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Monday, 30 March 2015

Blackfriars

Blackfriars is a 13th Century building in the heart of Newcastle. Hidden away between The Gate and Newcastle's famous Stowell street, the historic building stands proud in it's own quiet spot and provides a tranquil space of calm away from the bright lights of the city.


Blackfriars stays true to it's roots and has been furnished in Medieval style. As you step through the doors you are greeted with carved wooden chairs, oversized candle's lighting the room and scripts adorning the exposed stone walls. Every little touch sets the mood and you feel as if you have truly stepped back in time.


Blackfriars make the most of their history and offer a calendar of unique events including seasonal Medieval banquets where you are encouraged to dress up to feast on pies and pottage served with flagons of ale by the town wenches and monks or maybe you would prefer a Medieval lecture complete with a traditional 3 course lunch? Children aren't forgotten either and are invited to try their hand at cooking and baking at Little Monks Cookery Club. Suitable for 7-16 year olds, your 'little Monks' will learn how to cook family meals and treats at their own pace in a relaxed and friendly environment. These courses are available every half term but booking in advance is recommended as they are very popular.

Blackfriars can also offer a unique place for a christening, wedding or party with the option to exclusively hire their Medieval banquet hall. Featuring ornate chandeliers, wall hangings, stained glass windows and hand crafted chairs and dining areas, I imagine a private gathering at Blackfriars would certainly have the WOW factor. In the Summer months the outdoor space can also be utilised and the grassed area is a perfect place for little ones to run around and let off steam.

Back to the main reason for our visit - the food! Blackfriars was opened in 2001 by Sam and Andy Hook who after successfully running Sidney's in nearby Tynemouth could not resist the opportunity. The restaurant has gone from strength to strength and has won a string of awards including the Taste of England Award 2013 and was voted as the Top place for Sunday Lunch in Newcastle by the Independent in 2013. There are a selection of menus to choose from and something for every taste and budget. We opted for the Set menu which is available for lunch or an early weekday dinner. £15 for two courses or £18 for 3 courses looked like it would provide exceptional value.

We received a friendly welcome as we stepped into the restaurant and noticed it was busy with a mix of couples, groups and families enjoying themselves. The restaurant is warm and authentic and definitely a place you can sit back and relax. The first thing to grab my attention were these fabulous salt and pepper pots on every table. I love the attention to detail!


My dining companion was an old friend and we had lots to catch up on - the staff perfectly judged this and although they checked back when necessary, they mostly left us to enjoy our food and wine which was perfect. We ordered our food and were brought out some homemade bread and butter (extra points for passing my butter test) while we waited for our drinks and starters.

Starter - Crispy Pigs cheek, spiced date puree, apple and crackling salad

Starter - Spiced Parsnip and Jerusalem Artichoke soup

We were both extremely impressed with our starters. The presentation of both dishes was beautiful and the flavour matched too. The seasoning was spot on and both dishes were absolutely perfect for Winter - full of homely flavours leaving us with a warm glow. I loved how our server asked if I would like some extra bread with my soup too. Again, fantastic attention to detail.

Main Course - Slow-roasted belly pork, Colcannon mash, crackling and cider jus

Main Course - North Sea fish and shellfish pie, buttered broccoli and peas

There was about a 10-15 minute wait between courses which was perfect for us. I ordered the belly pork and it was the best I have ever tasted - the meat was extremely succulent and simply melted in the mouth whereas the skin was lovely and crispy and there was plenty of it too. My friend's fish pie was also a hit and every bite was full of lots of lovely local fish and seafood.


Dessert - Baked passionfruit cheesecake, passionfruit sorbet

Dessert - Caramel pear tart, hazelnut crumb, milk ice-cream

We still had about half a bottle of wine left so decided we could just about squeeze in some desserts. My cheesecake was beautifully presented and lovely and zingy - ending my meal perfectly. My friend's tart was equally as good and the flavour combinations and textures worked perfectly together.

There was absolutely no rush for us to leave and the table was ours for the evening. We were asked if we would like coffees and then left to enjoy the last of our wine in peace. 

I think you'll agree, 3 courses for £18 was a real bargain. The food was locally sourced, perfectly cooked, beautifully presented and plentiful. Next time you are looking for somewhere a bit different to dine in Newcastle, I would certainly consider Blackfriars.

Children are of course welcome at Blackfriars with a new menu being launched soon. At the moment, smaller portions from the main menu are available with sausage and mash and fish and chips being firm favourites. Children are given a free colouring sheet and Medieval fact sheet (my 8 year old would LOVE this) and this half term they'll be given a free homemade ice cream to enjoy when dining with an adult who buys a main course. 

Blackfriars also offer children's birthday party packages (click here to download more information) in which children get the chance to bake with their friends followed by lunch or tea. 


We received a complimentary meal for the purpose of this review and some of the photographs have been kindly provided by Blackfriars. As always, our review is completely honest and all thoughts are our own. I can't wait to return with hubby and it will definitely become a favourite spot for lunch in the coming months.
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