A cut above

A cut above

Dean Bailey heads to Porterhouse, Fenwick, Newcastle

The appetite team does long lunches really well (there aren’t many perks here… honest!) and we love the Fenwick Food Hall, so the promise of the finest steaks in town on a wet weekday afternoon was too good an opportunity to miss.

All too often, steak feels like its been tacked onto the end of a menu, an afterthought to please pickier diners. It’s also very often a missed opportunity. Not so at Porterhouse, part of Terry Laybourne’s stable of Newcastle restaurants, where they are front and centre. Look left as you walk to your table and take in the butcher’s counter, which we visited again on our way home for two more steaks which didn’t last past the following evening.

Beef is at the heart of the menu and is available in a range of cuts.

Ours, Himalayan salt chamber-aged and traditionally reared on the Glenarm Estate in Northern Ireland, is aged for a minimum of 36 days. Our rib eye and sirloin are both brilliant, delightfully cooked to pink perfection with a healthy amount of searing adding to the rich, deep flavour of the beef.

Plates here are unfussy. A handful of green on the side of simple, white oval plates is all you need when the centre piece is this good.

Small bowls of mustard and a good dollop of buttery béarnaise sauce are served for two, and mopped up with the last of our crunchy, salty fries.

The menu, though focused on steak in its many guises – including a selection of prime rib on the bone, porterhouse and chateaubriand served by the 100g – draws on the talents and excellent produce in the Food Hall. Sourdough is from the superb Mason & Rye bakery, roughly two paces from the threshold of the restaurant. Seafood – including prawn cocktails with Atlantic prawns and platters of Lindisfarne oysters – travels less than a few yards from Laybourne’s second Food Hall restaurant, Saltwater Fish Company.

While mostly uncomplicated, you will find the occasional extravagance on the menu too – Petrossian Ossetra Tsar Imperial Caviar is available at £80.45 per 30g, should it catch your eye.

Desserts are good, though not a match to the main event. Simple, light options of creme caramel and a delicate bitter chocolate mousse are well suited to the rich, hearty main courses.

While the produce and cooking here are superb, the casual dining room is a masterstoke.

Set in the bustling Food Hall, two thirds of the space feels quiet and intimate with marble tables and comfy chairs set away from the action, while you can also choose to pull up a chair at the kitchen-side counter, or a stool at the high table overlooking the kitchen, and take in the action with a completely different atmosphere. I’ll definitely be back to sit at the counter and watch the show at the butcher’s counter and in the kitchen.

Service is laid back but prompt, owing much to the high demand for tables even into mid-afternoon and to the speed at which plates are whisked from the kitchen.

This is fast, casual dining at its very best.

Steaks, desserts and drinks for two, plus service, is just under £80 and excellent value for the quality on offer.

Porterhouse Butcher and Grill, Fenwick Food Hall, Newcastle, NE1 7AS, tel 0191 239 6612, www.porterhousencl.co.uk

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