When the multi-million pound Grey’s Quarter investment was announced as an addition to Newcastle’s Eldon Square, I was both intrigued and apprehensive. Did the city really need more generic chain restaurants? Or would it be all pulled pork and hipster craft beers? These feelings turned to excitement and BIG, BOISTEROUS hunger pains when I discovered George’s Great British Kitchen would be one of the eateries holding (food) court in the new development.
Although the second opening (after their successful Nottingham venture) I had never heard of George’s. My excitement was merely the result of looking at their quirky online website and traditional-cum-contemporary menu.
Things got off to a great start with Pigs Under Duvets; an update on the festive favourite complete with bubble and squeak mash and honey mustard, and George’s posh take on a scotch egg, perfectly cooked inside with a side of piccalilli.
I plumped for the Geordie Saveloy Pie – layers of saveloy sausage, mushy peas, pork-sage and onion stuffing with homemade onion gravy, encased in pastry. The pie is topped caramelised onion crumble and served with Newcastle Brown Ale salt, mouth-wateringly good, twice-cooked chips and more gravy. This dish is exclusive to the Newcastle restaurant and by god did it make this Geordie lad happy. Moreish AND satisfying – a funny combo, but this is a funny place. I certainly didn’t bet on saveloy ever being a dinner favourite outside of Dickson’s but it just works so well. We also had the “Proper Dirty” double burger, which is chuck and brisket, grilled in the Inka with red leicester and a ‘frickle’ – a fried pickle. Served pink, the meat was to die for. Far from being proper dirty, it was heavenly.
Desserts range from the kooky (doughnuts with chocolate dipping sauce and candy floss) to more traditional fare like orange tarts and apple pies. Too full to indulge, we passed – not an easy choice when giant puffs of floss are floating by your table all night. Next time…
The food is rich and homely, but by no means amateur. George’s puts a refined and dynamic twist on favourites like pie and mash and chippy teas but delivers them in a sophisticated way that doesn’t feel like a bearded hipster knocked it up and served it on a slate or in a watering can.
Like any new restaurant, the place was frantic. In stark contrast to the serene décor of quaint seaside life, the buzz of the new business’ opening week didn’t let up all night – although this didn’t affect the service. Staff were attentive and positively charming (shout out to our waitress Jayne, who was a gem) throughout the night and gave us the history of the place from its roots in Nottingham. The barman even recommended a different wine when our first choice wasn’t available.
I read a review recently that mused that food should do the talking, and that gimmicks in restaurants aren’t necessary. I loved the gimmicks here. Plush cod toys and bowler hats adorned every free table top and booths are named after seaside favs like Whitley Bay and Amble. Chandeliers hang harmoniously with shabby-chic railings and wooden fixtures, without any of it feeling forced: It so easily have come off pretentious. My favourite aesthetic is the menus in the style of newspapers – a lovely touch of nostalgia.
This place could be a reviewer’s dream; plenty of fodder for the Instagram generation, with props and selfie opportunities galore. But it’s far from a case of style over substance – as the Pub Landlord might say, beautiful British food from a beautiful British name, George’s kitchen is well and truly open and I’ve got a feeling I’ll be going back for seconds.
George’s Great British Kitchen is part of the new Grey’s Quarter development in Eldon Square. To book a table, call 0191 230 4229 or visit their website here