Jane Pikett proves she’s the best mum in the world (again)
I am the gift that keeps on giving, as I tell my offspring with great regularity. For never were three better-fed sons, treated to meals out ad infinitum, accompanied by my sparkling wit. Lucky things.
This week, number two son, 18, has been out for dinner twice on consecutive nights. Number three son, meanwhile, aged eight, favourite food, oysters (I kid ye not), has been out for breakfast and lunch.
Number one son,19, who is at University in Bangor, North Wales, enjoyed brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, and the fruits of one of the best restaurants in Wales (the excellent Marram Grass Café, Anglesey), plus the privilege of having me to stay last weekend. As I say, lucky…
Number two says his best meal of the week was his steak at Artisan at The Biscuit Factory art gallery, Newcastle. I say steak – it was described, without ceremony, as Grilled 8oz Beef on the menu – satisfyingly marbled, generously textured, proper country beef, packing a heavyweight flavour punch yet tender as the sweetest night.
Requiring no ornamentation but a finely frothed Bearnaise sauce on the side, bitter leaves, and proper homemade chips, halfway through the child began to eat very slowly. “Are you full?” I asked. “No, I just don’t want it to end,” he replied, wistfully.
Artisan, and the wonderful Biscuit Factory art gallery in which it is housed, is a favourite on our mum-son circuit. Head chef Andrew Wilkinson is among the best in the north of England, his dishes expertly executed, intensely flavoured, their ingredients sourced from the best in the region and served in an atmosphere which buzzes with enthusiasm.
He presents fantastic monthly Seasonal Showcase evenings, a glorious Friday fish menu, and outstanding Sunday lunches, while on our visit, he treated us to our first wild garlic of the year – tender and supple, an exquisite partner to succulent king scallops.
The bouillabaisse, meanwhile, with rouille, gruyère and croutons, was magnificently, profoundly flavoured. The sea bream crisply skinned, succulently fleshed, cleverly accompanied by crab, orange, samphire, and caramelised fennel.
We shared the spoilt son’s chips, and took two spoons to an exuberant baked Alaska and a dish of velvety homemade vanilla and pistachio ice creams, and then sat back and admired the art on the walls and the artistry of food executed with imagination and flair.
Wilkinson is one of the great talents of the North East and he has selected the perfect venue in which to showcase his culinary modern art. Meanwhile, I am probably the best mum ever. Lucky things.
The Biscuit Factory, Stoddart Street, Newcastle NE2 1AN, 0191 260 5411, www.artisannewcastle.co.uk