According to Oscar Wilde, “after a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relatives”. I have faith that a dining experience at Blackfriars will serve as an adequate testimony to this shrewd philosophy. Its medieval essence and deeply traditional values appeal to both young and old, as was made apparent by the wide range in age of the discernible clientele, and I immediately felt at home in the congenial and mellow surroundings, which emanate British-ness, tradition and quality.
The first thing I noticed and which instantly impressed – an entirely personal indulgence – was a wooden saucer of sea-salt crystal butter as a classy accompaniment to a basket of rustic bread, a specimen of butter which is in my opinion gravely underrated. After soaking up the atmosphere whilst supping a glass of chilled white Cuvée, I began with a seasonal pea and broad bean risotto, for which the immediate epithet must be ‘smooth’ – it had a creamy and comforting texture, was expertly seasoned, and, like any good starter, heralded well for what was to follow, and got me salivating and hungry for more. My comrade chose the North Sea fishcake, which fell apart beautifully and had a generous fish quota, with an earthy homemade tartare sauce, which was chunky, wholesome and delicious.
Next up for me was a tender grilled lemon sole on a crunchy samphire base – the fish was generously citrussed and sat within a superbly buttery sauce; no supplementary seasoning required. It was presented in a simple and unfussy manner, and garnished with an delicate sprinkling of capers, and a side of local Carroll’s potatoes. Fulfilling and assuredly ambrosial, it was evidently fresh and boasted an integral natural flavour of its own. The Northumbrian rump steak which arrived on the other side of the table was cooked supremely, and was notably glorified by the knob of garlic butter which shone through as its chief partisan. Equally the hand-cut chips were soft but with a crunchy exterior, and complimented a cluster of deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes.
Our sweet ‘tooths’ were satiated with a slice of pear and frangipane tart, nestling beside a show-stealing fennel ice cream, which was strikingly subtle and the perfect compliment. Regrettably, we were over ambitious and decided the dark chocolate pavé would also be a good idea, which, it must be said, it was not. Aside from the fact our appetites were already replete, the pavé served only to cloy, and the base was decidedly thick and heavy, with a curious white chocolate jelly on the top – the raspberry sorbet was its only redeeming factor.
Admittedly, this last error was largely ours, neither of us being huge rich and chocolatey pudding fans, and I would not hold this against the restaurant. The overall ambience was very appealing, and it would cater perfectly for a family meal (ideal solution for upcoming graduations), a romantic evening à deux, or indeed large parties, thanks to their unique medieval Banquet Hall.
Blackfriars is rustic yet sophisticated, the staff are especially friendly and knowledgeable, and the food is all locally sourced (particularly interesting are the placemats which give a map of the local area indicating where all their ingredients come from). It is very accessible from Newcastle Central Station, and the set menu in particular is very reasonably priced – certainly one to consider if you are seeking a reliable and traditional experience serving high quality and uncomplicated cuisine.