Back before the days of Trip Adviser, Google reviews and us dreaded bloggers, choosing somewhere to eat was a pretty simple affair. Walk past, like the look of a place, have a gander at the menu, then go in and hope they’ve got a table. Now it’s all ratings and rankings and second-guessing your decision in case, heaven forbid, you have a less than perfect experience.
Of course, that might be the case. But if we’re honest, while research is helpful and often (for me anyway) half the fun of an eating experience, it doesn’t guarantee success. Pick the number one ranked eating place on Trip Advisor in most towns and you’ll see what I mean.
On top of that, if you already know the menu inside out and have built your hopes up based on the white paper you’ve assembled on your chosen establishment, you miss out on that buzz of having stumbled upon a great find. With that in mind, sometimes I deliberately don’t research everything beforehand and opt for restaurant roulette instead. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily, Kaltur in Newcastle-upon-Tyne was the former.
It was a sunny Friday afternoon. Mum and I had roadtripped to Newcastle to watch epic 80s band T’Pau (you know, the ones behind China in Your Hand and Secret Garden). After driving up with an obligatory stop at the Angel of the North we checked into our hotel and headed out to scope out potential food spots. No more than about 20 steps from our hotel we stumbled across Kaltur.
Sat in a historic building on Dean Street, slap-bang in the city centre, there’s something about it that catches your eye. Maybe it’s the airy, Scandi-esque interior. Maybe it’s the open kitchen and bar complete with stools to watch the chefs at work. Or it could be the rather saliva-inducing menu pinned on the front door. Whatever it is, it worked on us and we found ourselves scooting back to the room and changing ready for a pre-gig bite to eat.
Despite not having a booking, we were shown to a bar in the front window where we could perch and watch the world go by, sipping on a glass of red each from the expansive menu (along with some specials if there isn’t enough vino on offer on the normal menu).
We could easily have ordered most of the menu, which was ram-packed with all sorts of tapas and small plates but since I was with the Queen of Restraint (otherwise known as my mum) we stuck to just a few dishes.
We started with tempura aubergine with a balsamic glaze. