PATIENCE, empathy and knowledge were the order of the day ... and how my husband and I came to visit Sir Charlie’s Restaurant in Jarrow on Saturday evening.
With both of us approaching his final year Mechanical Engineering degree project with trepidation and anxiety, I was determined to get him to unwind and relax ... if only for a night!
I’d heard about this Italian-style restaurant from a colleague who was keen for me to try it, and since it was based in a former Mechanics Institute it was the perfect choice.
Prising my husband away from his study books, we set off for Jarrow.
The restaurant is easy to find as it is within the historic Jarrow Civic Hall, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1863, by Jane Palmer of the Palmer shipbuilding family.
The building was gifted to the town by famous shipbuilding magnate Sir Charles Mark Palmer in 1877, hence the name Sir Charlie’s.
Once diners walk through the main doors of the hall, they are immediately transported into another world – a traditional Italian walkway complete with old-fashioned lamppost guides the way to the inner door of the restaurant.
And once inside, it is clear this building is a labour of love for its owner, John Knowles, who bought it in 2011 with the intention to breathe new life into it.
The restaurant marks the first phase of his ambitious development plan which also aims to transform the building’s ballroom for special functions. It is a remarkable achievement in such a short space of time – and somewhere the folk of Jarrow can be proud of.
On arrival we found the tables spaciously laid out, the glassware sparkled and everything was in pristine condition, even the solid wood flooring. I couldn’t fault a thing.
I was particularly impressed with the cherub tealight-holders which were a delightful addition to the smaller tables.
We were shown to our seats by staff who gave us a warm welcome and a little taste of the building’s history. We had booked our table because we were told that it can get quite busy at weekends.
As we looked around, there weren’t many people dotted about, and for such an immaculate venue, we wondered why. Perhaps, quite simply, because word has still not got around about how good this place actually is.
And it is definitely somewhere for romantic gestures, as the couple next to us proved. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a man, other than a waiter, help a lady from her seat and aid her with her coat. Romance is alive and well at Sir Charlie’s.
And you’ll also find an amazingly talented singer (Joanne Meade) on a Saturday night (I hope she has auditioned for the X Factor), and a piano player tickling the ivories on a Sunday evening.
Having browsed the extensive wine menu first, my husband and I ordered a bottle of Merlot, £11.95. It was full of plummy flavours and gave a nice kick to our starters of king scallops with bacon in a signature creamy sauce, £7.95 each.
The four scallops came served on a bed of rocket and were literally swimming in sauce.
The sauce itself was to die for and both my husband and I agreed that it was the best starter we’d tasted for a long time in a restaurant. The scallops were mouth-wateringly fresh and I could have easily enjoyed this as a main course.
For mains, my husband chose surf and turf – prime fillet steak, pan-fried in garlic, wine, butter and lemon, topped with succulent king prawns, and French fries, £19.95.
He chose a peppercorn sauce with peppercorns, brandy, French mustard and a hint of fresh cream. I had thought he was being a little ambitious in ordering a salad to accompany his main meal – and so did he when it arrived!
He ordered a Caprese salad of fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, and tomato drizzled in olive oil, £5.95. It was all so good though, with lovely, fresh ingredients, it was a real winner and he managed to eat the lot.
I, meanwhile, ordered the pollo Portofino – butterflied chicken topped with king prawns, served with garlic and wine sauce, £14.95. The presentation was superb.
The chicken was juicy and tender, while the prawns were huge, and I’d forgotten that as well as mash, the meal also came with a separate side order of seasonal vegetables.
There was no way I could eat it all – so my husband helped me out.
Looking for a dessert after a very filling dinner, the cookies and cream cheesecake with extra cream, £4.95, from the dessert board had my name written all over it.
It was wonderful. Rich and creamy and not too sweet. The texture of the cheesecake was light and smooth.
After our meal, we both sat there feeling rather contented and enjoyed a friendly chat with our waitress who was smiles aplenty, before we left for home.
I would truly recommend anyone to give Sir Charlie’s a go, especially at a weekend. I noticed the Sunday lunch menu looked good too.
It’s perfect whether you want a family dinner out or you are Prince Charming looking for a romantic meal for two.
Address: Jarrow Civic Hall, 59-61 Ellison Street, Jarrow, Tyne & Wear, NE32 3HZ. Tel: 0191 483 2690. Easy to find.
Open: Seven days a week, serving teas, coffees and cakes from 9am. Between midday and 6pm, two-course lunches are available at a special price and an a la carte menu, available until 10pm.
First impressions: Cheerful staff in immaculate surroundings, tables perfectly laid out, ready and waiting.
Welcome: Warm and inviting, great attention to detail.
Style, design and furnishings: Classical dining in spacious surroundings.
Cuisine: Traditional Italian menu – and truly amazing desserts. A plentiful choice.
Service: Excellent. Young waiting staff who are polite, hospitable, knowledgeable and friendly.
Value: Excellent for value – both quantity and quality.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.