A new, deli-style cafe, opposite Newcastle’s The Sandman Signature Hotel and its sporty Shark Club bar and restaurant. Managed by the folk behind Aurora Athletic, one of the city’s leading fitness coaching brands, it’s a buzzy little find where health and nutrition are key; the fresh-and-fast food, much like the grub you’ll find at the likes of Gosforth and Heaton’s The Naked Deli, is ‘macro-friendly’ (that’s ‘well-balanced’ to you and me), meaning you can tuck pretty much guilt-free, knowing your doing your insides some good. It’s already a huge hit with the city’s social media-loving gym-bunnies and smoothie-chugging young professionals, despite only being open a few weeks.
Fuss-free and simple – and with a touch of the industrial. Exposed grey brickwork, concrete walls and flooring, simple wood tables, barstool seating at the windows and funky hanging lights. Some might say it looks ‘unfinished’, but that’s the point – and we like it a lot. Spacious, clean (like its food), with its winning menu quite literally up in lights on a big screen.
Nab a vitamin-charged juice from the fridge, order a good-for-the-gut smoothie, or opt for herbal tea or water. The tea went down well with us.
Waistline-watchers and healthy-eaters will no doubt love the menu which, thankfully, isn’t complicated, long-winded or packed with baffling ingredients/trendy foodie terms. It’s the kitchen team’s aim to make healthy food exciting and give diners a decent amount of ‘scran’ to fuel and see them through their gym sessions and busy days – so don’t expect to go hungry if you decide to stop by. Brekkie and brunch-style plates range from £3.95-£7.95 and include big hitters such as protein-packed pancakes, sweet potato hash with poached eggs, ‘clean grills’, wedges of maple French toast, creamy bowls of overnight oats and tasty ‘topped toast’. Mains (£7.95-£11.95) are hearty and protein-packed – think meaty and veggie boards, veggie curry, ‘naked’ burrito bowls, wraps and Teriyaki/satay-smothered salmon and chicken. They also offer neat ‘built boxes’ (£6.95 for regular, £8.95 for large), whereby you choose your protein, carby side, salad and sauce. The add-ons are worth a mention too – spice up your dish with stuff like Asian-style green beans, corn on the cob, falafel, ‘clean beans’ and avocado. If we could’ve ordered everything. we would’ve.
What we ate
We sat down on a Saturday evening and so missed out on the (very tempting) brekkie options – but we’ll rectify that soon. Eager to stuff our chops with as much green goodness as we could and intrigued to discover how the food would compare to Aurora’s competitors, we shared a few different dishes, opting for two mains, a topped toast for two and a large ‘built box’ – just to see what they were about. We kicked things off with the steak board (£12.95); thick slices of meat, cooked to your liking (rare in our case), served with sweet potato fries, grilled asparagus, tomatoes and flat-grilled mushrooms. A big thumbs up for the steak we say; it was cooked to perfection, juicy and blushing and nicely charred on the outside, with zero chew or gristle. A relief, as so many places get steak wrong. We were also pleased to have been served a good amount of fresh asparagus with plenty of bite and snap, near-giant mushrooms and tomatoes and oodles and oodles of crispy sweet potato chips – though we would’ve preferred them baked, rather than fried. Our second main was also nice – though wasn’t demolished with as much gusto as our meaty board. Try the chilli and garlic chicken if you’re craving all the flavours of a Chinese takeaway, but don’t fancy all the calories. You get a fabulously-sized portion of grilled chicken in a sticky, lick-your-lips sweet chilli glaze, a mix of sweet sautéed peppers, sizzling onions and chilli, with brown rice – very comforting indeed and one of the most popular dishes, apparently. Our ‘built box’ contained roast chicken breast (though we regretted not going for salmon or king prawns), mountains of fluffy quinoa, crunchy mixed salad and a decent amount of avocado pesto for our dressing. We loved this stuff – creamy, herby, zingy… heavenly. Again, portion size was fantastic (these are real go-hard-or-go-home boxes), but our dry chicken let it down somewhat and, overall, it could’ve done with a lot more seasoning. Sprinkle on extra jalapeños, like we did, if you want to kick things up a notch. Desserts were free samples of coconut and dark chocolate brownie and a banana and blueberry flapjack from the counter. Healthier versions, of course, but still mouthwatering – chewy, gooey and moreish. Definitely worth a pick-up if you’re passing post spin class. We’ll be back for more.