Dine in the Sky has to quite literally be one of the gourmet highlights of the Tyneside food year.
Yes, you can reach the dizzy heights of food perfection with your feet firmly on the ground but this open air food experience takes dining to another level.
It’s one where you’re up close and personal with that curvy rooftop of Sage, Gateshead (sparkly clean actually), where you get a bird’s eye view of the Tyne Bridge as cars cross in an ant-like scamper, and where in the distance the floodlights of St James’s Park cast a glow.
Time it right and you’re in pole position for a fabulous sunset too.
All this and showcase food?
We joined the ‘Newcastle in the Sky’ flight for dinner prepared by the team from artisan, Newcastle.
The suspended dining table seats 22 diners who are strapped in (roller-coaster-style – you’re VERY secure) to seats which surround a central prep and service area.
Fuelled by a pre-flight glass of champagne, it’s time for take-off.
As a crane starts to lift you skywards, your first course plate of restaurant-worthy food appears. We were trying the vegetarian and and meat menus. (Veggie for a change because artisan is known for its inventive meat-free dishes).
It’s fair to say you don’t know which way to look! It’s thrilling and a bit mad to be eating a four-course gourmet menu in your big coat dangling by the Tyne. But it’s great fun, especially to be up-close with the chefs who are feeding you at a pace and chatting as you go.
Starters of Lindisfarne oysters and a crushed broad bean bruschetta were fabulously fresh with artisan’s signature attention to detail in every bite.
We moved on to a second cold starter; a beautiful North sea crab salad with fennel, citrus and orange – and the veggie alternative of fresh goats’ curd with Harle leafy salad and honey. Loads of bold, perky flavours – and expertly assembled to create a picture-perfect plate. We watched as chef Andrew Wilkinson worked his magic up high in his sky-high mini kitchen adding tiny flourishes of herbs to the plates – a gust of wind in the wrong direction and his fennel fronds could have fluttered to the floor, but he kept it all stable – and looking and tasting amazing.
The main course was the only hot dish of the four-course menu. One of the trickiest aspects of this dining style has to be keeping food warm at this altitude – but they nailed it with an exquisite course of Northumberland lamb with navarin of the sweetest summer vegetables.
Likewise, potato gratin with glazed shallot, asparagus and young garlic was buttery, flavoursome and comforting.
Midway in your ‘flight’ the table takes a turn so you get the chance to dine with a different view: it’s sociable, entertaining and, when you glance down, ever-so-slight “OMG”.
It’s the stuff of Instagram-impress for sure, but what you maybe don’t expect is the quality of the food served up there in such a confined kitchen. (Much of the prep is done beforehand in a marquee kitchen at ground level).
Desserts were very wow, again making the most of season ingredients – luscious raspberries and vanilla poached peach with a champagne, pannacotta and crunchy pistachio which was fresh, rich and moreish.
The artisan team is back up in the sky next Monday. Well worth joining them for a flight – in what is certainly the best seat in the house.
Newcastle in the Sky flights are available for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and cocktails until August 29th.