Jesmond Dene House

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Local Interest, Reviews

I went for a meal at Jesmond Dene House last week with the GLW. It’s not the sort of place we would normally go to. To be honest, with having small children, the restaurants we are more likely to go to are the ones with plastic seats where you get asked “do you want fries with that?”. But even when we do manage to go to a nice restaurant, we probably wouldn’t go somewhere like Jesmond Dene House.

Because it’s expensive. It’s not expensive to the point that “there’s no way we could afford to eat there”, but it’s expensive to the point where we would think “we could have gone somewhere else, had a very nice meal out and managed to spend £60 less”.

Only this time we had a voucher for 50% off their à la carte menu, so we thought we’d give it a go. And I’m very glad we did.

Jesmond Dene House is a hotel and restaurant in Newcastle. It’s seemingly in a built up area, but as you follow the road towards it, you suddenly come across what looks like a small country estate hidden in the city, which on closer inspection turns out to be Jesmond Dene House.

It’s quite a posh place: everyone is in particular dress associated with their role, they use terms like sommelier and food comes on plates and stuff, rather than in cardboard cartons. It’s what you would probably call fine dining as opposed to just ‘going out for a meal’.

We arrived, having made the booking (and having been scrupulously sure to mention we had the 50% off voucher!) and were shown into the bar area, asked what drinks we would like and presented with some menus and some snacks. The snacks were a selection of olives, some pickles, something else I’m not entirely sure about but might have been pickled garlic, some crisps, and a variety of nuts.

Their a la carte (PDF) menu does have some very nice sounding dishes on it, although someone should really tell them that it ought to be on the same site as their restaurant pages, so it doesn’t look dubious.

In the end, after some debate over the “Seared Hand-dived Scottish Scallop, Nage of Vegetable, Sesame Seeds and Lemon Marmalade” (£15.00), “Battered Scottish Langoustines with Green Peas ‘à la française’, Air-dried Ham, Almond Purée and Pea Shoots” (£16.50), I ended up going for the less exotic sounding “Leek and Potato Soup with Chervil and Truffle” (£12.50).

I had liked the sound of the “Duck Foie Gras Terrine, Mango Chutney and Dark Chocolate Sauce”, primarily because I like duck, mango chutney and dark chocolate, and I’d never had foie gras before, but as the reason I’d never had it was because that it may be produced by force-feeding, and I object to this, then the fact that this one did not explicitly say it wasn’t produced in this manner meant that I wasn’t going to go down this route.

So there I was looking forward to my soup, when what should arrive but the pre-starter. This was what looked a little like a mini coffee cup with green juice in it. The green juice, it was explained was a herb soup, containing picked mushroom, and radish sprouts. This was certainly different, but it was also very nice.

I hadn’t intended to give things a ’score’ but I will, in order to allow you to easily see which bits I liked the best. This then, I’d give 7/10.

The soup itself was presented as a small heap of croutons, small flakes of leek and shaved bits of truffle in an otherwise dry bowl. Once you had had time to enjoy the presentation for a few moments, a little jug of the thick, creamy soup was then poured around the outside.

Obviously when you come to something like this, the tastes are delicately — even exquisitely — balanced by a chef who has taken some time to get to know his dishes and ingredients and so again I cannot complain about the quality of the food. It was indeed very nice (again 7/10), although I would suggest that a slightly larger bowl would not have come amiss.

As an aside, that’s my problem with this ‘fine dining’ business. I’m quite happy to have exquisitely cooked this and that, all beautifully presented, it’s just that I’d like more of it.

The main courses again presented quite a selection: “Steamed Turbot with Mussels, Avruga Caviar, Young Leeks and Potato Crisps” (£24.50); “Poached Scottish Native Lobster with Black Ink Risotto, Confit Tomato and Lobster Sauce” (£40.00); “Loin of Kielder Venison, Pancetta, Celeriac Tagliatelle, Cocoa Foam and Cranberry Marmalade” (£23.50) all sounding somewhat interesting.

In the end I went for the “Best End of Milk-fed Hill Lamb, Fondant Potato, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Balsamic Reduction” (£24.50) which was, and please excuse the terminology, absolutely fucking gorgeous, and well deserving of a 10/10. The lamb was slightly pink in the middle, but this was made clear to me when I placed the order — the waiter described how the chef thought the dishes should be ideally cooked to give you the opportunity to request something different if that didn’t suit — so that was no problem.

And the lamb was indeed delightful. There were a selection of small pieces and then a larger ‘end’, which were all similarly cooked. The GLW went for the turbot, so I got the opportunity to pinch a little of the caviar as I’d never had it before (”mmm, fishy” being my Homeresque description).

Then it came to the dessert selection. This is available on a different menu (PDF), which includes things like “Iced Peanut Parfait, Chocolate Fondant, Chocolate Sorbet and Caramel Mousse” (£9.50); “Apple and Hazelnut Tart with Caramelised Apples and Amaretto Ice Cream” (£9.00) and “Lemon and Earl Grey Millefeuille with Fresh Strawberries” (£9.00), the last one of which the GLW went for.

However, I liked the sound of the 7-piece cheeseboard (£10.50), so went for that.

Of course, before dessert actually arrived, we got the miniature pre-desert, which came in something which looked a bit like a squat test tube. This was a variation on the rhubarb crumble theme: you had a miniature, soft crumble type mixture on the top, then a rhubarb and ginger foam (”mmm… zingy”) with a delicious and strongly vanilla custard at the bottom. 9/10.

