I Don’t Bay Leaf It
By Jon Corbett on October 25, 2011 in Food
Sometimes you arrive at a restaurant so hungry that you could bite your friends arm off, and then, full of hope and anticipation, you’re served an overcooked leg of lamb that looks like a shaved ferret.
“Why didn’t I just stay at home and eat that nice ham I bought?” You ask with a pain and anger inside your needy belly.
And then other times the food is so good that you never want to get hungry again, safe in the dark knowledge that things will never quite be the same. You can, of course, visit a good haunt again and eat blandly in between. Thus, my friends, I introduce you to my new favourite eatery nestled neatly behind the sea and jibe and chatter of Whitley Bay’s town centre. Bay Leaf Bistro.
The average Joe may not know it under the former name of Bay’s Bistro, open for the best part of twelve years now, and is managed by two warm and dedicated souls going by the names of Joanne and Sean.
And, in a frisky bid to breath new energy into its menu with classic British cuisine, the bistro recently secured the esteemed services of the renowned Tyneside food wizard Paul Amer – who joined the company as head chef and partner in the business last October.
If you didn’t know already, Mr Amer trained alongside a certain Gin loving chef going by the name of Gordon Ramsay and also worked for renowned chefs Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White in London, before fronting operations at the ever so swanky Fisherman’s Lodge in Jesmond Dean.
Co-owner, Joanne, explains: “We want people to dine here as we feel we offer something different, we have one of the best chef’s in the North East and we’re really proud of what we do. We want to be known as a local bistro, offering value for money, and a great service in a warm and welcoming place. As well as the food, service is so important to us and we try and make everyone who eats here feel special.”
The decor has all the charm and understated style of a modern Parisian hideaway and has two other vital ingredients that makes the difference; an eclectic mix of people who dine here and good honest food. The place has a beating heart.
Amer has introduced a modern British twist to the menu and only uses prime local produce to ensure the freshness and flavour in the dishes. The menu is also seasonal and changes on a regular basis to keep it alive and interesting.
The Bay Leaf Bistro boasts a scintillating lunch, early evening and dinner menu, but if you’re a greedy little hound like the Corbett family, you may be inclined to dive straight into the A La Carte Menu. Well you would wouldn’t you?
To start, the local shore crab (£7.50) is a stunning idea for a starter. Served with avocado and gazpacho, the thick, sweet, cold meat will endear all fish lovers and is a perfect beginning to an evening of fine dining. Curiously moreish, the Tempura king prawns (£8.50) were also a delight. Served with a sweet chilli sauce, this selection was faultless and exploded with flavour and freshness.
If you’re a veggie – or forced to be one for the evening for the purposes of a sound and unbiased food review – you may like to try the grilled goats cheese (£6.25), complete with a fine bean and asparagus aside, crushed hazelnuts and truffle dressing, this is something of a taste sensation. Who knew the milk of a goat and the delicate hand of a master chef could produce something so fine?
I sometimes get upset after I’ve selfishly filled myself with communal table bread and the biggest starter possible. Where to put the main course!?
Although wholesome, saucy and alive, thankfully the starters here don’t ruin the main event for the eager gobbler. They’re just the right size. And when you get to the main event, presuming you’re a fish food admirer such as I, may I suggest you take on the pan fried supreme of wild sea bass (£17.50).
Served with green vegetables, saute potatoes and a wildly seductive Girolle cream tortellini, this little lady is the undisputed star of the show. That said, the roasted duck breast (£16.50) – invitingly and deliciously served pink – will make you forget all about seafood. This naughty little number comes with cherries, baby turnips and a tagliatelle of luscious leeks.
Based on tonight’s show, all main dishes were a sweet marriage of exquisite technique and huge, robust flavours, that should command a crowd – and although we were only half full tonight, I’d expect this joint to be buzzing on a weekend.
While Amer cooks like a man thirsty to make you remember what ingredients should taste like, Joanne and Sean back this with a competent, passionate and comforting service; the team works.
And, for those who are hardcore and have capacity, the deserts are also a rich delight.
Unapologetically sweet and glutenous, the sticky toffee pudding (£5.95) with hot butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream is sensational. And if that doesn’t float your sensory vessel, check out the chocolate and praline truffle cake (£6.50). It’s deep, it’s indulgent, and is a slice of chocolate heaven.
The nearest I can come to a criticism of the Bay Leaf Bistro is its location. If it was, as I’m sure its owners would agree, in the heart of a resuscitated Tynemouth, you would have heard more people shout about it long before now. But that’s part of its charm and its mystique.
The Bay Leaf Bistro has a strong wine list, great food, a smart front of house system and, at the end of night, a bill that doesn’t make you feel that you’ve been cheated. It’s what restuarants should always be like.
And okay, it may not be the cheapest place to dine in the Bay, but if you fancy a well earned break from the endless stream of cheap neon kebab factories, and you want to treat that special certain someone, this my friend, is the place for you.
For more information about the Bay Leaf Bistro check out their official website www.bayleaf-bistro.co.uk