Not so long ago I had a highly inappropriate crush on the 23-year-old actor Luke Pasqualino (Freddie from second-gen Skins). So, for friends reading this post who are aware of this minor and probably fleeting attachment (which I’m pretty much totally recovered from-ish) I just want to make it clear that for the most part, I won’t be writing about Luke today.Today I’m writing about a recent trip to a restaurant and this is my review of Pasqualinos Newcastle, which I was invited to visit in order to give my opinion on their great value set menu. Here, two courses come in at £8.95 and three at £10.95 respectively.

Myself and my dining partner, the lovely Katherine Weir, headed along mid-evening on a Thursday when the restaurant was pleasantly busy. As you can see from the menu  here, we had a lot to mull over before making our choices. I’m a great lover of pizza (love of pizza=>Freddie from Skins) and so it was very hard to pass over the enticing combos on the list, which featured an impressive quota of vegetarian choices, much to the joy of Ms Weir. However, as i’ve been following Slimming World recently, pass by the pizza I must.

Skimming the menu for slimming-friendly starter options the soups immediately caught my eye and I chose the soup of the day – butternut squash and caramelised onion – while Weir whetted her appetite with some minestrone. I must say, the squash soup turned out to be the star of the show. As soon as I came home post-meal I started scouring the internet for recipes for this combo.  It wasn’t one that I’d tried before but it really did hit the spot and was one of the best soups I’ve had in a while. Velvety and deliciously sweet – it was just the ticket for someone who has been going cold turkey on cake and I’m pretty sure a syn-free version is on the horizon soon.

When it came to the main courses Katherine found it fairly hard to choose as there were far more than the token one or two options for vegetarians. After my meat-free month last March I really appreciate a menu that recognises meat doesn’t need to dominate. In the end Weir settled on the ‘Joel’ a sprouting brocolli, toasted pinenut and chilli topped pizza.

For those who haven’t been to Pasqualinos before – it’s attached to the Theatre Royal and owned  by the same people as Paradiso, Popolo, Alvinos and Secco among others. I must confess at this point that Paradiso is one of my favourite spots for a value bite in the Toon and Alvinos is always on my top cocktail drinking lists, so it had a lot to live up to. This was also my second visit to Pasqualinos – which has a very informal atmosphere compounded by the friendly staff, Italian-American deco and views into the kitchen. On a previous visit in August I was impressed by the meaty sauce on the rigatoni ragu but a little disappointed with how much pasta came in the portion, so on this visit I wondered how my main plate would compare.

I opted for the seafood risotto special, which is available for a small upgrade on the two course deal, which is perhaps why the portion I received time was a little larger. There was certainly a good helping of seafood in the midst of the arborio rice and a strong citrus flavour – which I always love. When I’m dining at invitation as a blogger (and without paying, on this particular occasion) I usually look around to spy on everyone else’s portions, but being in a booth made this a little trickier. That said, Katherine’s pizza seemed very much representative of the pizza all around. Although Alvinos remains her top pick for value pizza, she was impressed with the flavour combination and glad that the pizza wasn’t overwhelmed with cheese.

I really liked the contemporary decor and busy atmosphere at Pasqualinos (which cleared out later as we spent so long eating). In appearance it reminded me a little of my Leeds favourite, Salvos (you can read about Salvos here) though the food wasn’t quite to the same standard or price bracket, the relaxed atmosphere was definitely there and I’m eager to test the bar at Pasqualinos at some point too. They currently have 20% off cocktails at the bar after 9.30pm and the offer of a free glass of Prosecco with every two course meal from the a la carte menu, which finishes November 30th. These offers seem to change regularly so it’s worth peeping at their special offers page.

As i’d had a glass of vino with my meal and was slightly weary of increasing my calorie intake further I ducked out of dessert, but Katherine indulged in some cookies & cream ice cream, which came in a cute Pasqualino’s pot.

Pasqualinos ice cream

I needn’t have worried about the weight loss as I actually had best weight loss to date that week. Proof that you can eat out as long as you make considered choices. I’m planning on doing meat-free March again this year, so may well dip in to Pasqualinos when I do.

If you’re interested in taking a part in meat-free March or a meat-free recipe swap, sending vegetarian products for review, or offering sponsorship/prizes for this year’s competition please leave a comment below or email fay@foodfables.co.uk.

 

Even before I moved back to the North East I’d planned myself a schedule of scoffing to look forward to and the very first thing on the scoffgenda was a rather special supper club event. This particular supper, held in Ouse Street Arts Cub  on February 8th, was the brainchild of Anna from The Grazer. If you have somehow missed her blog you need to take a look –  it’s packed full of lust-after recipes and food photography that makes dribble drop from the side of your mouth down onto your laptop.

Having gazed longingly at the food porn featured in some of Anna’s posts for a wee while, I was super keen to graze in her presence and messaged her about tickets for the Middle Eastern Meat Free Feast night as soon as they went on sale. Be warned: I only managed to snap one up as she decided to hold an extra night, so if you want to attend one of Anna’s other events you really need to be quick off the mark or book her for a private event.

