Food review: Blackfriars and Dobson and Parnell

Ambience: Blackfriars offers a "unique atmosphere" for your Graduation dinner

In true Courier style, we sent two of our writers, Alexander Killingworth and Kathryn Deeds, to tackle the taste bud test at two of the best rated restaurants in Newcastle to find the best Graduation grub.

Alexander Killingworth on Blackfriars

During my time as a student at Newcastle, for the sake of my bank account, I’ve ventured beyond the likes of Eat4Less only a few times. So when it came to choosing somewhere to eat with my family on Graduation day, I was very much at a loss. Alas, my first trip to Blackfriars saved the day and my family and I will certainly be satisfied with our graduation grub.

If you’re looking for a restaurant with a unique atmosphere, Blackfriars is located in a 13th century former medieval friary, so it most definitely offers you just that. With its interior true to its historical heritage, Blackfriars is up there as one of the most aesthetically  pleasing eateries I’ve ever visited in Newcastle.

If you haven’t already guessed, I absolutely loved Blackfriars and that was even before I’d even tried the food. Blackfriars offers very reasonably priced set menus for both Lunch (£15 for 2 courses/£18 for 3 courses) and Early dinner (£18 for 2 courses/£21 for 3 courses). With the different menu choices, Blackfriars would be a feasble option for both early and late Graduation ceremonies.

With only £3 difference between the 2 course and the 3 course set menu, it would be a shame for both your appetite and your purse/wallet to only order the 2 course meal. For that price you most definitely can’t go wrong and after all, it is your Graduation day.

Before visiting Blackfriars, I made my guest agree to sharing plates to ensure I had the opportunity to taste as much of the delicious food as possible.

On the menu:

Guest 1:

Starter: Mussel chowder, fried breadcrumbs, horseradish creme fraiche

Main: Charred rump steak, beef fat chips, greens, mustard sauce

Dessert: A selection of ice cream and sorbet

Guest 2:

Starter: (v) Heritage tomato salad, gazpacho jelly, buffalo mozzarella, croutons

Main: Charred rump steak, beef fat chips, greens, mustard sauce

Dessert: Dark chocolate, fudge salt caramel, peanut butter

For starters, both the fish cakes and the Northumbrian ham fritters were cooked to perfection. As a rule, I’m not much of a fan of fish, but after tasting the fish cakes at Blackfriars, I think I’ll be more inclined to try more fish in the future. Served with poached egg and brown sauce, the saltiness of the slow-cooked ham fritters was counteracted and the overall dish was first-rate.

The main courses included high-end meats and epitomised everything  I thought I couldn’t afford as a student. The Northumbria hanger steak was cooked to order and because of my personal preferences, I choose to order the steak medium-rare. Although I haven’t eaten much steak whilst at University, I am fairly fussy when it comes to getting the grill correct. As soon as the steak arrived and I saw how tender the middle of the meat was, I knew I was in for a treat.

Blackfriars was voted Taste of England in the North East England Tourism Awards and after visiting the restaurant, this does not come as a big surprise to me whatsoever”

The roast belly pork was also cooked extremely well and as with the steak, the presentation of the dish was second to none. Both plates were served with a selection of sides which further complimented the tastes of the meats.

Before the desserts arrived, there was an element of doubt in my mind as to whether or not I’d be able to finish all three courses; rest assured, I did. Both desserts were impeccably presented and both tasted as good as they looked. The salted caramel sauce was a great addition to the sticky toffee pudding and because of the caramel, I’d have to say that this dessert ranked higher than the Summer berry Eton mess.

Blackfriars was voted Taste of England in the North East England Tourism Awards and after visiting the restaurant, this does not come as a big surprise to me whatsoever.

When thinking back to my time as a student and taking into consideration the reasonable price of both the 2 course and 3 course set menus, I do wish I had visited Blackfriars sooner. Obviously it wouldn’t have been somewhere that would have been able to afford to visit on a regular basis, but it sure would have been somewhere good to go as a treat. I’m very happy that I discovered Blackfriars before I left Newcastle and even more so after having selected it as the place to eat on my Graduation day.

