To be honest, I prefer to keep my cinema trips and my dining experiences separate. I love food and films, but the two passions don’t usually combine well. Most cinemas’ catering extends only as far as glistening hot dogs, dry clumps of popcorn and those mysterious nachos that seem to have been specially designed to make the most amount of noise possible through the opening credits.
But Tyneside Cinema Bar Café has proved surprisingly popular since opening its doors last summer, not only offering good food and booze but also operating as a cinema screen of its own and hosting quizzes, DJ nights and exhibitions to boot. When I visited with a good friend of mine on a Wednesday night, the place was buzzing as usual, with most seats occupied by twenty-somethings on laptops, retirees having a pint, after-work shoppers and academics chatting over coffee.
My friend and I started with a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon which was extremely fruity without being too sweet, balanced with subtle notes of blackcurrant. Our smiling server handed us our menus and explained that we could just order at the bar whenever we were ready. They keep it casual here.
To kick things off we tucked into a shared portion of the arincini. My friend had never tried arincini (that’s cheese and rice rolled into a ball and deep fried, if you have also not been so fortunate) and I was pleased to find that this was an excellent example of the dish for her first experience, served in a suitably spicy tomato sauce. A bowl of juicy mixed olives was the ideal accompaniment.
For mains we considered the Tyneside’s take on a hotdog in the brioche bun and the ‘royale with cheese’ – simultaneously a burger and a cunning reference to cult classic Pulp Fiction – but in the end we decided to test the more challenging dishes on the menu. I opted for the king prawn Thai red curry, and my partner was drawn to the caramelised onion tart tatin. The curry was rich and nutty, with the emphasis on lemongrass, and came served with perfectly cooked and fragrant rice. My friend’s tart was indulgently sticky but not too sweet, with the most delicate filo pastry base, served on a perfectly-judged walnut and blue cheese salad. Good work.
The pudding menu had a few novelty options (to be fair, I hear great things about the cookies and milk). We decided to hedge our bets. One popcorn panna cotta for me – because where else can you enjoy such a thing – and one good old fashioned sticky toffee pudding for my partner, because it’s a classic and if you can’t get it right then there really is no hope. Luckily, the latter was wonderfully moist and full of flavour, and the popcorn panna cotta was a revelation. That malty popcorn taste was captured in the pudding itself and it was served in a jar and decorated with crunchy toffee popcorn. The textures worked brilliantly together.
Feeling decidedly well fed, my friend and I finished our wine and headed for the Metro. It had been a great meal and the atmosphere had been really relaxed and pleasant. And with all sorts of intriguing events taking place at the Bar Café all year round, we were already decided that this would not be our last visit. In the words of Arnie – I’ll be back.
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