Water of Life

Jane Pikett enjoys lunch at O-de-V

Lunch should, in my considered opinion, be sacred. Take the French; say what you like about them, but lunch is one thing, along with fashion and wine, they have nailed.

Disturb a Frenchman from his lunch, they say, and you get what you deserve. Disturb me at lunch and no-one bats an eyelid. Merde!

We have friends who reside in rural south west France, where everything, including the lazy traffic on the Canal de Midi at the end of their garden, stops at 12.30pm sharp for a full two hours.

The children wander home from school to enjoy the freshest bread, local cheese (and such cheese!), ham cured up the road and a bucket of Beaujolais (with un petit drop de l’eau for the kids).

Then at 2pm sharp, everyone wakes up again and the world turns once more, refreshed, revitalised, if a little wobbly on their feet.

The south side of the Tyne, even in the midst of an unseasonal April heat wave, is hardly the Canal de Midi, but it offers a fine city setting for the newly launched O-de-V, where lunch is given all the reverence it deserves.

It also reveres the water on whose banks it sits – O-de-V being a version of eau de vie – water of life, which struck me as apt and rather inspiring as I settled down at a picture postcard window seat.

The very personable, and rather wonderfully named chef proprietor, Gary Cook (I promise it’s the name he was born with…) is a genuine food enthusiast who loves nothing more than to treat his customers to something a little bit special.

Thus, an amuse bouche of toasted tomato faccacia topped with sweet chilli prawns soon arrived uninvited, but no less welcome for all that. A triumph of textures and flavours, I might suggest he does little office lunch boxes containing this and other mini gems, just for those poor souls too British to leave their desks for lunch.

Lunch at O-de-V is, as mentioned, served on linen-clothed tables sitting at one of the best views in the city. The chips are real (joy unconfined…!) as are the light-as-air onion rings made with tangy red onions (more pleasure).

The pan-friend salmon fish cakes are succulent and comforting, the Thai veg curry a melt-in-the-mouth fusion (fusion being a big word at O-de-V) of refreshing green Thai flavours.

And the pudding. Well, the pudding was almost a disaster, through no fault of Gary and his excellent staff, I might add, but through my own inability to stick by my Gallic principles.

I may fancy myself a closet Frenchie, at least where food is concerned, but as the minute hand slipped past an hour and then another quarter, this admirer of long lunches got twitchy.

Fortunately, Gary is an accommodating chap and he popped my chocolate pud, complete with a little jug of cream and raspberry garnish, in a plastic box to take back to the office, where I discovered myself to be suddenly rather popular.

My next mission is to return outside office hours and check the margarita bar upstairs. Note also that O-de-V has an impressive worldwide wine list and the chef’s forte is steak, which is another sublime combo of which the French always approve.

If this is the water of life, I’m in the swim.

O-de-V, Pipewellgate House, Pipewellgate, Gateshead Quays, tel 0191 341 0031,www.o-de-v.co.uk

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