The complete package: Dobson and Parnell provides "first-class food in a first-class location"

The complete package: Dobson and Parnell provides “first-class food in a first-class location”

Kathryn Deeds on Dobson and Parnell

Dobson and Parnell has always been somewhere that I’ve wanted to eat at. Ever since first hearing about it from a friend, I’ve regularly looked at the menu online but I’ve never actually got round to going. Now I’ve actually been, I’m kicking myself for not going sooner.

Dobson and Parnell opened in December 2016 by the team from Blackfriars Restaurant. I’ve never been myself to Blackfrairs, but a couple of my friends have and I’ve only heard good things.

On the menu:

Guest 1:

Starter: Mussel chowder, fried breadcrumbs, horseradish creme fraiche

Main: Charred rump steak, beef fat chips, greens, mustard sauce

Dessert: A selection of ice cream and sorbet

Guest 2:

Starter: (v) Heritage tomato salad, gazpacho jelly, buffalo mozzarella, croutons

Main: Charred rump steak, beef fat chips, greens, mustard sauce

Dessert: Dark chocolate, fudge salt caramel, peanut butter

Although I’m not a vegetarian, I did opt for one of the vegetarian start options: Heritage tomato salad, gazpacho jelly, buffalo mozzarella with croutons. When ordering the starter, I think I just wanted to try something new and I was very pleasantly surprised. There was so much going on with the dish that I didn’t feel as though meat/fish was missing.

I also tried some of the mussel chowder, fried bread crumbs and horseradish creme fraiche, and I was pleasantly surprised. Although I like mussels, I thought that I would be put off by the chowder however it turned out to be a really refreshing dish.

Before visiting Dobson and Parnell, being the massive foodie that I am, I’d spent a lot of time looking at the menu so when it came to the main course, I’d made my decision way in advance. For main course I ordered charred rump steak, beef fat chips, greens with mustard sauce. The whole dish was absolutely fantastic, with the steak cooked exceptionally well and the sides of greens and chips equally as appetising. My favourite part of the dish was definitely the beef fat chips – you could really taste the beef and they were absolutely delightful.

I’m a sucker for a good dessert and if there’s anything chocolate related, I’m almost always sold immediately. With this said, of course I went for the chocolate option but with the array of desserts on offer at Dobson and Parnell, I have to admit that it wasn’t a particularly easy choice. With dark chocolate, fudge salt caramel and peanut butter, my dessert went down an absolute treat. Restaurants can often get the balance of components wrong when it comes to desserts, but this certainly was not the case. The dark chocolate was incredibly rich but the hint of peanut butter balanced the taste out perfectly.

Dobson and Parnell is situated on the Quayside; if that’s not enough to sway you, I don’t know what is. For first-class food in a first-class location, I’d definitely recommend taking time to visit this restaurant”

Overall, the food was fantastic and considering the price, I would definitely recommend trying Dobson and Parnell’s set menu. When looking at the set menu, I was fairly surprised at how reasonably priced both the 2 course and 3 course meals were. After tasting the food, I’m even more so surprised at the value for money. With this said, Dobson and Parnell would definitely be a good choice for your Graduation day, or any celebration at that matter.

The service was also fantastic. When you visit a restaurant like Dobson and Parnell, you certainly expect a certain level of service, paying for both the food and the service. The staff were all really pleasant and happy to explain anything on the menu. I asked one of the staff a very specific question about something on the menu and without any hesitation, they answered straight away. I think this is really important when you’re eating out because you want to know exactly what you’re eating.

After hearing that Dobson and Parnell opened as a sister restaurant to the well established and reputable Blackfriars, I had high hopes of Dobson and Parnell and it certainly did not disappoint.

Although I’ve not eaten at Blackfriars, I have no doubt in my mind that Dobson and Parnell will soon establish a high reputation for itself. In fact, after eating at Dobson and Parnell, I will definitely be making a visit to Blackfriars. For now, I’m just going to pretend that this will be to compare the two, but in reality I know I just love good food.

Dobson and Parnell is situated on the Quayside; if that’s not enough sway you, I don’t know what is. For first-class food in a first-class location, I’d definitely recommend  taking time to visit this restaurant. The location, the atmosphere of the restaurant, along with the great taste of the food, would make Dobson and Parnell the perfect place to eat on your Graduation day.

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