Art on a plate


High tea in an art gallery? It’s got to be pretty. What’s more, it tastes as good as it looks. Rosie McGlade is at Newcastle’s Biscuit Factory Kitchen

Ah, that moment. The waitress emerges from the kitchen with a plate piled with prettiness, and time slows. Is she heading to our table? Yes she is! There, she’s beaming, enjoying our anticipation, and onto the table it goes.

Welcome to the start of 45 minutes of unfettered foodie love.

We’d heard the Biscuit Factory was doing something different with traditional high tea and decided to treat ourselves, my son and I. He’s 14 and likes his tea – sandwiches, cake, scones. What’s not to like, really?

Mind you, the Biscuit Factory is doing it minus all the above. Cakes, yes, though I might call at least some of them puddings.

It is beautiful and worthy of its home in an art gallery. Everything dainty and exquisite and like all your birthdays come at once.

The artist is chef Mike Waugh. He worked with Terry Laybourne at Jesmond Dene House for years before coming here, and while he loves restaurants, he says cafes are the thing of the moment.

The challenge, he says, will be keeping up with the seasons. He’ll be using more hedgerow berries and things as autumn progresses and then rethinking for winter.

We start with a broad bean, feta and mint tart which tastes of the end of summer and sits on a crispy shell of cheese pastry. Then the sausage roll, which is tiny and perfect in every way. I just wish there were two, as I do the choux pastry chicken gougere, which is like a little eclair but with poached chicken and tarragon sauce. It is utterly divine and makes for moments you don’t want to end.

Finally, the smoked salmon rillettes, in a little jar topped with cucumber and dill and served with wafer-thin sourdough croutons. Mike, you are to tea what Monet is to water lily ponds.

We’d have liked more of the savouries, because the rich sweet things to come could do with an additional bedding down, and maybe there’s nothing wrong with a sandwich, actually, or a cheesy little scone.

But to the sweets, and a summer fruit tart (raspberries and strawberries) and Chantilly cream. Tres bon. Lemon posset topped with raspberries in a Kilner jar. I’m not even a fan of posset and this was delightful. Two down and a dainty frangipane tart and a chocolate financier with chocolate ganache to go, and do you know, we couldn’t do it. Mike had warned us we may need a little box, and right he was. They tasted amazing on Sunday night by the fire, but again, I’d have forsaken one for an extra bit of something safe and savoury on the day.

In a way, this food is just too good for the setting. We’d arrived to find Artisan restaurant downstairs setting up for evening service and longingly gazed at the squashy sofas at the far end. It’s cosy – the kind of place you’d stay and order that extra bottle of fizz for your auntie. But we were upstairs, where there’s more of a quick-cup-of-coffee feel, although it must be said there was a table of ladies high tea-ing and fizz-ing away and seeming to love it there.

For me, afternoon tea is a thing of pure indulgence with tablecloths. We’d have certainly languished for more than 45 minutes downstairs. But you know, the food is extraordinary, with vegetarian options that sound just as good. This might be the classiest teatime in Newcastle. Go for the option of fizz or a cocktail, and you could turn it into a habit.

Afternoon tea is served at the Factory Kitchen from 2pm Fri, Sat, Sun. Be warned, booking is essential,  tel 0191 261 1103. The price is £18 per person, or £21 with a cocktail, £23 with a glass of fizz.

The Factory Kitchen, Biscuit Factory, Stoddart Street, Newcastle, NE2 1AN, tel 0191 261 1103,

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