An innovative, modern butcher shop – glossy, inviting and state-of-the-art – and restaurant, inside Fenwick’s swish Food Hall. It’s the newest addition to 21 Hospitality’s family of luxury dining destinations, designed for meat lovers who appreciate top cuts, sourced from specialist producers, prepared with respect and passion by expert hands and executed in fabulous fine-dining fashion. With Terry Laybourne at the helm, not only are diners guaranteed tasty plates, but a dynamic dining experience to remember. We love the hybrid retail/restaurant concept; eating here is engaging and exciting – and mouthwatering too. The creative chefs operate an open kitchen, so nabbing a spot at the bar (there’s room for around 14 people) means you’ll see your slab of good stuff being cooked, to your liking, right in front of you. A real feast for the eyes – and great for casual, hungry shoppers. If you’d prefer to make an evening out of it, you can book a table in the sleek restaurant for a sit-down, slap-up meal, or if you fancy charring away at home, you can purchase your meat directly from the butcher’s counter, where you’ll be met and guided by one of team’s meat experts.
Decor-wise, it fits in with the rest of the Food Hall’s look perfectly; it’s sleek, it’s spotless and effortlessly good-looking. The bar stools are plush cream leather, the bar is shining marble and there’s a mix of industrial-style lighting, mahogany wood and mosaic-style floor tiles. The restaurant is very luxey; lots of muted mauves, round tables that create a feeling of intimacy, bright orange velvet chairs (we love), crisp white tablecloths and shining silverware, and soft focus light that relaxes and puts you at ease. Best of all, despite its gentle poshness (the Food Hall’s a rather fancy joint in general, isn’t it?), it’s not at all pretentious. The atmosphere is welcoming and inviting, there’s no stuffy dress-code (though it’s the perfect place to dress up for come nightfall) and there’s a real sense of enjoyment and occasion in the air. Plenty of buzzy conversation, laughter and smiles – always good to hear and see.
Steak and a good glass (bottle?) of vino go hand-in-hand, so expect to find some seriously good, carefully-selected red here – white too, if you’d prefer. There are classic cocktails if that’s more your thing. Unfortunately we were driving, so opted for water – but it still arrived ice cold, with fresh lemon wedges and a separate pot of ice cubes and mini tongs. Very fancy, eh?
Terry and the team’s ‘cook what we sell, sell what we cook’ approach means everything served is as fresh-as-can-be and, when it comes to quality and flavour, you can bet your bottom dollar that it’s as good as it gets. Meat is cooked using a charcoal-fired Josper grill and one of the key suppliers is world-renowned meat supplier Peter Hannan, who runs Hannan Meats. The award-winning beef is dry-aged for up to 45 days in Himalayan salt chambers, giving the meat a unique flavour and tenderness, and the Food Hall is the only retailer in the North East serving it (London’s Fortnum & Mason is the only other retailer to offer the beef in England). Other specialist cuts include Northumberland Wagyu beef from specialist producer Steve Ramshaw and Middle White pork from Ravensworth Grange Farm. Menu-wise, you’re looking at a selection of raw and cured plates and small plates (both work as starters), steaks (all native breeds, traditionally reared), Himalayan salt-chamber stand-outs, plus big cuts for sharing and a selection of other mains – things like grilled lamb chops with mint jelly, venison burger, spiced Italian sausages and ox cheek and brown ale pie, with or without oysters from next door neighbour Saltwater Fish Company.
We dined mid-week with two chums, so our table was filled with yummy things. To start, a selection of sashimi stand-outs (£9.20) from Saltwater; in this case velvety slithers of baby-pink salmon, fresh tuna pieces and soft, fleshy seabass – sparkling white and freshly-caught. One buddy opted for chicken liver pâté (£5.80 – and you get a pretty generous portion of the stuff) spread on hot, crusty toast, with dinky dill pickles on the side for tang, while the other devoured a wonderfully oozy fried duck egg, topped with Basque black pudding (£7.10) – the colour of charcoal, nice and peppery, with a rich, beefy, onion-y flavour. For mains, it was two ‘chateau’ steaks (£28.20 each) – one with a pot of heady red wine sauce. A thick cut from the tenderloin filet, the meat arrived plump and raspberry red in the middle – just how we like it – with a charred fringe that provided a bit of bite and packed tons of BBQ-like flavour. We agreed that it was probably the best cut of meat either of us had had – the only downside we felt was portion-size. Another chum went for good old fillet steak (£26.40) – always a crowd-pleaser – which arrived just as tender and juicy as ours. No chewiness, thankfully, and brought to life when smothered in homemade peppercorn sauce. A classic combo executed perfectly. Sides were crisp steamed greens (£3.50), drizzled in extra virgin olive oil, for some goodness, warm wedges of sourdough from the restaurant’s friends over at Mason + Rye (£2.50 – perfect for mopping up any leftover sauce) and a pot of ‘hipster’ chips, doused in truffle oil and sprinkled with parmesan (£3.20) – a real must-order. Desserts aren’t always necessary, but our greedy bellies were still left wanting more due to the petite portions here, so we took the plunge and ordered a few to share. For us, the stand-outs are the sweet and syrupy pineapple rings (£5), grilled and smothered in a divine chilli caramel sauce that hardens in places and is oozes in others (and delivers the tiniest amount of heat to tickle the tastebuds) with a scoop of coconut ice cream for tropical creaminess, and the wobbly and golden crème caramel (£4.80). Overall, a faultless meal – and we will be back – we just wish there had been more food to feed our (somewhat greedy) bellies. We advise you don’t skip on sides – or dessert if you have a sweet tooth.