Despite being a big seafood fan, I have yet to try out one of north Northumberland’s latest culinary offerings – The Old Boathouse in Amble.
And my curiosity is piqued further by the good things I have heard from people who have been, including Gazette editor Paul Larkin, who was full of praise on this very page.
But, during a trip to Tyneside over the bank holiday weekend, I thought I would get a taste of its origins.
Six, the rooftop restaurant in the BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art on the Gateshead Quayside, was the first restaurant to be opened by food business Fresh Element.
One of the team, Richard Sim, is also behind Amble’s new restaurant, so a trip to Six was sure to offer a look at his inspiration and vision.
Anyone who knows the building that houses the restaurant – one which towers over the city skyline – can appreciate that a sixth-floor restaurant will offer great views.
Even on an extremely wet and gloomy Saturday night, it was still an impressive sight and the views across Newcastle and Gateshead through the floor to ceiling windows are great – not least, so I’ve been told, from the ladies’ toilets.
Stuck out on the end of the building, they too have floor to ceiling glass surrounds, although the men’s facilities are fairly snazzy too and still offer a view over the Tyne.
Inside the room, the decor is tasteful, although obviously limited by having no walls. But it felt comfortable with a bit of a buzz about the atmosphere.
Having said all that, Six is a restaurant and if the dining experience isn’t up to much then people aren’t going to pay for a view alone.
There can sometimes be a tendency to be a bit lazy if you have such an obvious selling point away from the food.
Six’s restaurant promises to combine ‘breathtaking panoramic views with great food, great service and a great experience’ and I have to admit that we found that they lived up to that pledge.
The à la carte menu offers a good variety of choice with eight starters, seven mains and seven desserts on offer when we ate.
The claim is that all of the ingredients are regionally sourced and it was pleasing to note Elsdon goat’s cheese and Ingram Valley lamb among the options.
Indeed, one of our party kept it local and went for the twice-baked spinach and Elsdon goat’s cheese soufflé with marinated tomatoes (£7.95), which was light, fluffy and delicious.
For a lightier, tangier start to the meal, there was the equally good soy and treacle cured salmon with salad and wasabi (£7.95) or alternatively for a richer, more classic introduction, roast wood pigeon breast with peas à la française (£7.95).
I went for the octopus carpaccio, tempura soft-shell crab, mango and avocado salsa (£8.95).
The octopus was lovely and tender, surprising me by being quite different in taste compared to when it is cooked.
The soft-shell crab in batter provided bite, crunch and saltiness, but for me the star of the show was the salsa, a mix of sharp, sweet mango, creamy avocado and chilli heat.
The main courses upheld the high standards set by the starters and the four of us were drawn to four choices.
The ladies went for the pan-seared fillets of red mullet with black olive gnocchi, samphire and piperade (£15.95). Both were very pleased, but I think the men ended up with the best selection, perhaps in payback for having a less fancy WC.
The market fish bouillabaisse was not a classic French stew, but a selection of other fish dishes on the menu, including the red mullet, cod and octotpus (cooked this time), served with saffron potatoes, braised fennel and a garlic crouton topped with rouille and gruyere cheese.
After a suitable breather, we felt refreshed enough to tackle dessert. Once again, it proved to be a wise choice.
Both the dark chocolate delice with ruby grapefruit sorbet and chocolate madeleine (£7.50) and the savarin of marinated summer fruits with raspberry ripple ice cream (£6.95) went down a treat, but I wanted something a little lighter so went for the peach melba with oatmeal crumble, yoghurt sorbet and hibiscus syrup (£6.95).
The peach was fresh and juicy and the yoghurt sorbet was delicious and creamy, but far less heavy than an ice cream, while the oatmeal added some texture to what otherwise was a soft plate of food.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Courgette, pea and mint soup £5.95
Pork, golden raisin and pistachio terrine £7.95
Crevettes roasted in garlic, chilli and parsley butter £7.95
Grilled asparagus, slow-cooked egg, charcoal crumb and hollandaise sauce £8.50
Roast fillet of cod £18.95
Barbary duck breast £19.95
Tasting of Ingram Valley lamb £23.95
Mille-feuille of caponata and parmesan £12.95
Orange and olive oil cake £6.50
Macerated English strawberries, creme fraiche mousse £6.50
Lemon posset, raspberry jelly, shortbread £6.95
WELL WORTH IT FOR A SPECIAL EVENING OUT
We went to Six to celebrate a special occasion and for this purpose, the food, drink, atmosphere and location all ensured we had a memorable night.
The prices aren’t cheap, but they are not outrageous for the quality of fare on offer and I would happily go again and pay for a meal , particularly as the menus are changed as the months and seasons progress, so new taste experiences would always be available.
Star ratings (out of 10)
Quality of food 9.5
Vegetarian choice 7
Value for money 6
Children catered for 4
Toilet for disabled Yes
Access for disabled (lifts) 8
Overall rating 9
Verdict: You may come for the views, but you’ll stay for the food.
Contact: 0191 440 4948 or www.sixbaltic.com