If you are looking for something a little bit different – a change from the usual Italian fare which seems to monopolise restaurant chains, each one being yet another unexciting permutation of another – then try Electric East, a restaurant offering oriental cuisine from Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, right in the heart of Newcastle city centre.
First impressions lead to equivocal conclusions, but once you have adjusted to the alternative décor and the relaxed oriental vibe, you will have received an extremely friendly welcome and been greeted by an extremely helpful and charming team, who clearly understood and cared about what they were serving up.
After scrutinising the menu extensively (a large part of which I had already done at home), my friend and I settled on a selection of the tapas starters: the crispy strips of salt and chilli squid, the scallops with pork and peanut caramel, and tempura king prawns with vindaloo mayo and chilli jam.
The squid arrived first, beautifully presented in a bucket with a ceramic spoon of salt and a bowl of dipping sauce. The squid was quite possibly the freshest I have ever tasted, cooked and seasoned to perfection, and augured well for what was to follow. At the risk of becoming boring and repetitive by praising the presentation of each and every dish so elaborately – it really cannot be emphasised enough. The scallops, nestling on a base of pork belly and sprinkled with beansprouts and chilli amongst a satay sauce with chunks of peanut, looked equally impressive, and the contrast between the soft and tender scallops, and the crunch of the peanuts in the sauce which had a perfect kick to it, was extraordinary.
We moved onto the third tapas with no reservations whatsoever – the tempura prawns were coated in the perfect weight of an extremely tasty batter, and the prawns were fat, juicy and undeniably fresh; a veritable taste explosion. The vindaloo mayo and chilli jam were the perfect accompaniment, although the chilli jam was somewhat on the sweet side.
We were struggling to remember the last time we’d had a meal incorporating so much flavour within so many different dishes. My main course arrived – a trio of fish: tempura, breaded and tandoori coated respectively, inside a wire mesh basket, alongside a jenga-stack of chips, a saucer of lime-crushed peas and a mini kilner jar of tartare sauce, which really sold it to me. A squeeze of lime and a sprinkling of salt – each variant of fish was faultless and sublimely fresh. My friend chose the chicken satay Chu Chee curry, a north Thai red curry with red peppers, honey, chilli and coriander – more exquisite flavours, which reportedly ‘got better with every bite’, unlike so many satay dishes which can become rather sickly – although the sweet potato was arguably somewhat superfluous.
To finish, we shared a passion fruit panna cotta, which was the ultimate refresher and palate cleanser, a pudding which was not too rich but which boasted intense fruity flavours and a strawberry mousse on top, which was not overly sweet and thoroughly cleansed the mouth.
Electric East is spacious, quirky and outstandingly friendly, and the team and the chef are to be congratulated on such an impressive service and first-class food, which I am confident in affirming will not disappoint. Fresh, tasty, and original – break away from the chains and treat yourself to a new experience. There is no excuse not to – from Durham it is just a 15 minute train journey to Newcastle and a 5 minute walk from Central Station. For contact details and menus see http://www.electric-east.co.uk/ or call 0191 221 1000 to book.