Places To Eat In Newcastle: The French Quarter
Rolling back to March, when I was last in Newcastle I took a couple of brilliant foodie tours with the brilliant Amy from Triple A Food Tours, and one of the highlights for me was a simply stunning trio of desserts at The French Quarter, a lovely bistro and wine bar in one of the arches down from Newcastle Station. So, when I found myself back in the city a few weeks ago before heading into the wilds of Northumberland for a friends wedding, and knowing how much J adores French food and wine, I just knew where I had to book us a table.
On arriving, we settled down with a few aperitifs: what J described as a rather good house pilsner for him, and for me I was over the moon to see I could have one of my favourite French aperitifs, something I’ve not had since my last bottle ran out: a Kir Royal not made with, well, kir, but with Creme de Peche. It was light, refreshing, nostalgic and perfect for the end of summer (yes I know summer has been over a while by the time you read this, but I decided to prioritise new openings over a few brilliant, but already much loved eateries). Literally my only criticism was it could have done with a touch more peche flavour, but, then again, this may be down to the fact I’m used to being probably a little more heavy handed with the bottle when I mix them up at home!
Next, a few nibbles to share. The confit tomato rubbed sourdough with a fresh pesto was as delicious and as generous as it looked, but what I really need to tell you about was the saucisson: with all the flavour of the traditional, smaller, harder saucisson I used to buy in Combourg market, but the softness of an Italian salami it is a must order, served with a few jarred cornichons which I snapped up, and a lovely, if not unnecessary cinnamon-spiked chutney. If you only get one thing to snack on before dinner, get this.
Just before the rest of our dishes arrived (The French Quarter, whilst serving traditional French dishes do it in a tapas style – you could order just for yourself, but the point is to share several things between you) we switched to a fantastic bottle of Grenache from the Languedoc we can also highly recommend. The wine is just as important as the food here, and if it sounds like your sort of thing you could get wine flights for sampling instead.
One of our two favourite French Quarter dishes was the Duck Confit a la Orange. For a dish that gets so much bad rap for being fusty, this was a revelation with rich, tender, as you’d expect fall-off-the-bone meat served with a vibrant, rich, zingy sauce. Honestly, we were fighting over sharing this, and it is another must-order.
Another unsung hero from the meat section (I admit unless you’re used to the brilliance of out-of-the-way French bistro set lunches it might look a little, well, brown on the plate) was the Bavette Steak cooked medium rare, sliced, and doused in a rich, savoury shallot sauce. Simple, yet exceptionally good we were mopping the plate.
With our side dishes came the other ‘best thing we ate at The French Quarter’ dish in the goats cheese stuffed roasted figs. Simple and unassuming, they were the perfect example of how you can do brilliant things by simply treating the best ingredients well: they were rich, jammy, and the perfect balance of sweet and savoury: literally our only criticism was there was a little too much goats cheese on the plate for the balance to be absolute.
Elsewhere the ratatouille – arriving somewhat in the style of an Imam Bayildi – was delicious if not a little garlicky, and whilst I only stole a bite on the amount of cheese in the dish, I can confirm that J’s dauphinoise potatoes were rich, savoury and very, very indulgent – a much better option than chips if that’s your sort of thing.
J made a big mistake when we got to dessert. Now, I wanted to share the chocolate mousse and the creme brûlée, both favourites of ours, and items having had the sampling plate on my previous visit I’d already identified as the very best examples of each classic French pudding. However, he was adamant he wanted a dessert to himself, and he wanted it to be the chocolate mousse, which was fantastic by the way, rich, creamy and velvety, but that way, and he admits it now, he missed out on that brûlée that comes if you get the sampling platter (though because I got it, get got to steal the shot of espresso it comes with!) Impossibly creamy, with a perfect burnt caramel lid and a good amount of crack I only wish I could make one as good as that. You’re an idiot if you don’t get it, unless you do get the dessert flight, where you’ll also yes get a decent seasonal fruit posset, but mainly will get to enjoy both the mousse and the creme brûlée if no one else is smart enough to split them with you.
We wound things up with a digestif, both of us keen to try Get 37, a French liquor that I can best describe as what would happen if you dissolved Fox’s glacier mints into a vat of vodka. I know this does not sound to everyones tastes, but served with a cup full of ice to chill and dilute as we wished, for us both it was the perfect end to the meal.
Honestly, now I’ve tried a few of the cities foodie haunts, for price, atmosphere, food, friendliness of the staff, as well as central location I think The French Quarter may be my top dinner pick for the next time you’re visiting Newcastle. If you’re there for a special occasion I do have a review of the tasting menu at House of Tides coming up, yes Trakol across the river is incredible if you’re into something a little different, and if you’re willing to trot out to Ouseburn Cookhouse is a must, but if you can only book one table? Make it at The French Quarter.