Located on the lower floor of a typical Tyneside house, Rebel in Heaton is a true hidden gem when it comes to Newcastle’s fine dining scene. David Bootle was invited to try their delights…
Heaton is firmly establishing itself as a place where venues dedicated to food lovers really have an opportunity to thrive. Set just off the beaten track on Heaton Park Road, there is a culinary gem that’s been making waves with its unique approach to fine dining.
I had the pleasure of visiting Rebel one Thursday evening in October, to sample their 10-course taster menu and wine flight.
Lindsay Rushton, head chef and owner of Rebel, opened the restaurant in April 2022 along with fellow directors Rosie Oswin, the restaurant manager and sommelier, and Mike Reid, the sous chef. Since then, the Rebel brand has grown in recognition, gaining a loyal following; and not just from the hip Ouseburn and Heaton communities, but further afield too. This is a place that is worth a journey to dine at.
Rosie explained the decision to be based in Heaton, somewhere that was less congested than the city – that felt more relaxed and chilled than Newcastle centre. There is a sense of anticipation attached to Heaton; a place on the cusp of something exciting.
Considerable investment in infrastructure is planned over the coming years. As the environs of Newcastle creep outwards slowly, a neighbourhood in the east end is perfectly poised to benefit from this.
A New Culinary Adventure
Chef-owner Lindsay Rushton, having honed his skills at establishments such as House of Tides and Jesmond Dene House, has embarked on a new culinary adventure with Rebel. The restaurant (with 22 covers) is already garnering attention for its devotion to showcasing local and sustainable ingredients.
Although named after Lindsay’s boyhood dog, Rebel, this intimate gastronomic gem displayed for me lots of ‘little acts of rebellion’, suggesting the name perhaps had more meaning than a much-loved childhood pet.
Rebel is all about being different and unique; challenging the status quo. There is an underlying mission… a cause. This restaurant is passionate about being environmentally conscious, extending from provenance and how ingredients are sourced, right through to the suppliers they carefully select, who have strong ethical values themselves.
My partner and I settled into our seats. Artwork adorns the walls, painted by Lindsay’s mother – an award-winning professional artist. The striking North Sea art, plus other abstract landscape paintings, add to this strong environmental theme. Tree-trunk tables complement the rustic feel. The interior is pleasingly minimal… and very welcoming.
On arrival, the sounds are distinctly ‘80s (Soft Cell mixes I recall). Any restaurant playing music of my youth gets my vote, but it is so uncommon these days. The music and vibe cleverly changes throughout the evening, with a real eclectic mix of genres and eras. The scene was set. We looked at the taster menu.
Taster Menu At Rebel
This 10-course taster won’t necessarily be on the menu every night though – based on Lindsay’s nod to locality and using seasonal produce when the ingredients are at their finest.
We started with some snacks which were full of flavour – a crispy pie-tee with a creamy centre and a touch of caviar adding a salty sea taste. The perfect start.
Our cocktails were out of this world and also set a tone for the evening. I love an Old Fashioned, but this one had a twist with an infused mushroom… and a kick! My partner was impressed with her Kir Royale, with cassis made in-house.
We were also offered a refreshing, sparkling white. Rosie knew plenty about the background to the drinks, offering a nice balance of information – not too much or little. Like the drinks themselves, her knowledge whetted the appetite. The sparkling white we discovered is from Sussex and an Oxney organic English one.
Off To A Great Start
Next, the lobster offered a subtle sweet flavour, with great texture. The courses seemed to build an overall impression, course by course. And the drinks added to the taste journey. An aromatic English white (The Davenport Horsmonden Dry) had a wonderful floral complement to the lobster.
Continuing the fish theme, the halibut was light and tasty – a succulent piece of fish in a wonderfully sweet broccoli emulsion. This was followed by a sharp, zesty Leeds white from the vineyards of Leventhorpe. We felt like we were on a virtual wine tour of England’s vineyards throughout the evening.
Then came ‘hen of the woods’. This was possibly both of our favourites (but a hard call). A wild mushroom in a mushroom emulsion with intense flavours and meaty texture. The bread was a perfect crusty accompaniment to the delicious juicy sauce.
Then came the Chardonnay. I’m not typically a Chardonnay lover, but this English white (from Oxford) had a subtle buttery flavour and followed the ‘hen of the woods’ beautifully.
The pork fillet sourced from Block and Bottle accompanied by wild garlic kimchi had a richness of taste and a crusty sweet surface. The following drink was a wonderful match. The Pinot Noir hailed from Crows Lane Estate, Essex situated on the coastal peninsula of Crouch Valley. Again it was part of the whole experience to hear both about where and why the drinks were sourced, adding to the whole experience.
In Line With The Ethos Of Rebel
Next the ‘whey and truffle’ was rich in flavour. Whey, the by-product of manufacturing cheese, provided such a textured taste and again played to the whole ethos of minimising waste. The dish had a decidedly decadent finishing touch – a honey truffle shaved at the table.
The chocolate and cherry was a perfect dessert, offering depth and richness of flavour. Still in store was a wonderful sake from London. Rosie explained how the couple who make it had travelled extensively to Japan but wanted to create their own version, keeping its essence but altering the after-flavour.
By using ripe English plums instead of the traditional ‘Japanese sake’ un-ripe plum recipe, they created a different flavour: less striking and more subtle. Every drink built on the preceding course.
As we savoured each course, so aesthetically displayed too on individually crafted bowls or serving stones, we couldn’t help but appreciate the dedication and passion that Lindsay and his team have poured into Rebel.
Lindsay’s dream of owning his own restaurant has clearly paid off. After finishing, he came over to say hello, as he does most evenings with guests. At 6ft 7 inches you have to look up to talk to Lindsay – even at 6ft myself. But (however trite this sounds) I felt myself looking up to this talented professional (roughly half my age) in a different way too.
Lindsay has grafted extremely hard to pursue his dream and create something exceptional with a dedicated team alongside him.