No doubt you’ve noticed that one of my favourite things to do is eat. If this has somehow passed you by I refer you to any of my previous food-related posts or, in fact, my Instagram or twitter feed. I get genuinely excited about good food and the places responsible for it.
It will come as no surprise then that being invited to the Pan Haggerty 5th birthday banquet this month was easily the highlight of my week. The food on the usual menu is fantastic, home-grown English grub with a modern and thoughtful twist. Sadly yes, modern does occasionally mean minimalist but you won’t go home unsatisfied by the team working behind the scenes at this Quayside based restaurant.
What began with a glass of excellent fizz and canapés smoothly and elegantly progressed into an evening of fine dining and, thanks to my date for the evening – Lauren (Scran on the Tyne), truly good company and girly giggles. (Bear in mind we’d already had a couple of glasses at the Fat Buddha Christmas menu showcase earlier that evening. And it was only a Wednesday. Scoundrels. But in our defence it totally *felt* like a Thursday…)
If you’ve been to Pan Haggerty before you’ll know that the decor is comfortably trendy and in-keeping with the feel of the menu. It’s cosy, with its exposed brickwork and bare floorboards, and, while perfectly nice, doesn’t outshine the food in any way. The wine selection is good, the staff are informed and friendly and the team of young chefs know their trade well enough to begin experimenting with it.
The idea behind the eight course set menu for this specific evening was to revisit and showcase a selection of the restaurants most popular dishes over the years since Pan Haggerty opened. We’re immediately thrown a classic; Pan Haggerty with Quails Egg and Hollandaise Sauce, popular on the menu from way back in 2008. I can assure you it was still good. The hollandaise was thick and smooth, the Pan Hag was creamy perfection and the egg cooked so that the centre was still a dark golden colour. It took us about two seconds to devour it, down tools and wait expectantly for course number two, the fish course; Craster Kipper with Pink Fir and potato salad, first spotted gracing the menu in 2009. The fish was delicious. There were a fair few spiky bones to watch out for, which slowed our scoffing rate considerably, but on the whole the dish was divine. The tiny cubes of potato and the battered gherkin (I’m assuming that’s what it was) added a nice texture change. This was potentially the least interesting course for me but it was still good, which I reckon says a lot.
The main course was the highlight for me. You may or may not have noticed my recent tweet about eating only one dish for the rest of my life and dying happy. This was that dish. Massive hats off to the chefs because a plate of beef based morsels could’ve been dry and awkward but this was not. This was fantastic. Main course consisted of *drum roll please* a Grand Reserve fillet steak, a hunk of slow-cooked short rib, ox cheek tortellini, on what I think may have been a bed of some kind of horseradish cream, and bone marrow butter melting atop the steak. Yes. Yes, it was as good as it sounds and looks. The steak was Far Too Small for my usual appetite but fine for the fourth course out of a banquet of eight. The tortellini pasta was excellent and the rib was impossibly succulent and tender. My mouth’s actually watering now just writing about it. I’ve run out of positive adjectives but you get the idea. This review would’ve been made a lot easier, and just as appropriate, if I’d gone with my gut feeling and just written DELICIOUS above a picture of the main course.
Sadly that plate was empty far too soon. Thankfully we’re brought another course; a Green Apple Sorbet with Calvados (2011) and then, with our palates cleansed, a cheese course. The Morden Blue Cheese with Chicory, Grape and Walnut Salad would’ve been popular with my boyfriend. He loves a good blue cheese, the bluer the better, and this particular cheese was very blue. However I must confess that it was slightly wasted on me. I just have never been able to wrap my head around the idea. Your whole life people warn you not to eat food once it’s got blue stuff growing on it, then as an adult someone hands you a hunk of cheese and says “Here, try this. You won’t die, honest.” No thanks. But, just so we’re clear, I do love cheese, just not blue cheese. Savvy?
Dessert was a heavenly dish of Banana Bread and Butter Pudding with Salt Butter Caramel and Peanut butter ice cream. You’ve got five of my favourite things right there without even trying. Each bite was better than the last. The pudding was a little dry around the edges but it was so good it’s already forgiven and the salted caramel sorted that out anyway. The ice cream at Pan Hag has caused a bit of a stir in Newcastle, with customers requesting that they start selling their ice creams, made in a constantly changing array of flavours, as a side-line to the main restaurant. I’d certainly be happy to buy buckets of the smooth, sweet peanut butter flavour. It was THAT good.
To finish our banquet we are served coffee and a selection of petit fours. We try handmade sour apple marshmallows, rhubarb and custard jellies and popping candy chocolate truffles. The marshmallow was surprisingly sour but the other two were really good. The perfect end to a beautiful meal.
The faultlessly generous folks at Pan Haggerty threw this bash and provided all the food and drinks for us free of charge which, given the quality of the menu, was outrageous. Obviously, regardless of this, all of these thoughts are my own and the review is an honest one. So it is with more of the same total honesty that I can assure you that if you are looking for a night celebrating the best of British food with a confident and well executed flair you need look no further than Pan Haggerty. Add that one to your list of Top Newcastle Eateries and check it out ASAP.
Oh, and order the ‘beef, beef and beef pasta with beef butter’ dish. Definitely.