There’s no denying that eating out at Christmas has changed irrevocably, but that’s exactly why I kept my reservation at No.1 Bar & Grill on Thursday night.
I completely understand why some may have felt they were left with no choice but to cancel their reservation, you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life in the face of Covid.
But having been double jabbed and taken a lateral flow test prior to leaving, it was important to me to show my support to the hospitality industry.
And I’m so glad I did, because me and my fellow colleague, Pip Gerrard, had a wonderful night.
Having previously sat next to each other at the office during the good old days, we’ve since tried to meet up every few months, with varying degrees of success.
A table of two was very much needed, and it couldn’t have been easier to book online.
I also love the location on Queen’s Terrace, where you’ll find plenty of parking and no need to go right into the centre of town.
We were warmly greeted by a member of staff, and our table was nicely tucked away.
I make no secret of the fact that I am not a festive person, but even I appreciated the tasteful decor – complete with glittery crackers on the table.
I opted for a diet coke as I was driving, and Pip delighted in the cocktail menu – before settling on a classic French martini. A glass of fizz was also included on the set menu.
We appreciated a jug of water for the table, without that awkward conversation as to whether we’d prefer tap or bottle.
We had already looked at the Christmas menu in advance, and I must confess that my downloads is essentially a collection of menu pdfs. I like to plan ahead, but of course act as if I’m studying the menu before ordering the dish I mentally selected five weeks ago.
Christmas menus are not made equal in my opinion. There’s either too much faff or not much originality.
But No. 1 have really excelled with their festive choices, and we were both impressed by the offerings.
Tattie soup, but not as you know it
Pip, who is pescatarian, was very tempted by the vegan menu, and as a parent I wouldn’t hesitate in taking my three-year-old along thanks to the handy kids menu, with not a bland chicken nugget in sight.
As it were, I settled on tattie soup, an unusual choice for me, and Pip went for North sea cod.
Our food arrived quickly and was beautifully presented.
Having worked in hospitality during the hellish month of December, I know only too well that a production line of meals can be left under a hot light for too long and look a little worse for wear.
This was certainly no the case here, as both dishes looked wonderfully fresh.
The tattie soup was served with smoked bacon, parsley oil and potato crisp truffled cheese.
Please believe me when I say, it was truly exquisite. The portion was generous, and it was also served with toasted bread and butter. I would happily return to sample this dish alone.
The crunch of the bacon and the creaminess introduced via the cheese, tattie soup will never be the same again.
Pip was equally complimentary of the cod, which was served with salsify crisps, mulled wine sauce, almond and grape.
The fish was cooked well with a nice slightly crispy top and the almonds added crunch.
A touch more sauce would have been appreciated, and it turns out the fish and grape is a winning combination. Who knew?
Fish of the day
Onto the mains, and it was my turn to select fish as opposed to a classic turkey dinner.
I’m not a huge turkey fan, so I loved having the option of sea bass, served with saffron gnocchi, preserved lemon, roast bell pepper, and a generous splash of tomato and paprika source.
Pip selected braised butternut squash cooked in thyme and garlic, served with cashew nut croquette, winter greens and pesto.
Again, the helpings were generous with not one but two sea bass fillets.
The skin was beautifully crisp, and the fish flaked on the fork. It tasted fresh and was cooked just right.
The gnocchi didn’t taste too stodgy and complemented the fish really well. It was the sauce which added that extra kick, and there was plenty of it.
I think I only came across one tiny bone, if you order fish then you have to accept that bones are a minor inconvenience.
Across the table, Pip was very complimentary of the cashew nut croquettes, which she described as “stand out” with a very soft texture and salty cheese taste.
The kale was cooked just right, because I think we can all agree that overcooked kale brings a whole heap of disappointment.
A balsamic or sticky glaze could have added more taste to the squash, but overall it was a delicious dish.
The dessert menu made my stomach groan in protest, but I still think of the one that got away.
A wonderful evening
Looking at you, caramelized chocolate delice.
It was wonderful to see the restaurant get busier as the night wore on, but staff were well organised and we weren’t left sitting with dirty plates.
Having paid the bill, we were also offered coffee instead of being shown the door, a kind gesture which was very much appreciated.
We finally left with our gold paper hats from those decorative crackers hanging a little skewwhiff, and both agreed that it was a lovely evening.
Hats off to No.1, the food was gorgeous and I can only hope for a better year ahead, not just to the hard working team at No.1, but to the wider hospitality industry in the north-east.
To book, call 01224, 611909, or visit no1bargrill.com