Dean Bailey heads east for a taste of Indonesia in a wet and wintry Whitley Bay
Our standout lunch of the last month sent us east, to the coast and Whitley Bay – a proper foodie destination these days – and Indonesia, the inspiration for half of the menu at Simpsons Café Bistro.
Simpsons combines the food heritage of its owners Derek and Uci Kinnear. Their little warung – a small, family-owned business, restaurant or café in Indonesia – serves up traditional English fayre for breakfast and lunch alongside a selection of dishes rooted in Uci’s family’s warung in Jakarta. This Indonesian menu is served throughout the day, evenings and Sundays alongside the popular Sunday lunch.
Lunch here on a wet and windy weekday provides a proper prime beef burger pepped up with a secret recipe of spices and served with chunky potato wedges. A big BLT is a hearty lunchtime treat, while the Javanese stir fry of rib eye steak, sautéed potatoes, peppers, sugar snap peas and onions proffers a warming bowl of chilli heat, sweetness and crunch. Light prawn crackers and a big bowl of rice make for a hearty lunch and ample preparation for a return to the decidedly wintry weather outside.
Staying indoors for a little longer brings with it the welcome opportunity for a pudding made by Uci. The cakes sound scrumptious, but the chance to enjoy a big chunk of sticky toffee pudding covered in caramel sauce proves irresistible. Coffee sourced from a co-operative in Jakarta and exclusive to Simpsons in the area tops things off nicely.
Staying put also gives us a chance to chat to Derek. He sets the whole room at ease, chatting about the food, the photos on the walls from local artists – plus one of his parents on their wedding day – and the goings on in and around the town. His stories and passion for the area make a long lunch fly by and we leave knowing we’ll be back soon to try more of Uci’s dishes, including the lamb Gulai Kambing and the Beef Rendang, which Derek informs us is unlike any other in the world.
For now, we at last feel prepared to brave the outdoors again, bolstered by the fact that not only have we been well fed, but at these prices we can go every day. Sandwiches, paninis, toasties and jacket potatoes, for instance, range from £2.50-£4, while the lunch menu ranges from £4 to £9 for the burger with wedges. From the Indonesian menu, small plates, soups and fried rice dishes are around £4-£7 while larger plates are around £12, which is incredible value for the quality of food on offer. See Facebook for details of evening services (currently Fridays and Saturdays) and Sunday lunch, which is so popular around here, booking is essential.
Simpsons Café Bistro 15 Claremont Crescent Whitley Bay, NE26 3HL, tel 0191 252 0037, www.facebook.com/simpsonscafebistro