It's a cold, wet and miserable day in Newcastle, so what better way to warm ourselves up than some classic comfort food (with a twist) from Blackfriars. 

And there are not many restaurants in the North East steeped in more history, so when we were invited to sample their early-evening set menu, it was, of course, our absolute pleasure.

What did we get?

  • North Sea fishcake, chunky tartare sauce, lemon
  • Homemade black pudding fritters, pickled shallots, brown sauce
  • Pan Haggerty, spring greens, poached hen's egg, sage and mustard sauce
  • Northumbrian rump steak, tomatoes, mushroom, chips, garlic butter
  • Chocolate orange tart, blood orange sorbet
  • Sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel sauce, banana ice-cream

You can find their range of menus here.

What was it like?

As you approach Blackfriars, it's hard not to be amazed by the beautiful courtyard, which as you explore, takes your imagination back to its former 13th-century medieval friary.

From that initial moment, you can almost sense that it's a start of a journey, something more than just a culinary experience, a showcasing and meeting of Newcastle old and new.

The restaurant is based in the old refectory and seats 72 guests. The decor is a mixture of beautiful stonework and traditional wood furniture, which is incredibly stunning and the team has done a great job of striking the right balance between original and new features.

At this point, my partner and I are really hoping the food will match the setting. The menu seems to suggest we won't be disappointed.

For starters, I had to, as a northern lad, go for the black pudding (especially as it was homemade). Soft on the inside but crispy on the outside, the balance of textures was perfect. As for the taste, it was rich and not as dense as your run-of-the-mill black pudding.

The runny poached egg, pickled shallots, and crispy bacon bits brought it together to create some sort of mini breakfast delight, especially with the tangy brown sauce. Ah, the brown sauce. Sorry, HP, but it's time to move aside! This stuff made the dish; it got better with every taste - it was tangy and sharp but complimented everything else so well. I couldn't recommend this highly enough.

My partner, AJ, went for the fishcakes. They punched a strong taste, but were beautifully seasoned - it's crazy how much those little shavings of salt (pictured above) lifted the flavour. The tartare sauce was quite sweet but still had the bitter tang from the lemon and capers. Again, it's recommended, especially if black pudding is not your thing.

For the main, I had the steak. There were three great things about my dish, the first being the steak itself. I enjoy my meat cooked medium-rare, and it came perfectly cooked, with charred edges but remaining juicy. Second, was the garlic butter, although really pungent, it was fabulous (but I am a garlic lover). Finally, the chips. Having experienced some rather dreadful chips in recent times, it was refreshing to see the art had not been lost. Crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside, is that so hard? Not for Blackfriars, it seems. Good job.

AJ went for the Pan Haggerty, which she'd never had before. Being a potato fiend, it was a match made in heaven. The potato was soft, and the sauce was strong with tastes of sage and mustard, while the veg was crisp and fresh - it was a really elegant adaptation of a dish I've always known as more of a poor man's hot pot.

Oh, look, Mr. Predictable strikes again! That's right; I went for sticky toffee pudding for my dessert. Well, well, well, Blackfriars, what have you done here?

Let me tell you. You've gone and made the best I've ever had, hands down. How, you ask? Well, it was not so much in the pudding itself, but it's accomplices. The sauce was rich, sweet and utterly addictive and the ice-cream was creamy and had a lovely banana flavour that smacked your taste buds harder than a wrecking ball (flavourless ice-cream is my pet peeve).

As for AJ, she went for the chocolate orange tart, which again packed a really strong flavour. It was seriously chocolately and the orange sorbet was to die for, I think I could have had a whole tub of that to myself.

Overall, our experience of Blackfriars was truly exceptional. From the friendly staff to the beautiful environment, everything just seems to flow perfectly. In fact, you can just sense how calm it is, and that really makes for a much greater dining experience.

As for the price, well, I think everyone would agree it's brilliant value for money.

How much was it?

Two three-course meals, two drinks (Pimms & lemonade and a diet coke) and a bottle of water came to £46.90.

The three-course set menu is priced at £18 and is available Monday to Saturday 12-2.30pm and Monday to Friday 5.30-7pm.

Where is it?

Blackfriars is tucked away in a courtyard in between The Gate and Stowell Street (Chinatown). Its full address is Friars Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4XN.

When is it open?

Blackfriars is open 12-2.30pm and 5.30-late Monday to Saturday and 12-4pm Sunday.

How do I book?

You can book by ringing 0191 261 5945 or booking online here.

Where can I find out more?

To find out more, you can visit their website, Facebook or Twitter.

By David Morton

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