Very few restaurants are filled with atmosphere on a Thursday evening in the middle of January, which makes me think French Quarter must be doing something very right, as we’re seated in their almost-full restaurant for our 7 o’clock booking.
On the surface it’s a fairly informal dining spot – exposed wraught-iron arches, regulars milling and chilling around the bar area with their favourite glass of red (I think I count over 30 to choose from on the wine list), and we certainly feel relaxed. But don’t underestimate the attention to detail here. Our jackets are whisked away and water infused with mint is placed next to our table in a cooler, as we’re guided through the menu by our server for the evening, Oliver, who knows absolutely everything there is to know about food and, of course, wine.
I get the impression that wine is a large part of the identity behind French Quarter, not only from the extensive wine list, but also from the rows of shelves stacked with bottles that take over a large part of the walls. This noted, I opt for their Easy Drinking White Flight, which allows me to sample three 75ml glasses of white wine, while my dining partner plays it safe with a white wine spritzer.
Our drinks are delivered to the table by Oliver, who guides me through my flight. I start with Vin De La Maison, their house wine (which certainly lives up to the easy drinking title of the flight), and we browse the menu. The idea behind the menu here is sharing, although if you prefer, you can always order a few dishes to polish off yourself.
We pine over just about all of the cheese and charcuterie on the menu before discovering their planches, of which the planche mixte features a small taste of everything. It was recommended that three dishes each would be a good amount for an evening meal, so we order five, plus our sharing board. Oliver convincingly suggests serving these as a starter, fish course and a meat course, so we take his advice.
All of the produce that arrives on our board is fresh and delicious, but none of it would have tasted quite the same without the accompanying homemade chutney, which Oliver insists they’re going to have to start bottling soon, as many others share our affection.
Our empty plates are replaced with clean ones and our fish course arrives. The scallop, served in its shell with creamy leek and sabayon, is indulgent and rich, while the monkfish and chorizo skewer is meaty and salty with a delicious citrusy punch. But our personal favourite is the king prawn pil pil. The flavour and juiciness of the king prawns is a testament to the produce they’re using here. I choose to wash these all down with the second wine on my flight, Picpoul de Pinet, which, rather like the prawns, is fresh and light too.
Finally, we tuck into the piping hot and creamy tartiflette which tastes just how it does in the French Alps, alongside our confit duck breast with a sticky orange sauce. The meat is impossibly tender and, as it slides from the bone, we mop up the moreish sauce until all the plates on our table are clean and my final glass – a unique sauvignon blanc and chardonnay combination – is empty.
Our plates are soon replaced by a dessert menu, and I’m immediately drawn to the apple tarte tatin, but after the copious amount of food we have over-indulged in we opt for the Café gourmand: a trio of miniature desserts with an espresso. Today’s trio consists of chocolate mousse, lemon posset and créme brûlée, and we decide it’s just the taster we need to complete our evening. We retrieve our jackets, thank our server for his guidance and make our way out of the now-full restaurant area thinking about how enjoyable it has been to dine in a restaurant where so much care and consideration has gone into not only the food, but the service too. I’ll certainly be back, if only to get my hands on a jar of their chutney.
Arch 6 Westgate Road
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1SA
0191 222 0156