Sunday, 25 July 2010

Butterfly Cabinet, Heaton, Newcastle.

If you're to believe Cheryl Cole, the Butterfly Cabinet is nestled in one of the most drug-riddled estates in Newcastle. For anyone who knows her home town, this is just not true. I lived here myself throughout my university days, and whilst it is definitely considered to be Jesmond's poor relation, I never came across anyone peddling heroin in the streets. In fact, Heaton seems to have become almost trendy overnight. No longer just for the poor polytechnic students and local families, it now seems to be attracting the arty and boho types as well as young professionals, with delis and organic greengrocers and vintage boutiques popping up left, right and centre.

This Saturday, we ventured to the Butterfly Cabinet. Formally Belle and Herbs, it was a long established favourite of many in the area, and I often heard that there were queues right down the street for their breakfasts on weekend mornings. I'd only ever visited Belle and Herbs once, and I have to admit that the 'Breakfast Club' sandwich was fairly legendary, and I still talk about it to this day. Hangover food at its ultimate best.

Since then, the place is under new management and has been refurbished, but it still has the same feel about it. It's a relaxed affair, with mismatched furniture and vintage bits and bobs decorating the walls, as well as an impressive chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and menus that are backed with the covers of various old school comics. They don't take bookings, so it could be a case of just turning up and waiting for a free table, as they seem to very busy every Saturday.

The Butterfly Cabinet was not a let down. The Breakfast Club no longer features on the menu, which in now made up of main meals such as sea bass, steaks and lamb, as well as door-stopper sandwiches, soups, burgers and hearty all day breakfasts. I chose the Rio Grande club sandwich - steak with cheese, soured cream, jalapenos, peppers, onion and fresh coriander, between fresh white bread and served with hot, crispy, fluffy homemade chips, red cabbage coleslaw and a nicely dressed side salad. The chips were perfect, and the sandwich was bloody good too. The portions are massive, which would be the only criticism, if indeed that could be counted as one.

I also had a latte, and my boy had the full English and cranberry juice, which he said was good also. I've often seen people eating the mussels which look lovely, and once heard someone talking very highly of the seafood chowder which is sometimes on the specials board.

The bill was £14, and came with a strawberry lollipop and a Refresher chewy sweet. I also spied parma violets and flying saucers in their jars behind the counter.

The Butterfly Cabinet has filled the shoes of Belle and Herb very well, and I think that it'll be a long standing favourite for our Saturday lunch times.

Result: 9/10.

The Butterfly Cabinet
200 Heaton Road
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE6 5HP.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Roscos, Newcastle

Last Friday evening, we were finally blessed with some good old sunshine in Newcastle, and this of course called for some al fresco action. I'd just arrived home after a two and a half hour train journey, and we had no reservations or particular plans. I did really really want pizza though - good pizza. We popped into a few of our favourite haunts on the Quayside, but were told that they had no outside tables free for the next few hours. Newcastle is seemingly not well prepared for people wanting to dine outside. And really, why would it be?

We eventually stumble upon Roscos. It's fairly new, and was highly recommended by a friend who's ate there several times. I'd been myself a few months ago, and both the pâté and the seabass were good. It should be noted though that visit was shortly after me and aforementioned friend had enjoyed several bottles of wine, so I can't vouch for how reliable that view may have been.

So we sit outside, where the Italian waiter brings out seemingly endless trays of cocktails out to the ladies on the table next to us.. and we wait, and we wait, and we wait some more. I try to get his attention several times, but his only interest is chatting up these women. My boy thankfully goes inside to order. My good-weather-induced-good-mood is wavering by this point, and I'm just tired and hungry.

After some rather disorganised service, I eventually get the Marco pizza - local goat's cheese, red onion, slow roasted tomatoes, wild rocket and a balsamic reduction. I have to admit that the base can't be complained about. It's thin, doughy, slightly crisp on the edges and elastic and soft towards the centre. The toppings are sparse though and lacking in flavour - two very small clumps of goat's cheese, and not enough of anything else. It needs pepper, which I wasn't offered.

My boy gets the Tuscan lamb stew. He says it's okay, though the lamb is chewy.

I'm generally not a rosé drinker, so can't express too much of an opinion of the house bottle that we ordered. It was drinkable, if a little bit vinegar-ish.

The bill (which takes a good fifteen minutes to track down) comes to around £40.

I politely mentioned to the waiter that we'd practically been ignored by the staff, despite other tables getting undivided attention. He shrugged, looked over to the Italian, who was still chatting to the ladies, and said 'That's what he's here for'.

I wanted to like Roscos, I really did. Good service would have probably turned the average food into a far better experience, but it wasn't to be.

Result: 3/10.

