Bridge Court, The Quayside, INNSiDE by Melia Hotel, River view, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3BE/ Contact: 0191 933 6994/ Starters £8-£12, Mains £14-£28, Deserts £5-£10
Celebrity chef and TV star Gino D’acampo has his very own restaurant right here on the Quayside. I was greeted by a relaxed yet sophisticated ambiance. Timeless décor, a blend of candles and low lighting fixtures added an intimate warm glow. The open kitchen, busy chefs at work, and view of the pizza oven flames instantly made me feel part of the excitement. My window seat view of the riverside combined with scents of fresh ingredients gave me flashbacks to the streets of Venice. Their efficient customer service set the tone of excellence throughout the restaurant.
Their new menu – or should I say ‘novel’ – was packed with typical Italian plates. A wide range of options for any dietary needs. The personal anecdotes written by Gino throughout the menu gave a personal and ‘diary' feel. The drinks menu was no exception – spoilt for choice from Italian cocktails, regional wines, and Artisanal beers.
I started with a light and fragrant ‘Pino Spritz’, typically a ‘Hugo Spritz’. This elderflower liquor-based drink topped with lime and prosecco was my personal ‘go to’ order in Italy. Here is the first place I have found it in the U.K at a respectable £8.50 . The head chef picked my three courses, which was a decision I wouldn’t regret. My imaginary journey back to Italy commenced with my first bite. The crispy Sicilian Mushroom arancini balls stuffed with melting mozzarella were served on a wooden board with fresh parmesan. Accompanied by a delicate complimenting red pepper and tomato sauce at a fair price of £8 for the plate.
My main was the seafood pasta, of course, one of their most popular orders – not only for its artistic presentation. One taste and I was back on the Italian Rivera, hearing echoes of the language and soft waves. Sweet cherry tomatoes, clams, muscles, prawns, and squid with al dente tagliatelle, in a light tomato chilli and garlic sauce. The chilli gave a subtle kick and I wanted to thank it for being there in each bite. The portion size was generous and filling, yet I didn’t want the meal to end and £18 cost was worth it. Finally, dolce- a twist on the typical Italian dessert; Bailey's panna cotta with a pistachio biscotti and touch of honey. The contrast in textures was exceptional. The smooth and creamy panna cotta chilled to perfection melted in my mouth, as I heard the crunch when biting into the nutty aroma of the biscotti. This dessert came to a reasonable £7. Did you even dine Italian if you didn’t end with an authentic espresso?
Perhaps you don’t need a passport and a plane ticket to Napoli for a taste of Italy… you can find it right here in Newcastle. I know I will be back, hungry for more.