Food Review: The Living Room
By Claire Dupree on May 16, 2012 in Food
When the best thing you’ve had to eat all week is one (yes, one) pickled onion Monster Munch, the prospect of eating out anywhere is an exciting one. Even more so, when you’ve been invited to dine at a swanky city centre restaurant.
I may have been under the misconception that The Living Room was a ‘diamond strip’ kinda place – all fur coat and no knickers, as my dad would put it. I stand corrected though – the clientele was fairly mixed, with the bar being home to after work drinkers and the restaurant dotted with a mixture of young couples and normal bods like us, out for a treat.
Running late for our reservation, we didn’t stop in the bar first, but it was fairly busy and I’ve heard it gets uncomfortably full at weekends. The slightly dark and stylishly decked out restaurant is a contrast to the bright busy bar, but a welcome one. We were shown to a table with comfy cream leather benches, mood lighting and a saucy painting on the wall. A good start.
Describing itself as a ‘piano bar’, the music journalist in me was frankly relieved to see no musicians in residence at the cream baby grand this evening (live music on weekends only) as being serenaded by a Britain’s Got Talent reject with Michael Buble standards is my idea of hell. The music was jazzy to start with, fairly unobtrusive, but got a little more varied as the night wore on. Nothing so inoffensive to be offensive, if you know what I mean.
Our waiter was attentive and knowledgeable, plying us with at least three different food menus and a couple of drink ones too. When asked for recommendations, he spent several minutes describing his favourites in detail – a nicer touch than hearing the ‘recommended dishes’ being trilled out for the tenth time that night.
The menu comprised of a healthy selection of starters, sharers and nibbles (unfortunately they had no tapas sharing boards when we attended, a shame as the chorizo in chilli and red wine and goats cheese and olive empanadas sounded right up my street), with none of the starters breaking the £8 mark.
Their Perfect Set Menu is of particularly good value, and really makes The Living Room the sort of place you could go for a nice meal in stylish surroundings and not feel totally robbed at the end of the night. One of my companions chose from this, with 3 courses coming in at just £14, with the option of adding a (perfectly quaffable) bottle of house wine for just a tenner. My glass of recommended Argentinean Malbec was so stunning I was loathe to try anything else for the rest of the night, whilst my other whisky loving diner was furnished with one of the best Old Fashioned’s he’s had despite it not appearing on the extensive cocktail menu.
And so to the food – we shared a superbly chunky Moroccan spiced houmous with toasted ciabatta (£3.25) and a pot of Edamame beans coated in soy, ginger and chilli (£3) which had us licking our fingers in delight. The set menu starter of Thai fishcakes were a little more cake than fish, but the sweet chilli sauce had a very pleasant kick and more than made up for the slightly dense fishcakes.
Since it’s not often I get an opportunity to eat fancy food, I plumped for the pan-fried monkfish with parsley fishcake served with a very light pea and tomato dressing (£17.50) which was heavenly – the fish meaty yet succulent with the fishcake adding a pleasant crunch. The side order of sesame glazed sugar snap peas and mange tout (£3) had us fighting over eachother to consume; crispy and delicious. My companions had a monster of a burger (£10), topped with cheese and pancetta so crispy it shattered in your mouth, an amazing chunky tomato relish and proper chips; and from the set menu, the pappardelle pasta with slow cooked shin of beef and ragu was extremely flavoursome and very rich.
Leaving ourselves precious little room for dessert, we devoured the set menu’s serving of intense chocolate truffle cake served with vanilla ice cream and crushed ‘hokey pokey’ (cinder toffee), and we shared a cheeseboard (£8.50) which came with a rather disappointingly pedestrian cheddar, but the excellent goats cheese and biting stilton more than made up for it.
Overall, our little party of three were thoroughly happy with our dining experience. With superb service, excellent quality food at a not unreasonable price, and surroundings that made you feel you were a million miles away from a rainy corner of town a little too close for comfort to Flares.
- Food Review: The Waterline, Newcastle – Great Pub, Great Restaurant, But A Great Combination?