Tomorrow sees the return of NE1 Newcastle Restaurant Week. Over 100 restaurants will take part in the 18th event which runs from Monday 5th – Sunday 11th August.
I headed along to Dobson & Parnell, one of the restaurants taking part, for a preview of what you can expect. They will be offering 3 courses for £15 which showcases their casual fine dining in a prime location by the quayside.
Dobson & Parnell
Dobson & Parnell opened in 2016, named after two of Newcastle’s Victorian architects, John Dobson and William Parnell, who designed the original building in 1863.
The brasserie blends modern elegance with key Victorian features and aims to push the boundaries of English and European cuisine. There’s a strong focus on sustainability and ethically sourced, local seasonal produce – so the menus do change daily, depending on what is available!
Open Tuesday to Sunday serving lunch and dinner, Dobson & Parnell is a lovely restaurant to visit. The decor would make it suitable for a celebration meal, perhaps a graduation dinner or special birthday. We enjoyed a lunch date and would say returning in the evening, especially at another time of year (maybe January restaurant week) it would feel a romantic destination with the pendant lighting and original brickwork.
The food was delicious. For starters we had the burrata salad and ham hock. The burrata salad was fresh and light whilst the ham hock offered a mix of flavours and the puffed pork crackling was almost like eating popcorn. Very unique. My main dish of pan fried black cod with lightly spiced peanut curry and hispi cabbage was delicious. The cod really melted in your mouth and the peanut curry added a different flavour, with a nice hint of spice but nothing overpowering. It paired rather wonderfully with the Verdejo (but would have gone well with the Muscadet or Riesling – which were the two other whites we tried before settling on our carafe)
Connor ordered the mussels and really enjoyed the sizeable portion and how fresh they were in the white wine garlic and cream sauce. Served with a side of beef fat chips which were suitably crispy on the outside and light and fluffy inside. Obviously I had to try one…or more!
The service was not only very attentive, but personable too. From asking if we wanted to try different wines to pick what would suit our food, to some friendly conversation about desserts too. The staff certainly know their stuff (Danielle was very knowledgeable on the wines) and Stephen very attentive to guide through the menu.
Speaking to Andy Hook, owner of Dobson & Parnell
I had a chance to speak with Andy Hook to find out a little more about what NE1 Restaurant Week means to him and to two of the Hooked On Group restaurants; Dobson & Parnell and Blackfriars.
How do you decide what to put on the restaurant week menu?
“It’s generally the chef who decides. Blackfriars menu has been honed over many years and we’ve been involved since the very first event. We always try to put together a menu that represents what we do and is suitable for many.”
Do you typically find you get more return customers during restaurant week, or new visitors?
“We get a lot of new visitors, double our usual amount through the door during restaurant week, who perhaps aren’t used to the style of food we serve. We want to offer an approachable menu that is suited to first time visitors with an even spread of dishes. Plan based diets are increasingly popular so we offer something veggie and vegan, which often appeals because it’s vibrant and healthy – even to those who may not be (veggie or plant based).”
You’ve worked in the restaurant business for 20 years. How do you think the restaurant scene in Newcastle has changed over that time?
“We opened Blackfriars in 2001 and the scene in Newcastle was predominately independents. We’ve seen lately a massive influx of chains and high profile casualties such as Jamies and Byron. It is a challenging time, but there’s definitely been a shift and the restaurant profession is now seen differently and taken seriously. We see graduates joining the profession and staying in the career.”
“Chains can be independents successful enough to expand, but chains generally need knowledge of the local scene and to offer value for money.”
NE1 Restaurant Week
The event is not only a great way for some of the best names in food across Newcastle to entice new visitors in, but it’s an opportunity for locals to sample some of the more recent additions to the city at a discount price.
Originally designed to boost trade at quiet times of the year in January and August, NE1 Newcastle Restaurant Week is now so popular that many restaurants become fully booked.
So, what are you waiting for? Put down the pans and go make the most of the summer weather dining in style for £10 or £15 a head.
Want some recommendations, you came to the right place. Here’s a few suggestions (and what to consider ordering)
Something a little special – Dobson & Parnell. Order the cod or the mussels, just make sure you’ve got room for dessert. I would suggest you go for the peanut butter choux bun. It’s a real treat (but also quite a mountain of peanut butter sauce, light fluffy pastry and cherries to get through)
Something oriental – Chaophraya. Order the thai fishcakes to start. They have a great kick and the sweet chilli sauce to dip is really tasty! Follow with any of the main dishes! I wrote about Chaophraya here.
Something Spanish – Tapas Revolution in Eldon Square offering 3 tapas for £10 or 4 tapas for £15. I would suggest ordering aceitunas manzanilla (olives – a staple in my opinion!) croquetas de jamon and chorizo a la sidra. If you’re upgrading to the £15 offer go for gambas al ajillo – tiger prawns. Not a prawn fan, then the beef skewers sound delicious. Feeling adventurous – pulpo a la gallega! I wrote about a visit to Tapas Revolution here.
Something with pasta – Zucchini. Order the beef shin ragu, it’s available gluten free too! Follow with cherry sorbet and limoncello. I haven’t written a blog post on this one (sorry) but it’s really tasty!
Are you headed along to NE1 Restaurant Week? Let me know if you visit any of my recommendations – or have any of your own!