Bistro Bananza | Living North

Bistro Bananza

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© James Byrne for Cook House
Bistronomy – that’s a mash-up of bistro and gastronomy, for portmanteau fans – took Paris’ food scene by storm a few years ago, and its spirit of independent continental vibrancy reverberates around our food scene too

THE ROXBURGH
4 Roxburgh House, Park View, Whitley Bay NE26 1DS 
0191 253 1661 www.twitter.com/The_Roxburgh

The Roxburgh’s Head Chef – indeed, only chef – Gary Dall is used to cooking for pop’s biggest deals (Sting, Sugababes, Girls Aloud and Muse are on his resumé, the latter of whom apparently have a macrobiotic diet) but he’s spent the last three years building up this titchy bistro. It’s a reassuringly elbows-on-tables, Fergus Henderson-leaning, nose-to-tail kind of place with little in the way of pretension but a lot in the way of bold, herby, carefully-tended meats, especially under-appreciated cuts.

COOK HOUSE
Ouse Street, Newcastle NE1 2PF 
www.cookhouse.org 

A supper club in a pair of converted shipping containers in the Ouseburn, run by a former architect and frequently featuring foraged herbs sounds like a perfect storm of hipster bobbins, right? However, it’s testament to Anna Hedworth’s warmth and the inclusive, convivial vibe of her self-designed 12-person space that this is a place which everyone wants to try. Pop in for breakfast, lunch or occasional evening events and see why there’s such a fuss over her simple, elegant, subtly luxurious dishes. The wild pheasant terrine with pickled squash and toast is belting.

CAFFE ZONZO
Goldspink Lane, Sandyford NE2 1NQ 
0191 230 4981 www.caffezonzo.com 

If your neighbourhood doesn’t have a friendly, relaxed Italian restaurant, then frankly you don’t have a neighbourhood; you have a collection ofhouses with an off-licence in the middle of it. Veteran restaurateur Franco Polsinelli’s Caffe Zonzo (and Mascalzone across the road) serve Sandyford with exceptional Sardinian food in a very cool, arty, wood- and-girders space. The panciotti di pesce – pasta parcels stuffed with king scallops and king prawns – is fantastically bright, vibrant and rich.

THE JACKDAW
34 Castle Street, Warkworth NE65 0UN 
01665 711488 

This quirky little (and we mean little – there are just the four tables) locals’ favourite has been run by the same couple for the last 32 years, and it’s not hard to see why it’s endured. It focuses on traditional English dishes made with local produce which has been handled with care. Simple.

BOUCHON BISTROT
4–6 Gilesgate, Hexham NE46 3NJ 
01434 609943 www.bouchonbistrot.co.uk 

Bouchon’s sheer reliability might have blinded us to how good it is, so let’s just reiterate: it’s very, very, very good. It’s straight-up French classicism here: take, for instance, the excellent crispy duck confit with gratin dauphinois, French beans and bacon, a meal which could only be made more French if it were served with a 20-deck of Gauloises, a DVD of Jules et Jim and a placard announcing that it was going on strike.

BISTRO 23
Alnmouth NE66 2RJ 
01665 830393 www.bistro23.co.uk 

While the coast nearby is all about unadorned fabulousness, the menu here revels in fiddliness and flourishes: the chicken breast is stuffed with pistachio nuts, apricots and herbs, and comes with elderflower sauce. That’s not to say it’s off-puttingly hoity-toity, though. It’s a family place which places an emphasis on localism and friendliness.

MUSE
104b High Street, Yarm TS15 9AU 
01642 788558 www.museyarm.com 

Think of the word ‘muse’ and you’ll likely alight upon Devon conspiracy-rockers Muse, with their absurd widdly-woo guitar solos, gargantuan stage-props and smash-the- system paranoiac lyrics. They’re a perfect illustration of what Yarm’s Muse aren’t about. It’s simplicity and clarity first here, with a classical French edge to everything – the Dover sole with sauce Veronique and buttered spinach is a case in point.

AUDELA
41–47 Bridge Street, Berwick TD15 1ES 
01289 308827 www.audela.co.uk

Produce comes first here. Audela’s list of suppliers is impeccable: WR Skelly & Son butchers, Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, Ross Dougal fish, Berwick Shellfish, James Ford & Son bakers. It’s a hell of an ensemble cast – the foodie equivalent of watching De Niro and Pacino in Heat, but with Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Judi Dench and the ghost of Laurence Olivier in tow too – and it’s directed expertly in finely wrought French-influenced British classics like the roast loin of North Sea cod with Lindisfarne crab.

BRASSERIE HUDSON QUAY
Winward Way, Middlesbrough TS2 1QG 
01642 261166 www.brasseriehudsonquay.com 

Football’s greatest gift to the culinary world is the chicken balti pie, a wondrous fusion of Europe and India which shows that multiculturalism really can work. You might look a bit further upmarket when you’re next at the Riverside stadium though – this bistro is around the corner, and its grilled meats and savoir-faire with game has made it a local favourite. The vista of the quay outside will give the lie to anyone who assumes that Middlesbrough looks like the set of Blade Runner too.

STARKS
205–207 Chillingham Road, Newcastle NE6 5LJ 
0191 265 8436 www.starkskitchen.co.uk

The name comes from the owners’ Game of Thrones fandom, but could equally apply to the sparse white-on-white-on- white colour scheme in here. The fact they usually have a house champagne on is obviously very exciting, and the flavours here dart between sharp Mediterranean tang to gourmet takes on traditional, seasonal British dishes. The ever- changing evening and specials menus, plus voguish small plates, are posted to Instagram daily and, uniquely among restaurants in the North East, they’ve got a Periscope channel. No, really.

THE BISTRO AT THE DISTILLERRY
Bassenthwaite Lake, Cumbria CA13 9SJ 
01768 788850 www.lakesdistillery.com 

The straightforward, no-nonsense name of this place is a fair match for the pared- back and unadorned simplicity, but rather belies its finesse and delicacy. It’s well worth a jaunt to the Lake District, not least because in its emphasis on regional ingredients, it sums up more of what’s great about the area than a life-size bust of Beatrix Potter made of Kendal Mint Cake ever could. The honey-roasted squash with red and golden beetroot and crispy goats’ cheese is a winner.

Published in: January 2016

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