Places To Eat In Newcastle: Träkol, Gateshead

There are some meals that are particularly memorable, and not for the reasons you might automatically think. Restaurants are about more than just the food: the service is important, that atmosphere, the people you visit with, the little details such as the cutlery in your hand and the plates in front of you. A truly memorable meal requires all of these to be just right, and at Träkol in Gateshead last week as a guest of Newcastle Gateshead we had just that, making it my number one pick for dinner the next time you’re in Newcastle.

Crossing the river from our hotel (review to follow soon!) we made our way into the riverside shipping containers that make up the dining room and settled in with a few of their house brewed beers and some cocktails to explore the menu. I must note that my Verde Margarita, made with the classic lime and tequila, as well as a poblano liquor was lovely, but really it was once we started exploring the menu, and seeing the food that was being brought to other tables did we realise how good our dinner was going to be.

We started with a few snacks, all of which served to highlight Träkol’s focus on seasonal and ethical cooking, as well as preservation techniques and cooking over flames. It is often said among us restaurant writer folks that the bread is always a good indicator of what your meal will be like, and this served to be true here. It was light, soft and delicious, but what had us all obsessed (as well as a fair few chefs on Instagram when I posted a picture to my stories) was the whipped malt butter it was served with; deeply savoury and etherial, even if you’re not big on bread with a meal get this, because otherwise you’ll seriously be missing out.

I ordered the grilled miso and chilli oysters because other people did. I’d already had a chance to sample the local Lindisfarne Oysters the day before (again, more on that to follow) with their extremely creamy, pleasant finish, but I sit very firmly in the camp that to cook an oyster is to ruin an oyster.

But not here.

Warm, rich and with the right balance between sweetness, savoury and heat, these oysters were simply warmed, swimming in their highly flavoured briny liquor that had simply been given a bit more help, retaining their classic flavours and textures, but just elevated without being overpowered by say a little too much Tabasco, lemon or mignonette.

You know how I mentioned Träkol’s emphasis on ethical cooking, which obviously denotes that when meat is used no part of the animal should go to waste? I’d had pigs ears before (wonderfully crisp and slicked with a zangy buffalo sauce at the sadly shuttered TART in West Hollywood) but pigs tails were a new one on me; at Träkol they’re served with a bold Mission spice coating, and for meat eaters they’re a fantastic experience. Spicy without being too much, the skin was crisped into the most beautiful crackling, cocooning succulent, juicy, just fatty enough meat. Even if you’re not 100% on board with these, they’re a must order, even if it is just a plate for the table for everyone to share.

Now, at Träkol you have the option of taking your dinner off in two different directions. You can be more classical, with some snacks, followed by some starters, mains, and a dessert, perhaps with a side or two for good measure, or you could opt for one of the feasting options for 2-3 people to share.

Now, these don’t come cheap – the fist is at market price, the 1/2 pigs head (which I would have shared if someone else would have been game) served with a chop, pork belly, black pudding, apple, mustard leaves, sauerkraut and honey dressing comes in at £70, and the above 1.2kg T-bone steak (a 60 day aged Aberdeen Angus cross from Barnard Castle cooked over charcoal) served with roasted bone marrow, fried fermented potatoes, and a kale Caesar salad commands £85, but if you’re all in agreement and you truly wish to ‘feast’, based off the steak the boys had, what I tasted, and their sated expressions afterwards, it is really what you ought to be doing with your dinner time.

As mentioned the steak was perfectly cooked and even I enjoyed a few slithers though ultra-aged steak is very much not to my taste, and my dining companions had to keep me away from the phenomenal Kale Caesar on account of the whole ‘intolerant to cheese’ thing. The fried fermented potatoes were lovely and crispy – certainly better than most potato sides out there – but none of us could quite put our fingers on what made them ‘fermented’. If you love bone marrow, you know what I’m talking about there when I tell you it retained the right amount of wibble whilst still being melting, the sweetness of the caramelised onions layered on top making for a couple of truly decadent mouthfuls.

I opted for the special which was perfect, though perhaps not as memorable as the steak: butterflied and barbecue mackerel served with seasonal greens and pickled rhubarb. A lighter dish for sure where ultra fresh fish was staggeringly well cooked, taking on just the right amount of smoke whilst retaining some of the important fattiness in the fish that makes mackerel so good whilst not being too much. It paired wonderfully with the effervescent Vino Verde I switched to after the cocktail.

Very small but still worth ordering on the side I shared from the vegetable section of the menu the fermented beetroot, served with lightly pickled bilberries and buckwheat, a real riot of flavours and textures where you could really taste the ferment without it being too much.

Dessert was the only part of the meal that was a little less than perfect for those of us who ordered the citrus doughnuts with hazelnut cream and chocolate, because while they were delicious with a good amount of toasted hazelnut and chocolate flavour, neither of us could identify any citrus, which was sort of the reason we ordered them. Also a tad underbaked, we are however splitting hairs because it did still round off the meal nicely.

However, everyone else who ordered the rhubarb cake with hay cream and brown sugar meringues declared it a ‘proper pud’ I’ll admit to being quite jealous by.