Tyne House

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Fancie cupcakes, Sheffield.

Ever since Carrie Bradshaw stepped her Manalo Blahniks into the Magnolia Bakery in New York, cupcake bakeries have sprung up on high streets all over the world. It's now fashionable to eat cake. London, unsurprisingly, have their own answers to Magnolia, notably at the Hummingbird Bakery, but us northerners haven't missed out on the trend.

I've been working in Sheffield for almost a year now and have planned on visiting this little cupcake shop, which is just 5 minutes from my house, since day one. Today, a lazy Sunday, was to be the day.

Firstly, Fancie is just so cute. I want to pack everything up into my handbag and take it home for my own kitchen. It's kitsch and fun, and I love it as soon as I walk in. The vintage china, all the photographs decorating the walls, the postcards, the 1960's records playing in the background.

There's an impressive array of cupcakes in all different flavours, shapes and sizes, topped with swirls and sprinkles and fresh fruit and pretty much anything else you could want on top of your cake. I went for the banoffee. The cake itself was soft, moist, and left me wondering exactly how many bananas you need to use to make a cake this banana-y. In a very good way. I seem to have missed any toffee though. The buttercream swirl was fresh and light, sprinkled with chopped nuts. I have to admit that I don't actually have a massively sweet tooth, and I'm defeated after eating three quarters of it, in order to prevent death-by-cupcake. The cake was good though. The coffee would have been good too, if it hadn't been verging on luke warm.

I think I arrived shortly after they'd just opened, and whilst I was first there, it filled up (which isn't particularly difficult as there's only four tables) within ten minutes. Various groups and couples came in to buy cakes to take away, and even a birthday cake was ordered. Get here early for a table, or be prepared to take a cake home with you.

I'll go again. Probably for the cappuccino cupcake. It'd also be nice to see some savoury options.. though maybe that would be missing the point.

Result: 8/10.

388 Sharrowvale Road
S11 8ZP

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Sunday dinner at Oldfields, Newcastle.

Sunday dinner is a big deal in my boyfriend's book. I'm not really quite sure if anything would offend him more than if I suggested anything other than a roast on a Sunday. Luckily I rarely do, because otherwise it just wouldn't be a Sunday, would it?

This Sunday, it's my turn to choose where we go. I choose Oldfields. Their philosophy is real British food, simply prepared, locally sourced. We've eaten here several times before and it's always been very, very good. Their website tells me they're doing a 3-courses-for-£12.95 offer; even better.

We arrive shortly after 12.30, and it's empty apart from another couple. Previous good impressions were reinforced by a friendly welcome, and despite the emptiness, it doesn't lack in atmosphere and I have high hopes. We opt for the three courses, both starting with the leek and potato soup, then the topside of Neasham Farm beef.

Soup is rarely my starter of choice; today though, I chose well. It's steaming hot, slightly foamy, fresh, creamy, and tangy (sour cream possibly?), with a door-wedge chunk of bread. I'd definitely order this again.

beef is also good. Tender and slightly pink. I'm a bit disappointed by the potatoes though, which are rather ameamic looking. Where are the crispy bits??? They're a bit garlicky and fluffy soft inside, which partly makes up for it. The carrots and peas are beautiful, so sweet, as if they've just been picked from the garden. Given the philosophy of Oldfields it's probable, and it's admirable that they do it so well. Locally sourced is all well and good, but only if it's not at the detriment of the quality, and here, it is not. The gravy's lovely too. The yorkshire pudding isn't bad, but a bit soggy inside in places. All in all, it's a very good roast and importantly, is just the right size. There's nothing worse than trying to work your way through a mountain of a Sunday lunch - though maybe it wouldn't be so bad if it was of this quality. My boy says there's not enough meat, but he does like boyfriend-sized portions, and I think that there was ample. Quality over quantity, and all that.

We deliberate over the dessert menu, and decide we may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. I go for the rhubarb and custard tart, and Andy has the sticky toffee pudding. Again, I chose well. The pastry is buttery yet crisp, and the rhubard is wonderfully tart and juicy. My iPhone pictures don't do any of these justice, as all courses were also beautifully presented.

Altogether, including 2 glasses of Pinot Grigio and two pints of the local Wylam ale, the bill came to £45, including the service charge. Not bad at all. We also noticed that they're offering 2 course lunches for £7.50, Monday to Saturday, and you'd be hard pushed to find something of this quality cheaper than that, however hard you look.

By the time we leave, the place is practically full. What I also love about Oldfields is that they seem to be genuinely passionate about what they're doing. I'm pleased that other people are too.

Result: 9/10.

Oldfields Noted Eating House
Ground Floor, Milburn House
Dean Street
Newcastle upon Tyne