Restaurants and reviews

The Patricia, Newcastle upon Tyne

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The Patricia
The Patricia

Marina O’Loughlin’s review in The Guardian called it it ‘a little belter’. I’m not so sure. I think The Patricia has an identity crisis. Four of us ate there for what was to be a celebration meal.

Is it a popup? In which case its prices o’er leap its delivery. Is it a serious restaurant? Because the ends don’t tie together sufficiently to sell itself as such. Is it just a cafe with aspirations? No, to be fair it is more than that. What reinforces its confused image? Sit at a table facing the window and the Chinese-takeaway nets, note the missing skirting and random paint-roller patterns. Face the open kitchen and it feels more promising, more edgy. But the kitchen ventilation could do with attention because the place was full of smoke. Sufficient to make a mental note to go to the dry-cleaners on Monday. The friendly but ultimately untrained front of house enhanced the informality but were disorganised with no apparent leadership. The food was inconsistent in portion size, quality and presentation. Some of it was cold. The service was s-l-o-w, not helped by those lovely but rushed front of house people telling us how busy the chef’s are (at 18.30 with only 15 people in the restaurant). Pity the poor people who were queueing for the second sitting at 20.30 with not a snowball’s chance of being seated before 21.00. Free appeasing Cava will eat into that profit.

The pre-starter ‘snacks’ arrived 45 minutes after we ordered, and the starters 1.25 hours from when we sat down. The water ordered was not delivered and had to be requested twice, our neighbours at the next table were audibly muttering, finger thrumming and ceiling gazing. With no juice available as a non alcoholic drink, and no anchovies available as ‘snacks’ we had two unevenly sized plates of jamon to share – one had a measly portion the other a double portion.

The starters of stir fried Brussels sprouts with aged parmesan, a simple salad with tangy cheese and walnuts and the steak tartare were all nice but not outstanding. And why did it take 1.25 hours to produce these? And why did the bread arrive after the starters?  Salad is just about arranging on a plate. Stir fry is by definition a five minute job. Tartar and egg yolk are raw. Que?

Onto the mains. Two of us shared a succulent 40 day aged rib-eye. It was delicious. But inexplicably, there was no English mustard available “Chef says this Dijon will go well with it” – well at £65 a throw for two love, I do need to be patronised thanks. Why make a virtue of aged English steak and have no English mustard? There were no serving spoons for cold unseasoned polenta and salad. The gnudi (like gnocchi) was ok but the portion was very small and it had no accompaniments, so that our vegetarian had finished his mains in five minutes whilst we meat eaters ploughed on for another 20. The veal and risotto was tasty and rich, but could have done with a green to lift the richness.

The puddings – almond tart and chocolate mousse were delicious. They arrived quite swiftly, but then I guess they just had to be lifted onto a plate and not cooked in the moment.

It all felt a bit too scatty, unconnected and willfully self-conscious to hold together. In fact I didn’t quite get what sort of experience it was supposed to be. And the £206 bill for dinner for four left a bit of a sour taste in the mouth for what was a very average experience. Certainly not fine dining. But what was it? Although the Saint Emillion was excellent.

All in all it is a curate’s egg.

My advice? Don’t be seduced by The Guardian review, there’s a way to go yet pet. Chefs, come out of the kitchen and experience your offer from the table and see what you make of it. Be prepared to critique it. Use your experience as a customer – not those of your friends who will understandably have a vested interest in writing you rave reviews. Decide what you want this establishment to be. Then be the change you want to see. Speed up. Sort out the nets. Train your front of house and have someone in charge out there.

Meanwhile, we will go back to Peace and Loaf just down the road, or to Time and Tide. And probably will not reacquaint ourselves with Patricia. Even though she’s trying hard.