A new healthy hang-out on Chillingham Road which, actually, isn’t a bad place to find yourself if you’re into your grub. Look closely and you’ll discover a small handful of tasty venues, serving up great quality food and thoroughly decent prices. The likes of The Naked Deli, Starks Kitchen and L’ulivo are some of our favourites – and we’re now adding Dirt to the list, too. The food here is fresh, fast and wholesome, with a focus on local ingredients and nutrition (check the website and the calorie content of every dish is presented in black and white), making it an ideal lunchy/brunchy spot for waistline-watchers, gym-bunnies and healthy-eaters. It caters for vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free diets, too.
We love the aesthetic – a nod to its simple, ‘clean’, fuss-free approach to food. The walls and ceiling are dazzling white. Same goes for the sleek counter (which houses fresh salads, quinoa-crusted quiche, drinks and sweet treats) and the chairs. The floors and table are the only things that bring some colour (light wood in this case) and the lights are bold and black. If we had to describe the decor in one word? Pristine. Monochrome and totally minimalistic (ok, that’s three), without feeling empty or clinical. We love it.
All your regular coffee options (£2-£3), including ‘bulletproof’ coffee, typical of places like this, which blends espresso with grass-fed butter and some kind of good-for-you oil (usually coconut). There are ‘superfood’ lattes (£3), too, (beetroot, tumeric, matcha, cacao… all the usual suspects), a selection of herbal teas (£1.50), jugs of freshly-made juice (£2), protein shakes (all £4) and smoothies (all £4). Go with what you fancy (or what you can stomach?), but we recommend the juice. On this day it was a deep, purple concoction, made with raw beetroot, apple, lime and perhaps something else. Anyway, it was delicious; really refreshing, non-sludgy and very slightly sweet. You could tell it was homemade – and not from a carton.
From coffee roasters to farmers, the owners work closely with local suppliers when it comes to digging out their ingredients – and knowing this feels good when you’re tucking in. Beef and poultry come from the likes of Blagdon Farm and Northumberland Poultry, FAB Bakery (Newcastle) help out in the bread department and Taylor Seafood (North Shields) hand over their freshly-caught finds. Organic Pantry (near York), Holcrofts (Peterlee) and Acorn Dairy (Darlington) are in the mix, too. In terms of service, you’re looking at brekkie/brunch until 12pm, then it’s lunchy bites and larger plates ’til closing (check the website for specific opening times). Early-risers can expect healthy spins on full English brekkies (there are vegan and veggie options too, showcasing vegan meat loaf, crispy kale, avo and house beans), Turkish eggs with tumeric, bowls of homemade granola with yogurt and apple, breakfast burritos and protein pancakes. A late lunch, meanwhile, might mean ‘buddha bowls’ with beetroot falafel (or chicken), stir-fry, sweet potato gnocchi, homemade fishcakes, pulled jackfruit tacos for vegans and beefy meatballs with ‘courgetti’.
What we ate
The sun was shining like never before when we stopped by, so the place was near-empty. Not usually a good sign, especially at the weekend, but on this occasion, completely understandable. It was Royal Wedding day and everyone, bar us, was either outdoors basking in the heat, or sat inside, fizz in-hand, glued to their TV screens. Anyway, we weren’t complaining – sometimes it’s nice to have the whole place to yourselves. With temperatures soaring, we weren’t in the mood for course after course, so settled on a light lunch for two around midday. For us, it was the meatballs with courgetti (£8.50) – a dish we’ve made time and time again at home but, oddly, never had when dining out. Thankfully, it proved to be a great choice; four generous balls of great quality beef (big thumbs up to the guys at Blagdon Farm Shop), mixed with fresh herbs and a nice kick of garlic, on a bed of courgette, spiralized into ribbon-like noodles. The kitchen team cooked them to perfection – just enough bite to mimic real, al dente spaghetti. The tomato sauce was a triumph; light, fresh and well-seasoned, made with only a few, simple ingredients (diced tomato, white onion, garlic and herbs) – none of this passata from a jar stuff. Our chum opted for the fishcakes (£9.50), which appear to be made from scratch. A mix of tender, flaky white fish and salmon, we gathered, with sweet potato, served with a tiny handful of salad (we could’ve done with more) and a cracking beetroot aioli dip (kudos to the kitchen team for not being afraid to give this a proper garlicky kick). The orange, non-oily patties, which seem to be baked rather than fried (though we could be wrong), melted in the mouth and were packed with flavour. We smothered them in aioli (don’t be put off by the vibrant, acid purple colour) and devoured them in moments. Impressed with what we tucked in to on our first visit, we’re already planning our return – this time for brekkie.