What we thought of new £1.5million restaurant Leila Lily's in Newcastle
Around £1.5million was ploughed into transforming this prime site in Newcastle into Leila Lily’s – and it shows.
Unrecognisable from its former guise as Living Room, the Grey Street site now houses an opulent, botanical theme with rich, floral details complemented by Great Gatsby-esque British racing green seating.
A long central marble table is surrounded by booths under intricate Art Deco style lighting which all works to create a sense of drama at this relative newcomer to Newcastle. It’s the kind of theatricality you expect from owners The Malhotra Group, whose portfolio includes a string of hotels and bars in the North East. In keeping with the family business, it’s named after operations director Atul Malhotra’s daughter.
The restaurant is one of three areas on the site which flows through to a neighbouring bar and downstairs to a nightclub, 212.
Each has a different music policy with 212 playing a mix of hop hop and R&B, the bar playing current tunes and disco and the restaurant entertaining diners with live musicians. However, to really enjoy the live pianist I’d suggest visiting earlier in the evening as the bar in the next room gets louder, as you’d expect, as the night gets into full swing.
The menu is equally as dramatic as the decor, with dishes served with swirls of dry ice, exotic edible flowers and on plates shaped like everything from a pebble to a plinth.
It’s devised by head chef Ronald Robson, who was this year crowned North East Chef of Year at the annual awards by Necta (North East Culinary and Trade Association), and it’s a menu that features quirky dishes you won’t find elsewhere in the city.
You can order starters and mains, such as steak, pork belly and halibut, but there’s also a choice of small plates so you can pick’n’mix from curious-sounding choices such as black pudding macarons, braised beef choux bun and BBQ pickled mackerel.
We chose to pick our way through British cured meats (£6.50), sashimi tuna (£12.50) and dry aged beef tartare (£10) with sides of plump noccellara olives (£3.50) and bread and butter (£3.50).
Served with edible flowers, thin shavings of radish, yuzu caviar and sea vegetables, the silky sashimi was begging to be committed to Instagram.
Meanwhile, the artisan meats flew the flag for British produce, instead of the more common Spanish and Italian cured offerings, giving a much more gamey, earthy taste.
My favourite, however, was the dry aged beef tartare, the delicate natural flavour of the beef was complemented with a moreish medley of cured egg, mushroom, XO and plum chutney – and we couldn’t get enough.
Even the bread was artfully presented here, on tile slates and served with a cultured butter and charcoal salt.
Despite choosing lighter options, we were perfectly satisfied after our meal – until we saw the desserts coming through the pass. Unable to resist, we chose to share the mibrasa roast pineapple (£6.50), which was the perfect palate cleanser. The gently roasted pineapple, served with shards of a fruity sugar, worked really well with the denser flavours of chocolate and rum raisin salt caramel.
Drinks too have more character than most, with a cocktail menu featuring artistic images of options such as Bed and Bubbles, a concoction of Absolut Kurant, mango sorbet, and cranberry juice with Prosecco (£9) and Good Old PB & J, a liquid take on the classic sandwich with Spytail Rum infused with peanut butter and mixed with Braemble Gin Liqueur, lime juice and sugar syrup (£9).