamb oozed meaty juices to be mopped up by the flatbread and she was one very happy camper.
Like all the dishes, the presentation was stylish and imaginative.
For my main course I was in a steak mood and opted for the version served with spring onion, chilli, garlic, parsley and lemon butter (£13.95).
Everything about it was perfect. The steak was cooked to medium-rare perfection.
The steak was served with rosemary roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables and they too were a complete success.
My friend had the baked chunky cod with a green olive, parmesan and sundried tomato crust (£12.95).
The marble white fish fell away in moist flakes and the crust was delicious.
Both dishes were well designed, well executed and delicious.
After a suitable break we shared a dessert. Spoilt for choice, we halved a homemade tiramisu. It was pure comfort food and a sure hit with both of us.
The pleasure of Paradiso is just that – it is simply a pleasure.
The service is great. The food is fantastic.
Both my dining companion and I noticed a superb children’s menu and vowed to take our little ones back with us.
A couple of espressos ended a faultless meal, Paradiso has all the ingredients of a truly original restaurant.
The restaurant’s delivery proved they are not the poor relation when it comes to seafood
Address: 1-3 Market Lane, Newcastle, Tyne and Wear NE1 6QQ. 0191 221 1240
Open: Mon to Thurs: 11am - 2.30pm; Mon to Thurs: 5pm - 10.30pm; Fri and Sat: 11am - 10.45pm but from December 1 open from 11.30am to 10.30pm.
First impressions: A very warm welcome and chatty staff happy to talk about history of the restaurant and recommendations from the menu.
Style, design and furnishings: Stylish, modern decor.
Cuisine: Italian with a twist.
Value: Good. Starter dishes were filling and hearty.
Disabled facilities: None.