With my Brazilian sister-in-law visiting we had a long list of places lined up to show off the North East. I thought ‘English’ experiences would be best, so organised an afternoon tea which I knew she’d love. Unfortunately it fell through on account of there not being a vegan option available for Mr. Canny on the day. We could have persevered, but I wanted all to participate. Instead, Blackfriars Restaurant very kindly organised a lunchtime table for us at the last minute, which was a lovely place to end her whistle stop tour of the Toon.
Having eaten here many times before, I knew it as somewhere consistent delivering good quality scran. In fact, it was rated as one of my best Sunday lunches in the North East (which you can read about here). I was drawn to return and properly review the menu because of.. you guessed it.. the vegan options. Blackfriars is one of only a few restaurants in the area that has specific vegan dishes available, day in and out. No calling ahead to warn them about dietary requirements! I’ve always felt that vegetarians were well catered for here, but seeing something other than a salad or couscous listed for Mr. Canny made my day.
Adriana was very impressed with the interior and the history behind the restaurant, which was an added bonus. Blackfriars dates back to 1239, long before Brazil as we know it even came into existence. It was lovely to see a wedding party outside who were in the banqueting hall celebrating. What a fantastic setting!
At £15 for 2 courses and £18 for 3, the set menu is a great value way of trying out the best Blackfriars has to offer. Full of fresh local produce, trumpeted on the place mats, she struggled to chose from a selection of meaty fare. Both Adriana and myself opted for mains and desserts, Mr. Canny believed he was limited to starter and main as there was no labelled vegan pud he could see on the menu. We didn’t want to overeat as we had a Quayside walk planned afterwards.
A glass of complimentary fizz was handed to us, which was a lovely touch. For all my visits I’d never really paid attention to the interior, especially the mural near the latrines. More fool me. In a different building this sort of decor would smack of tacky, but it works in the historic surroundings. We could have been transported back to days of yore if our waiter had been wearing pantaloons or a ruff, but they’ve thankfully been spared the indignity!
Speaking of which, Joey was a convivial and knowledgeable chap. Nothing was too much trouble as he checked what ales Mr. Canny could try from the selection Blackfriars have (The Durham Brewery’s Cloister, in case your interested) and kept the bread basket topped up.
Mr. Canny’s starter of Roast Tomato and Basil Soup may appear simple enough, but it was packed with flavour. So creamy in texture, it was hard to believe there wasn’t any pesky dairy lurking in there.
There was a slight error when my Pan Haggerty arrived, which is topped with a poached hen’s egg. I may not be vegan but I can’t stand the beggars and I had asked for it to be served egg-less. Offered a fresh plate of food, I requested the chef just remove the offending article from the top. The traditional Northumbrian potato bake was delicious without a runny yoke all over it, but the summer greens benefitted from the sage and mustard cream sauce which it was drizzled with.
The sister-in-law ordered the pan-fried chicken with peas and bacon, which she enjoyed. While chicken is obviously not uncommon in South America, she said it differed in style to those she’d encounter in restaurants back home.
The star of the show was definitely Mr. Canny’s vegan main of Portobello Mushroom with Polenta. The sweetness of the charred corn worked well against the woody mushroom, while the veggie gravy was a triumph. It was a hearty portion, too.Adriana chose the rich chocolate brownie for dessert, accompanied by macerated cherries and a scoop of sorbet. It was slightly bitter, which was offset by the sweetness of the juicy cherries. My sticky toffee pudding was served with banana ice cream and was swimming in an unctuous sauce. The sponge was just about right, leaving me full enough not to want to eat until supper time but not so full I struggled walking afterwards.Mr. Canny’s fear of never eating another dessert in a restaurant again was allayed when the waiter announced their Summer Pudding was vegan-friendly if cream-less. Suggesting one of the lovely sorbets instead, the Mr. was on the fence about whether to have a third course being so full. I convinced him, stating that because a pud like this is such a rare treat it would be a shame not to try it out for the blog. He selflessly acquiesced.
The pudding itself – assembled like a terrine using bread, fruit and agar (instead of animal gelatine) – was not as stodgy as either of us feared. Served cold, it was an appropriate end to his well thought out and executed 3 course meal. Maybe the menu could state it is vegan without the cream to encourage ordering?
Although I expected Blackfriars to deliver, there’s always a nagging fear that it may not come up with the goods on this one particular occasion. Thankfully it didn’t happen, which allowed Adriana to enjoy a showcase of seasonal dishes prepared using great local produce. Their attention to detail regarding the vegetarian and vegan options also meant that myself and Mr. Canny didn’t feel like we were missing out. With fantastic main and dessert dishes labelled on the menu, I’d heartily recommend those who worry about dining out with a dietary requirement (gluten free is also highlighted) make a booking there asap.
Our only quibble, apart from the dessert labelling, was also a lack of labelling on the drinks menu, which is a common complaint when dining out for us. Our waiter Joey did the legwork for us, however, and a special thank you goes out to him for his attentive and warm service throughout the meal.
Thanks for reading,
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