Definitely a retreat within the city. Historic Blackfriars is medieval must-see; its historic buildings overlook a peaceful green space right in the heart of Newcastle. It always feels like a sneaky retreat, especially at lunch time or after work.
The public space has been revived in recent months with the addition of a new bar area by the entrance and expanded cookery school and tasting area upstairs. The restaurant is medieval to the max; think chunky oak furniture, stone floors, teeny windows and tapestries.
Wine, mead, ale and whisky. You can check-in for wine tasting sessions in the atmospheric upstairs room with its antique furnishings. Or, the new bar area is the perfect spot to hide away with a local craft beer, cocktail or G&T.
Blackfriars is all about provenance; celebrating the heritage of Northumbrian food and drink, making the most of local suppliers and dipping in to some recipe books from days gone by. It’s also a pretty good spot to sample that Geordie culinary calories-buster and all-round comforter, pan haggerty. Sample it from an early-evening supper menu at £18 for two courses.
What we ate
In something of an evening pre-theatre dash, we opted for main courses only from the a la carte menu. Knowing that they do fish well here (it’s predominantly from the North Sea and Scotland), we fancied a taste of the sea and plumped for main courses of sea bass and cod (main courses around the £18 mark). The pan-fried black cod was certainly a winner; a white and fleshy slab of really fresh-tasting, easy-flaking fish. It looked light and lovely on its rustic plate, with spring onion gnocchi, crispy batter and sea vegetables offering up a sharp variation on textures, tastes and greenery – which works well with fish. A seasonal dish of seabass came crispy-skinned and heaped with luscious, teeny, sweet and nuggety brown shrimps. The delicate fish was good, but it was all bathed in an overwhelmingly sweet, rich beetroot sauce, which hadn’t been apparent on the menu. We love a bit of beetroot, but this was all too sweet a combination for us. A late arrival chum was in the know, ordering a favourite – the statement pan haggerty (£15 on the a la carte). She’s a longtime fan of this comforting, buttery slab of layered up potatoes and onion, which comes with a lovely oozy egg on top. They have definitely cornered the market with this regional speciality – it’s the benchmark! Clearly Blackfriars is a pull for the visitor to Newcastle hankering for inventive locally-sourced fare. Wonder what the monks who used to call it home would make of this modern day gluttony?