If you listened to some people, you’d think that this handsome Tyneside Classical building beside the stanchions of the Tyne Bridge ought to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once the Michelin-starred 21 Queen Street, the site fell empty a couple of years ago and its blank windows have stared balefully at the street outside since.
Despite the upward trajectory of the North East’s culinary reputation, the shadow cast by 21 Queen Street is long. The rest of the city – and indeed the region – has since caught up with its self- con dent high standards, but this was the wellspring. You get the feeling some will turn up hoping to see an apparition of Terry Laybourne’s face in a smear of quince jus. It’s a bit like going to Lourdes, except here you’re hoping to get your sciatica sorted out by some butter-roasted celeriac.
So, no pressure. The new tenants, Dobson and Parnell (named for John Dobson and William Parnell, architects of all the fancy bits of Newcastle), are under the very sure handling of Blackfriars and Hinnies restaurateur Andy Hook and there are echoes of the ethos of those places in the understatedly voguish tiles-and-bald- bulbs look. The menu here’s a bit more globally-minded and outré than the high- class homeliness of the other two places, though: we started with a little amuse- bouche of tart duck ragu, dominated by bright, twangling tomato tones. A ham and duck terrine was a little more muted, though enlivened by sharp apple shards and a tongue-rasping crumb. The homemade butter and sourdough bread, pillowy-soft and charged with a malty bite, was almost unbearably good.
Next, a pan-fried stone bass fillet, with its skin crisped so acutely that it crumpled and crunched like tissue paper, perched on a roundel of barley risotto. Fish can, obviously, be a bit fiddly, but this fillet had been tended to with the kind of care and attention you’d normally lavish on your firstborn child. I’ve long been inured to the apparent charms of triple-cooked chips (there are only so many times you can pretend that wet, characterless Duplo blocks are worth an extra £3.50) but the pillowy, floury blighters I had with the sh were several cuts above your average chip.
Then, bitter manjari chocolate with clementines and pistachios. It was a dessert which brought together the key themes here: a textural tricksiness between the smooth chocolate and the crunchy pistachios, plus a counter- intuitive tongue-straddling flavour palette which worked in bold strokes. There are no pastel colours here; it’s all neon splodges and bold, earthy tones. It works brilliantly.
So, in a Tyneside Classical building there’s Tyneside Classical food again: upright, poised and confidently putting itself at the centre of the conversation. For all the history here, there’s no sappy nostalgia, and it’s all the better for it.
Dobson and Parnell
21 Queen Street, Newcastle NE1 3UG
0191 221 0904 www.dobsonandparnell.co.uk