Six months in and I’m starting to worry a little about becoming a diet bore. It’s hard to believe, but since committing to healthy eating I spend even more time thinking about food, though thanks to the eating plan I’ve chosen that’s not because I’m going hungry. That said, eating out has definitely become more of a treat; my restaurant visits are less frequent and my menu choices more thoughtful. When I was invited to test Scalini’s new menu at their Jesmond restaurant, I was pleased to have a treat on the horizon and cut back on my syns during the week accordingly, but with generous portions I should perhaps have cut back a little more!
I visited Scalini’s early on a Friday evening, when it was just dark enough for me to admire the pretty fairy lights outside. Inside, the place was reassuringly busy – with a mix of couples and groups taking advantage of the earlybird deal (two courses for £7.50 and three courses for £8.50). Since I’ve started to think of wine as empty calories rather than the giver of joy that we all know it to be, I ordered a large diet coke while my dining partner and I perused the menu. The waiting staff were very attentive and while they knew I was a blogger, observations throughout my meal suggested that other tables were enjoying prompt service also, despite the crowds.
After a very short wait, we found some ample starters in front of us. I opted for a souffle from the specials board – feta and olive and my carb consuming partner in crime, Nikki, gorged on garlicky bread of the pizza-shaped variety.
I chose the souffle because in my head, it seemed like a much healthier option than the arancini that also caught my eye. However, it turned out to be a rather supersize souffle, with a rather naughty sauce. The texture of the souffle was a little heavier than a standard souffle, but as someone who has banished bread from her home, this only made me love it more, as did the creamy, salty centre. Admittedly, it is hard to mess up a garlic pizza bread and reassuringly, Nikki found Scalini’s offering to tick all the right boxes.
When my main course arrived, I kicked myself a little for thinking that gnocchi with butternut squash and sage would ever come with anything other than a creamy sauce. To stop my syns going stratospheric I stopped myself eating the whole plate, which again, housed a very ample portion. Due perhaps to my thoughtless ordering rather than the skills of the kitchen, I found the sauce on the gnocchi to be rather similar to the sauce on my starter. Nikki found herself more surprised than I when the fish platter she ordered turned out not only to be huge (it could easily feed two) but also to be deep fried. Oops. Again, this was no fault of the kitchen, it was clearly marked on the menu, but Nikki’s post-work hunger pangs had caused some sort of temporary problem with reading comprehension. She made a valiant effort and working her way through an assortment of fried sea dwellers – including king prawns, salmon and calamari but after a garlic bread it proved too much of a challenge with dessert on the horizon, though she did also say that she would have liked a bit more flavour to the batter – perhaps a bit of chilli.
Despite a food baby that made driving home a little difficult, there was no way we were leaving Scalini’s without a dessert and that’s because the waitress informed us about the cheesecake of the day early on during dining. From that moment onwards the marshmallow and strawberry cheesecake had been written into Nikki’s future, destined to override regret over her main course haste. In my sights was a slice of amaretto cake. Layers of light chocolate cake and mousse, laced with plenty of my favourite liqueur soon had me deep in amaretto amore.
Though my menu choices wouldn’t have been eligible for the early bird deal my total would have amounted to a very palatable sub-£20 bill if I hadn’t been lucky enough to be dining at the invitation of the owners. With this and the great service I think Scalini’s is a great spot for a substantial and good value meal, though it has a little way to go before it becomes my first choice for Italians in the Toon.