A unique dining experience, created by master restaurateur and chef, Terry Laybourne. Available Tuesdays to Thursdays, the tours take hungry tums on a short culinary journey through three of Terry’s tasty Quayside venues; kicking things off in The Broad Chare for moreish bar snacks and a glass of vino (or a pint), before moving on to Caffè Vivo for mains (and more wine) and ending the night over at 21 for coffee and a slice or two of something sweet. The the perfect quirky Christmas gift for the foodie in your life.
We’re no stranger to these three mouthwatering restaurants. The Broad Chare, a place for ‘proper’ pub grub and beer, is an unfussy, effortlessly cosy place to hunker down and enjoy rustic, home-cooked food – preferably with good chums, or even a good book (there are plenty of comforting nooks and crannies you can make yourselves at home in for an hour or two). Dining here feels lusciously laid-back – like a big, warm hug on a chilling winter’s night – and you can’t help but feel at home. Decor-wise, think stripped wood floors, wonky bar stools, a polished oak bar, school room-style chairs, shiny brass coat-hooks. Caffè Vivo, meanwhile, is just as unfussy – but with an elegant edge that reminds us of the traditional walk-in restaurant and bars, open day and night, you’ll find in Italy. Authentic and easy-going, with a focus on simple, unpretentious grub. Housed in a former warehouse – brick walls, cast-iron pillars, big, lovely windows that flood the place with natural light – surroundings are casual, bright and sunny. Head to 21 for a chic dining experience every time; the modern bistro is the place to be for fancy-pants meals (but with zero pretension). Crisp white tablecloths, sparkling silverware, top-notch service and a real celebratory atmosphere.
We sipped on icy pints of ale and lager at The Broad Chare – but you can opt for wine if you prefer. Craft beers are the thing here, as are house ales from Wylam Brewery and even own-label brews. Guest beers change regularly, there are bottled beers from around the globe to swig on, plus top-notch ciders, wines by the glass and a quirky collection of whiskies. It’s wine all the way at Caffè Vivo; your voucher bags you a glass of house red or white, or rosé. We opted for white, while our dining buddy opted for red – both hand-picked straight from Italy, of course. It’s dessert time when you reach 21, which means tea (or coffee) for two. Peppermint tea fit the bill for us, while our chum went for a suitably-strong Irish coffee to warm the cockles.
Restaurant-hopping down the Quayside may not appeal to everyone (especially now, as the weather turns arctic), but couldn’t have enjoyed experience more. It’s a fun and unique way of dining that keeps your stomach rumbling on with excitement from start to finish – and you on your toes. Sampling different menus and food styles we loved; from choosing a handful of flavour-packed bar bites at The Broad Chare (fresh, local seafood, fist-sized Scotch eggs and pork pies, crispy pig ears and crackling and cauliflower fritters are all up for grabs), to diving in to simply (but deliciously) done mains at Vivo (chargrilled meats and roasted fish, Mediterranean-style pasta, rustic lasagne and steak – take your pick) and decadent desserts over at 21 – towering soufflés, posh doughnuts, spiced cakes, buttery parfaits and boozy slices of chocolatey heaven.
What we ate
The Broad Chare’s mighty bar snacks pack a real punch when it comes to flavour – and portion size. A couple each, or to share, leave you nor full or starving – and they’re all lick-your-lips delicious. We sat for a good five minutes deliberating (they’re all so good), but in the end settled on two helpings of Lindisfarne oysters, deep-fried monkfish cheeks, a 1/4 pint of Atlantic prawns and the pork crackling. As hoped, the seafood was as fresh as ever; the whole, perfectly-pink prawns – eyes, tails, whiskers and all – were plump and juicy, with the perfect amount of straight-from-the-sea saltiness. Same for the oysters; four big things served in spotlessly clean, glossy shells. Down the hatch they went, filling our mouths and heads with the taste/smell of the North Sea. Our chum, a life-long surfer and seafood fan, was in his element. The crackling was faultless; crisp, narly and non-oily, with a sweet, meaty flavour – and really salty too, as crackling should be. Mains at Vivo were a triumph; roasted brill with salsa verde for us and a slab of sirloin for our chum. As expected, both dishes were served simply – after all, the kitchen here lets the ingredients do the talking. Our fish was most impressive; you get the entire fish, bones and all, gently roasted for the flakiest, most delicate meat. We could’ve done with more of the garlicky salsa verde – it added real zing and vibrancy – so we also ordered a side of lentils (more like a creamy dal), which comes with salsa verde too. The stuff was just too good. Our buddy’s dry-aged sirloin was cooked to his liking – rare and tender – joined by fluffy roasties, infused with rosemary and a peppery rocket and parmesan salad. A familiar, no-frills plate that got a big thumbs up. Our desserts at 21 rounded the experience off perfectly; two indulgent puds that had us eye-rolling with delight. We devoured the financier (new for autumn/winter), packed with festive spices, topped with crisp toffee apple and a dollop of heady calvados ice cream – the flavour was something in between a sticky toffee pudding and a Christmassy apple crumble. Just divine – and decorated with edible gold for extra fanciness. Our pal, meanwhile, (who doesn’t usually order dessert) wolfed the banana and chocolate soufflé down like there was no tomorrow. Hands-down, one of the airiest, fluffiest, towering things we’ve seen – it couldn’t have been executed better. A few digs of the spoon and you uncover a rich and glossy chocolate puddle – and you get peanut brittle ice cream too for a bit of salty tang. Excellent stuff. Foodie fans, boy are you in for a treat – let’s hope Santa brings you one of these vouchers. Those lucky enough to bag one won’t be left disappoint – judging by our bellies and big smiles, we certainly weren’t.
Tour available Tuesday-Thursday only. £45, vouchers are valid for one person. All gift vouchers are valid for six months from the date of purchase and are sent via ‘signed for’ delivery.