A rustic soup-and-sarnie joint in the heart of Eldon Garden. This quiet part of Eldon Square barely gets any action these days among the city’s young guns and well-dressed professionals (it’s more of a go-to for the silver-haired, older chums and on-the-go workers looking for a quick bite), which is a shame, because Garden Kitchen is a real foodie gem – somewhere worth stopping by for a leisurely sit-down meal – and more people should be shouting about it. A place for brekkie, lunch, casual drinks and even Afternoon Tea.
Its good looks makes it stand-out in what is a rather tired-looking part of Newcastle’s buzzy shopping centre. It’s split into two levels – the upper is more like a chic cafe, complete with a trendy circular bar (lots of lovely industrial-style lighting and shabby chic bar stools), while the lower looks more like a trendy restaurant, with plush, cream booths and rustic wood tables. It’s fancier than you’d imagine.
All the usual tea, coffee and soft drinks, plus fresh, homemade lemonade and a pretty impressive wine and cocktail list for such a casual dining spot – and considering its whereabouts. Red, white, rose and sparkling bottles from all over the globe, as well as some great cocktails – things like ‘strawberry blonde’ mojitos, French martinis, ‘Three Shades of Green’ (a mix of Hendricks gin, fresh lemon, cucumber, basil and mint) and the bar’s version of a Bloody Mary.
Expect to find a small, fuss-free menu, but one that still manages to offer plenty of choice for hungry eaters, meat eaters, small grazers, vegetarians and even vegans. Visiting at brekkie time? Enjoy dishes such as hunks of sourdough with lashings of jam and butter, freshly-baked French pastries and Eggs Benedict until 12pm. Lunch is a little more adventurous; think Mediterranean-style salads, sophisticated sarnies and oozy toasties made with hit-the-spot ingredients such as chorizo and buffalo mozzarella, house pastrami with cucumber pickles and Portobello mushrooms with strong cheddar. There’s also quiche and soup of the day and good old jacket potatoes if that’s all you fancy. The kitchen also whips up its own version of Afternoon Tea – a real feast with a garden picnic twist – perfect for sharing and for those who fancy something different to mini sandwiches and macarons.
What we ate
Afternoon Tea Week was in full swing when we visited, so it was a no-brainer when it came to deciding what order. Settling down to a spot of ‘Garden Picnic Tea’ (£19.95 for two) here means you’re treated (and we mean treated) to a feast of Garden Kitchen’s foodie best bits – from soup and salad, to scones and sweetness – all served on a neat wooden picnic bench for added theatre and fun. We weren’t too sure where to begin, so just went for what our eyes liked the look of first. Two individual pots of soup of the day kicked things off – in this case creamy, homemade butternut squash. We loved the vibrant orange colour and the fact that it arrived well-seasoned and slightly sweet. Thick and comforting and not a drop was left. Next up, a doorstop-sized ciabatta sarnie, filled with slices of juicy beef tomato, crunchy red onion and homemade pesto for an Italian twist. Meat-eaters can opt for a BLT, but we’d urge anyone and everyone to try the pesto – really fragrant and herby, made with good quality olive oil, packed with parmesan for a bit of heat, crunchy pine nuts and lots of basil. So good, we would’ve bought a jar of the stuff had it been on offer. We enjoyed two generous portions of salad next – one made with fresh penne, mixed with grilled veggies, basil and parmesan, topped with buffalo mozzarella and more of that heavenly pesto, which was surprisingly light on the stomach. The vegan bowl of goodness was our favourite – think sprigs of charred broccoli and sweet potato chunks, tossed with a generous helping of nutty quinoa and a non-oily, non-sugary, garlic and chilli dressing that delivered a nice kick of spice. You can order this as a main dish if you like – and we will next time. No complaints whatsoever – really wholesome, fresh and filling. We satisfied our sweet tooth with a fist-sized scone each, wonderfully crumbly and studded with plump raisins and currants, which we happily smothered with clotted cream and sticky strawberry jam. We shared the cakes – zesty slices of lemon drizzle, with splodges of curd inside, and thick, fudgey brownies that made our eyes roll with delight. We left with big, full bellies and even bigger smiles. A truly unique twist on traditional Afternoon Tea – a five-star feast – that absolutely delivered. Great value for money, too, considering how much food you get and that fact that you’re only paying a tenner each. We’ll definitely be back.