FEATURE: NE1 Restaurant Week 2015 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s January. It’s cold and windy. You’ve only just wrestled the Christmas tree back in the loft and taken solemn vows to avoid alcohol, sugar, fat and carbs until you can fit back into clothes with zips and buttons again. Anyone can be forgiven for staggering through the beginning of the year in a groggy haze of post festive food fatigue and incomprehensible diet charts so it may come as something of a surprise to discover that Newcastle’s finest eateries are about to step up to the plate for NE1 Restaurant Week. Beginning officially on Monday 19th January and continuing through to Sunday 25th January, this unique event allows people to sample the wide range of scenes, cuisines, fusions and terrines that the culinary capital of the North has to offer.

If you’ve still got minging mince pies and putrid pudding hanging around the house then now might be a good time to throw them at the dog and head out for some fresh air. Perhaps you need to impress a certain someone, do a recce for a special occasion or maybe you would just like to say thank you to the person who cooked at Christmas. At £10 or £15 per person you could succinctly express your feelings with a two or three course meal in one of the swankiest settings in town. And you won’t even have to wash up afterwards.

Here’s a little bit of local history while you chew it over. Back in 2011, when the initiative was first launched, NE1 got together with some of the city’s top restaurants to discuss what could be done to support the industry at traditionally quiet times of the year.  Modelled on a similar scheme that operates in New York, NE1 decided to launch Restaurant Week.

Initially, thirteen of Newcastle’s top restaurants were involved in the first event, now three years later, over seventy restaurants take part and the weeks, one in January, the other in August, are a firm fixture in the city’s events calendar. Over 60% of Restaurant Week customers visit two or more restaurants and some lucky souls dine out for all seven nights during the week. Last January, over 25,000 people took advantage of these frugal feasts so you need to be quick off the blocks and straight on the phone if you’d like to reserve yourself the choicest morsels.

Chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne, of 21 Hospitality Group, says, “NE1 Restaurant Week has become a keenly anticipated calendar fixture among foodies and general diners; it’s a great opportunity to go out and try several restaurants they might not visit otherwise for a fraction of the normal cost and at a quiet time of the year. I’m delighted the New York concept I enjoyed all those years ago has become such a big hit across the city. It’s great to see those passionate about food and hospitality working together to promote Restaurant Week.”

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“It’s an honour to be involved in NE1’s Restaurant Week and it will give our students the chance to step up and display their collective talents”

This is NE1’s ninth Restaurant Week and newly minted chefs starting out on their catering careers will be showcasing their tasty talents. Newcastle College’s Chef’s Academy is getting into the mix for the first time and their rising stars will be taking up the challenge of impressing clients and potential employers. Newcastle College is a well respected training ground for chefs and front of house staff and many of the students are recruited directly from the Academy to work in top end establishments across the North East.

Commenting on the Chefs’ Academy involvement, Andy Brown the Head of Department at Newcastle College says, “It’s an honour to be involved in NE1’s Restaurant Week and it will give our students the chance to step up and display their collective talents.  We have worked hard to establish strong and workable industry links and I’m sure Restaurant Week customers will be impressed with the quality of the food and service delivery.  It will be great exposure for the students and I’m sure a great experience for diners.”

A quick look online at the College’s eye-catching sample menu gives an idea of the ambitious and delicious dishes proposed. The haddock and herb risotto starter, a pot roast breast of chicken with butter fondant potato as well as an iced limoncello parfait with chilli syrup particularly caught my eye. You pay £10 per person for the lunch menu and £15 for the evening sitting which has slightly more choice. A glass of red or white wine is included.

There are a couple of gourmet burger outlets serving poshed up nosh in a bun and fries for £15 per person and Carluccio’s provides one of the many Italian options with a simple menu of classics. Another famous named eatery, Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse and Grill offers a 12pm to 2:30pm lunch only fixed price menu at £15 for two courses. Do check the individual restaurants for their offer terms and conditions before booking and remember to quote NE1 Restaurant Week when making any reservations.

The menu at Dabbawal is fast curing my fear of hot, spicy food with the temptation of some Malabar King Prawns and Vujon has the wonderful sounding Lucknowi Gosht Haleem, a spring cooked lamb in an almond, cardamom and yogurt gravy with saffron.

El Coto is one of the tapas choices offering an impossibly delicious selection of dishes. My mode of operation here will be closing my eyes and sticking a pin in the menu. It’s hard to go wrong.

I did say that the week officially starts on Monday 19th January but the buzz on Twitter is that some venues are launching their offers out there earlier. Follow the hashtag #NE1RestaurantWeek for the latest tweets and last minute meal deals and you could grab yourselves the sweetest seats in the house.

NE1 Restaurant Week starts on Monday 19th January.

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