Desserts then arrived … only it wasn’t quite as simple as that. Frequently if I’ve been somewhere and ordered a cheeseboard, I get a plate with crackers and cheese on it brought over. Not quite so simple here. A gentleman wheeled over a big cheese table with a selection of about fifteen cheeses on (English and French) and proceeded to tell me about each of them, where they were from, what they tasted like, what they were similar to, and then allowed me to make my selection (although I picked six and allowed him to recommend the final one).

And by the Lord Harry, did that man know his cheese. The cheeses were then arranged on the plate in order of recommended eating (most delicate taste up to the strongest). I have to be honest and admit that I didn’t like all of them: five of the seven I pretty much demolished, one I ended up leaving because I was full (an English ewe’s milk soft cheese), and one I ended up leaving because of the disgusting smell which I think was the infamous Époisses de Bourgogne which has been banned from French public transport because of the smell (although I was warned — I was told it was similar to Stinking Bishop, but I still wanted to try it).

But there were three cheeses in particular which were lovely. First up was the cheese from Northumberland’s Doddington Dairy. Next was the one I can’t remember the name of, but it was French, it was a very hard cheese, it was bright orange and looked nuclear, but had a very mellow pleasant taste. Finally was what I think was called Boulette d’Avesnes (and the description would seem to match), which was spicy (coated in paprika), herby, and simply fantastic. Apparently, because it does have quite a strong and unusual taste, many people don’t like it, and while I accept you’d not want a huge chunk, it was lovely to try. Consider that one recommended.

So the cheese course — and the cheese man (incidentally, what do you call a ‘cheese man’ in a fancy restaurant?) — score 10/10 again.

We didn’t drink any wines with the meal, but as the second-cheapest (normally my standard choice!) bottles were £25 for white or £29 for red, this would have offset the fact we’d got a discount quite considerably anyway — although that I’m sure that in common with the food, they would have been lovely.

And then we come to the service. I’ve complained about posh restaurants with poor service before, but I could not fault the service we’d received at Jesmond Dene House. Every single member of staff was helpful, efficient, knowledgable and friendly.

I could however fault their policy of automatically adding a 10% service charge to your bill. Our total bill (after discount) was £63.03 (£113.03 without), which included the service charge. If they had not included the service charge with the bill already, they would have got a significantly larger amount because I was so happy with the meal and the service (rather than 10% they would likely have been tipped over 20%).

However I work on the policy that if they automatically add on a particular service charge to the bill, then I’ll pay that but not a penny more. If they allow me to decide for myself, I’ll tip according to what I feel the service was worth. That’s only fair: I’m happy to pay a service charge, but if they choose to set the value, then that’s what they will get, even if I would have normally paid more.

I was however very, very impressed with Jesmond Dene House and have added myself to their mailing list (well, I had to, it was one of the conditions of the voucher). It’s not likely to be somewhere I visit regularly, simply because of the standard price, and the fact that it’s not really somewhere to take the kids to, although if they send me other equivalent offers, then I will certainly consider taking them up.

If you’ve got a special reason to go for a meal: a birthday, passing exams or some other celebration, or indeed, you’ve just got enough money that those prices are fine for you on a day to day basis, then I’d certainly recommend a trip to Jesmond Dene House.

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11 Comments to Jesmond Dene House

  1. Jack's Mam says:

    May 5th, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I’ll second that! Its our favourite restaurant at the moment. Re the price, if you want to give it a whirl without such great expense, why not try the lunch menu 2 courses for about £21 and three courses for £24 or £25 if I remember correctly.Also the afternoon tea at £15 a head is good value if you like scones ,cakes etc.
    @Jack - the menu is on the home page of ,click on ‘food’ near the top then next page on further details and go to lunch, a la carte etc.

  2. JackP says:

    May 5th, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    @Jack’s mam - yes, I know. I did link to the darn thing, after all.

    However, and this was the bit that I was pointing out looked unprofessional and dubious, the menu is in fact hosted on a different site.

    Tcch! These non-techies, give ‘em an internet connection and they think they know what they are talking about :-)

  3. Gary Miller says:

    May 5th, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    If I tried speaking to my mam like that, it would be: “Straight up to your room. And it’s no stottie, ham or pease pudding for you tonight m’boy”.

  4. Jack's Mam says:

    May 5th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Don’t worry, I’ve stopped his pocket money!!

  5. Gary Miller says:

    May 5th, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    If he can afford to eat at those prices, your giving him too much!

  6. Andy Mabbett says:

    May 5th, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    I’ve got nothing to say about this post, but can’t resist saying hello to Jack’s Mam!

  7. Jack's Mam says:

    May 6th, 2009 at 12:57 am

    @Andy and Gary. Hello and thank you for your support!! I know it’s my own fault ,but he’s just a spoilt brat.;-)

  8. JackP says:

    May 6th, 2009 at 10:06 am

    @Jack’s Mam — behave, I’ll be choosing your nursing home!

  9. Andy Mabbett says:

    May 6th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    @Jack’s Mam - do you have any embarassing photos of young Jack, which you can post for our enjoyment?

  10. Gary Miller says:

    May 6th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    @Andy: Well…funny you should mention that…try the pic here:

    Sorry Jack!!

  11. Jack's Mam says:

    May 6th, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    @Andy-I’ll see what I can do re photos but i am mindful of jack’s last comment re nursing home!!!

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