A chilled-out, New York-inspired bar and restaurant – and the foodie hub of The County Hotel in Newcastle city centre. A marvellous makeover is currently underway, transforming the hotel into a luxury stop-over for visitors and locals, but the bar and restaurant (named after the great railway pioneer, George Hudson) is open now, showing off its sleek good looks, posh nosh and expertly-crafted tipples. We advise visiting after dark, when it’s more intimate and twinkly, the DJ starts playing smooth tunes and the cocktails start flowing.
Like we say, the bar reminds us of a typical, slinky New York-style watering hole. Classy and contemporary, lots of muted mauve, mink and dusty grey. Accents of gold add the Luxe factor. Over in the restaurant, it’s all about the hidden velvet booths (we took one) and their glassy, mirrored walls. There’s a nice outdoor courtyard, too, if the weather’s nice, and we like that you can see your food being prepared in the kitchen; it added a sense of occasion and made for an exciting dining experience when we could smell and see all the sizzling action.
Cocktails are the thing here; choose from ‘show’-stoppers, such as ‘Peanut Butter Coladas’ and ‘Lady Fizz’ (gin, strawberries, kiwi, lemon and bubbles), house favourites like passionfruit-spiked mojitos, balloon glasses of Aperol Spritz and dreamy pistachio espresso martinis (£7.50 – you must try one). Our chum tried one of the bar’s ‘twisted classics’ – this time a ‘G&P Cup’ (£6.50), which is basically a mix between a G&T and Pimms, served in a teapot and drank out of a teacup. Sounds gimmicky, but it’s legit. Really summery and refreshing. Another good one to try while the weather’s still warm (ish). Oh, and there’s all the usual wine, spirits and sparkling options, if you prefer.
There are two foodie menus to peruse – a la carte for evenings and a tasty selection of ‘bar bites’ to go alongside your martinis or your gin. The a la carte offering is a fusion of classic British, French, Italian and American-inspired flavours – so expect a bit of a mix of everything. Somewhere in between fine dining (good quality, locally-sourced meat and indulgent seafood options) and casual brasserie-style grub (burgers, lasagne and battered cod).
We kicked things off with three (yes three) starters, which we shared between the two of us. The oak-smoked salmon (£7.95) fit the bill; velvety slithers of baby pink flesh, topped with tangy capers, on a bed of fresh spinach with a herby rocket dressing. Super light and pleasing. The pan-fried scallops (£12.95) also went down a treat; we were served perfectly-seared black pearl beauties – three big, plump things – joined by vanilla-cured salmon, mellow and sweet, with a touch of creamy butternut squash puree. Really impressive. The ‘seafood money bag’ (£6.95) was recommended by a couple of people, so we had to check it out. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint; golden, flaky filo pastry, filled to the brim with juicy king prawns, salmon and tender haddock, smothered in a divine lobster bisque – so good and flavoursome, we asked for more (and not a drop was left). For mains, our chum settled on the Hudson lobster bun (£14.95), which was quite the show-stopper. Think two brioche toasties (who doesn’t love fried bread?), stuffed with creamy lobster, and drizzled in a good amount of truffle oil – never a bad thing in our book. You also get a generous pot of thick-cut chips, cooked with and sprinkled in parmesan, and a couple of dips for dunking. So many calories, but oh-so good. We settled on steak – the tomahawk (£29.95) to be exact. Served on the bone, it was a caveman (or Flintstone)-worthy portion, but we did our best to chew our way through. We’ll be honest and say it wasn’t as juicy as we’d hoped (despite asking for it to be cooked rare), but it was well-seasoned and once we’d cut away most of the fat, the berry-pink meat we found tasted great. We also couldn’t fault the add-ons, like the sweet vine tomatoes (and you get a whole bunch) and buttery greens on the side. Pud-wise, we couldn’t decide, so opted for the trio of desserts (£4.95) in the end; a finger-sized double chocolate brownie, rich and oozy, a teeny lemon tart and ‘Paris brest’ (i.e a blend of hazelnut truffle, coffee and candied cherry – a supposed crowdpleaser according to our waiter, though we preferred the brownie). We also tried the Northumbrian cheese and biscuits (£7.95), which did what it said on the tin, really. Gorgeous onion compote, though, made with a sticky-sweet truffle syrup. We’ll try the port next time.