Setting the table at The Grazer's Middle East Meat Free Feast, Ouseburn

Setting the table at The Grazer's Middle East Meat Free Feast

My date for the evening was the delightful Danielle, a greedy girl after my own heart who I picked up at a wedding. This makes our friendship sound nice and sleazy but really we just got talking about carbs and decided to be food friends, which is fast becoming my friend pickup technique. After briefly getting a little lost in Ouseburn (I’m not a proper local yet, obv), we rocked up to the shipping container where our supper was to be served, eager to tuck in to the following menu.The Grazer's Middle East Meat Free Feast Menu

The Grazer’s Middle East Meat Free Feast Menu

The venue itself was really rather cosy and the lighting and projector helped set the ambience. Warming ourselves up with a glasses of ginger fizz, Danielle and I decided to do a bit of a mingle and got talking to two fellow food appreciators from Durham who gave me more eateries to add to my ‘to try’ list, including a pancake house in Durham. And then it was time to get to work on the middle eastern mezze, which was a sea of colours and textures.

The Middle East Meat Free Feast begins

The Middle East Meat Free Feast begins

I know I bang on a lot about beans being the work of Satan and on the whole I stand by this, but I really couldn’t get enough of Anna’s bean and feta crush, which was gorgeously garlicky and incredibly more-ish. In fact, the whole of the starter was more-ish. I shovelled heaps of carrot dip down on the caraway crackers and suspect I took more than my fair share of the mint and feta cigars (I really need the recipe for these please Anna, they were a real crowd pleaser with everyone).

Butter bean, feta and Za'tar crush, pickled vegetables with curry, mint and feta cigars, roast carrot dip, harissa creme fraiche and caraway and cumin seed lavosh crackers

Butter bean, feta and Za'tar crush, pickled vegetables with curry, mint and feta cigars, roast carrot dip, harissa creme fraiche and caraway and cumin seed lavosh crackers

I’m a real meat eater but since my meal at Hansas, I’ve been embracing vegetarian food far more enthusiastically and there’s even talk about Bitsandbobs Becs and I completing an entirely meat-free March. SERIOUS SAUSAGE LOVERS QUIT MEAT FOR MARCH – YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!  Anyway, one item that will definitely be getting an outing during this time is lentil kofte and Anna’s red lentil versions were crisp without being crunchy and tasted amazing with the harissa creme fraiche and yoghurt dips. The pomegranate was a great finishing touch adding even more colour to the smorgasbord of shades.

Honeyed sweet potato and chickpea, tomato and spinach stew

Honeyed sweet potato and chickpea, tomato and spinach stew

After nibbles galore, which we washed down with BYO white wine, it was time for the carbs and they came in the form of nutty cous cous and honey sweet potatoes. Alongside these perfect partners was some chickpea, tomato and spinach stew, which tasted hearty and I suspect helped me ward off all illness as I ate it, though Danielle and I did think it could do with a bit more spice/depth of flavour. Again, I suspect I took more than my fair share of my favourite part of this course – the honeyed sweet potato. I often mash sweet potato with harissa but I’ve never thought of cooking it in honey – until now. It’s such a simple thing to do but it’s most certainly a case of once tried never forgotten.

Toasted almond and date couscous

Toasted almond and date couscous

After a brief pause to serve some Ouseburn coffee and mingle more we were again seated for the sweet course, which came in two parts, the first was an amazing almond flavoured dessert, which has since sparked an almond binge

Milk and almond pudding with honey and hazelnuts and Ouseburn coffee
Milk and almond pudding with honey and hazelnuts and Ouseburn coffee

To finish, we were presented with some stunning tiny tartlets filled with flavoured cream and scattered with pomegranate seeds and some rose, almond and pistachio filled dates. The tarts were beautifully crisp and I could have quite happily eaten about five or six of the dates washed down with more of the lovely Ouseburn coffee – so I was a tad disappointed when I realised the coffee had run dry and I’d scoffed my allocated date. I couldn’t even steal Danielle’s as hers had disappeared even more quickly than mine.

Pomegranate and mint clotted cream tartlets with stuffed dates

Pomegranate and mint clotted cream tartlets with pistachio stuffed dates

At the end of the meal we were asked to make a monetary donation for our food with the suggested donation set at £30. We were both happy to give this amount because we really enjoyed the whole experience and Anna had obviously put a lot of effort into preparing the evening. I didn’t go home quite so full as after my evening at Dinner in the Manor supper club in Leeds, but the nights were slightly different types of experiences – the Manor is a little more cosy and intimate and The Grazer felt like a magical, secret event and one that I would definitely recommend.

One further outcome of the evening was a rather tipsy Danielle and I deciding that it was about time we got our greedy girls’ bums in gear and started some food events of our own. With this in mind, we will be holding our own supper club event in aid of Macmillan Cancer in March. Watch this space!