A modern neighbourhood bistro, on the outskirts of leafy Jesmond. Owned and run by head chef Nick Grieves – an exceptionally talented self-taught cook from Durham – the restaurant has only been open a year (give or take), but has already stolen the hearts of Newcastle foodies and a few well-respected critics, too, for its mouthwatering, effortlessly sophisticated plates – all of which are made simply, with only a few ingredients, and served with fine dining flair. A place for intimate, candlelit dinners, deliciously laid-back lunches and really special Sunday dinners, a dining experience here is what you make of it, but a few things are guaranteed: it’s likely you’ll have some of the best food you’ve had in years, you’ll receive top-notch service from start to finish and, by the time you’ve made it to dessert, you won’t have realised how many joyous hours have flown by. It’s just that kind of place, as we discovered.
Small and unassuming – but that’s not to say it isn’t good-looking. You’ll find only a handful of tables – around a dozen – draped in crisp white cloths, with a single twinkling candle and sparkling silverware. Chairs are wooden, the walls are painted aubergine and the teeny-tiny and oh-so-serene kitchen is open for all to see (at the moment it’s just Nick and one other chef). We love the artwork – cool, retro prints – and poster pics of Frank Sinatra and Jack Nicolson in the toilets. Little quirks that bring the fun-factor. Dining after dark sees the place transform into the cosiest hang-out, filled with the most salivating smells and happy smiles all round. Somewhere for families, friends, couples and even solo diners – we saw them all on our visit.
Nick is passionate about his vino and The Patricia is one of the only restaurants in the North East (in fact it might be the only one) to offer its diners ‘natural wines’ – wine that’s farmed organically, usually, and made without adding or removing anything during the wine-making process – to complement its food. Unfortunately we were driving, but our chum took great pleasure in tasting a few tipples on our behalf. There’s something for everyone – sparkling, red, white, rosé and ‘skin contact’ (an amber wine made from white wine grapes, with the skin left on) – but the velvety, ruby-red Pinot Noir (from Catalunya, Spain) was our pick of the night. You’ll find beer and cider, a couple of cocktails and some really great spirits and liquors on the menu, too.
Where do we begin? Nick’s ambitious, beautifully-crafted menu deserves every inch of praise it receives. Divided into ‘snacks’, starters, mains and desserts, each section showcases a handful of fuss-free, unpretentious plates, marrying seemingly simple ingredients (think giant meatballs and mini cheese and cherry sandwiches, to sprouts smothered in velvety cheese sauce and roast cod with beans and cabbage) and yet the results are nothing short of show-stopping in terms of presentation and flavour. Really ambitiously put together – and exciting. Flavour combos you might not have considered before – but ones that leave you licking your lips with glee and stay with you for days on end.
What we ate
We kicked things off with a couple of ‘snacks’ – Époisses de Bourgogne and preserved cherry sandwich (£4) and Nocellara del Belice olives (£4). The posh-looking little sarnie was a total triumph; two golden sourdough crisps filled with oozy, gooey and wonderfully stinky Époisses de Bourgogne cheese (somewhere in between Stilton and Camembert if you haven’t had it before), with sharp-and-sweet cherry nuggets for some cut-through tartness. Ridiculously simple, but brilliant. Eating it with your hands, and in seconds, is the only way. The olives were as good as we’d hoped; mint green, pop-in-your-mouth pleasures, juicy and surprisingly filling. For starters, we couldn’t say no to the “Frankie Spuntinos” meatballs (£8 and inspired by the meatballs Nick discovered and fell in love with at an authentic New York-Italian-style bistro in the Big Apple), served in a slow-cooked tomato sauce – a one you could tell that’d been blipping and bubbling away for some time. Zero complaints for us – and we’re sure our fellow meat-eaters will feel the same. You get two fist-sized balls of the most tender, melt-in-the-mouth beef, well-seasoned and gently charred on the outside for a bit of smokiness, topped with a rich, herby sauce – perfectly thick and velvety. A comforting dish that took us down memory lane to childhood holidays to Italy – and one we’d order again and again. Our chum, a life-long leek-lover, happily settled on the roasted leeks with barrel aged feta and vinaigrette (£9) and time and time again in between mouthfuls stopped to say how wonderful they thought it was. Again, another simple plate of food, but a one packed with exciting flavours and textures to keep the tastebuds on their toes; salty, tangy crumbles of feta, woody ribbons of leeks and a gorgeously sunny tapenade-like dressing for some perkiness. Mains were faultless; roast cod for us (£24), draped in thick and salty finocchiona sausage, joined by creamy cannellini beans and gently-torched cabbage for some crunch. Super simple, but all of our favourite things on a plate – and portion-size was spot on. The fish was cooked perfectly; fleshy, moist and fall-off-the-fork delicate. And its meaty salami coat… well, just order it and find out for yourselves. Divine. Our buddy, a vegetarian, chose the Gnocchi Parisienne (£16), served in the most decadent, silky mushroom-cream sauce, made with woody shiitake and more of that gorgeous Époisses de Bourgogne for extra richness. The sauce proved a little too intense for them once they’d gobbled up the last of their fluffy pasta-potato parcels, but not for us – we happily finished it off. If only we’d been given a spoon – we would’ve drank the lot. By the time desserts arrived, we’d already spent a good two and a half hours sat at the table, poring over our plates, pouring wine and catching up on each other’s day – proof that you can’t help but feel at home here. We (reluctantly) rounded things off with fennel and honey panna cotta (£7) – a wonderfully wobbly, snow-white masterpiece with a slight aniseed-y aftertaste from the fresh fennel, served with sticky-sweet shards of rhubarb, and one of the kitchen’s most popular puds – the chocolate mousse (£7). Order this and you’re essentially tucking in to a few generous spoonfuls of homemade dark chocolate ganache – devishly thick, indulgent and gooey – topped with a slick of super salty caramel, toasted hazelnuts for crunch and a slight Nutella vibe, plus a few plump cherries. Just fantastic – one of the best meals we’ve had in months. Book up now.