Thou shall have a fishy…


Jane Pikett enjoys lunch at the new Jolly Fisherman at Newcastle Quayside

Can I just say that it’s lovely to see a young person enjoy good food so much; he really is a credit to you.”

I beam. The lady on the next table has made a point of leaning over to praise #3 Son, aged nine, on his appetite, which today has seen him polish off a trio of oysters (his passion) and a platter of smoked salmon (oak and beetroot), creamy mackerel paté, roll mop herrings, prawns and crayfish.

This is the new Jolly Fisherman on Newcastle Quayside, sister to the Jolly Fisherman pub at Craster, always a must-visit when we’re on the coast for its crab, its mussels, and its wonderful views.

This is mum/son heaven; a happy afternoon of the freshest fish, simply prepared, and our Connect 4 phone app providing the challenge of competition (I triumph, despite the youngster’s attempts to doctor the score).

“Those oysters are THE BEST,” declares the food protégé as I beam indulgently and the lady at the next table glances over in approval. The moules marinière are exquisitely sweet and succulent and I manage to snaffle most of those (payback for the oyster catcher) while the star of the show (apart from the excellent front-of-house man Daren Philips, who we loved when he was at the restaurant at Vallum and who shines here) is the mackerel fillet and tartar served with pickled cucumber and darling little shallot rings which zing alongside the beautifully griddled fillets.

This dish creates a little wow when it lands on the table and steals my heart. A little more lime in the tartar would not go amiss, but the green herb mayo pops with colour and freshness and makes much of a near-perfect dish.

We come in on a very busy Saturday only a few days after the place opens, and you’d never know, so well-drilled are the team.

The service is friendly and efficient – smiley staff unafraid to zip off to the open kitchen led by the talented Adam Hegarty to enquire after the answers to the couple of questions they cannot answer and delivering just the right level
of attentiveness. They wear chinos, white shirts and sport smart aprons and are clean-cut and keen. I take to them greatly.

Son and I very much like the funky cutlery and I greatly appreciate the napkins – paper but of the thick, expensive kind. Ditto the paper for drying one’s hands in the loos. It’s the little things…

There has been much talk about the cost of the fit-out of what was formerly The Waterline pub, and it has truly been transformed into a lovely space; all exposed brick and industrial steel, fairy lights, fish nets and baskets, which sounds worringly 1970s, but is actually lovely. It’s nicely pubby and buzzy downstairs, while upstairs the restaurant is a more sophisticated affair blessed with one of the best views I’ve seen of the river and the bridges. “The best seats in the house on New Year’s Eve,” observes the manager, Michael Bateman, and he’s not wrong.

There are some typos on the menus and the trifle, with the exception of its custard layer, is disappointing. The sticky toffee pud and ice cream, by contrast, is excellent, and the caramelised roasted pineapple with pannacotta and pomegranate on the next table wins praise.

It’s blowing a gale and p***ing down outside, but we’ve arrived in time to see the Millennium Bridge raised and the view over the river to The Sage and Baltic from our perch is fabulous whatever the weather, so we’re more than happy. Daren also shakes the youngster’s hand when we leave, which makes the child glow with pride (“he is a very nice man, mummy…”).

I had wondered how our favourite coastal haunt, The Jolly Fisherman at Craster, would translate in the city, but this visit bodes very well. A good catch
for the Quayside.

The Jolly Fisherman on the Quay Quayside, Newcastle, NE1 3DH tel 0191 261 7011

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