Newcastle in the glorious sun. You got to love the quayside (although maybe not the people buzzing around on jetskis. I've been to Newcastle on multiple occasion and I have to say, I do like it. They have the best cabs (Grosvenor Cars) with the most sparkly clean cars and polite drivers. The airport is a breeze to get through and also has Eagle Diner which has the BEST chocolate milkshake.
Hotels - first of all, I usually stay at the Hilton Gateshead. I've tried the Thistle and that was a shoebox where you can't sleep at night thanks to it facing Newcastle station with it's drunks and taxi rank. In addition it loses points for having a towel heater burning your leg as it's so close to the toilet, cookies which aren't replaced after the first night, and cleaning which managed to leave the two hairs that were on the shower wall when I arrived, still stuck up there when I left. Oh and they take your old shower cap and don't supply you with a new one. Major loss of brownie points. Malmaison Newcastle is supposedly very nice but my budget does not stretch. FYI Copthorne I used to think was lovely 6 years ago (it's been that long!!) but all the cabbies have said it's gone downhill as no-one has invested in the place. Apparently they save the "nice" rooms for people who complain. I used to like it. It had the random northerness of a sitting room for your bedroom, free Playboy channel (whatever floats your boat.) and table service for breakfast for a lovely breakfast served by very "British Butler" type staff.
Anyhow, to the food.
Ubiquitous chicken caesar salad (sauce on the side). I'm afraid to say it - not as nice as the Marriott (Bradford). It is my bow to my waist line, but if you have to work in the hotel at night, it's not that bad to nosh on this.
Cafe21 is a lovely spot in Trinity Gardens. Bit on the pricy side, but that's okay. It's a posh modern restaurant which you could take clients to.
I had the monkfish and prawn curry. I liked it, but at three prawns and three pieces of monkfish it *felt* limited even though it was actually quite lovely.
This was a mistake. I asked for the Hot Chocolate doughnut with pistachio ice cream and they brought me the Chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream and orange blossum macaroon. Did I complain? Of course not. It was delightful. Tiny nitpick - the macaron had a very hollow shell and one of the sides actually featured a large dimple inwards where the piping bag was pressed down. Ah, those that can't make macarons perfectly... judge others :) I'd put Cafe 21 on the worth a visit pile, just make sure your expenses balance out because it will be one of the more expensive nights.
Onto CafeVivo. This was just around the corner and might even be run by the same people. The pub next door certainly is and apparently the food there is also great. Cafe Vivo has current top ranking in my foodie heart for Newcastle. The menu is very Italian, which I had reservations about since I was told to go visit Marco Polo but this was absolutely gorgeous. It's a nice informal place with lots of locals sitting around. It also features a set price menu: 3 courses for £17.50. Basically the price of a main at Cafe21!
Starter for me: Wood Fired Bruschetta with local Wild Mushrooms, Poached Egg & Shaved Pecorino
One edge of the bruschetta underneath was ssssssssslightly blackened but otherwise a major winner of the evening.
Main: Ziti with Slow Cooked Pork, Chilli, Oregano, Sultanas & Pine Nuts
I'll admit it. I forgot what Ziti was when I ordered it. It's actually slightly longer, softer penne. Whilst this was a very simple dish to look out, the flavours were amazing.
Finally dessert: Watermelon Jelly with Prosecco Granita & Strawberries.
I wasn't a major fan of the Granita but once it melted it made a great, sweet, icy drink.
More to come from the world of St Sushi, Blackfriars... and Ask (don't ask!)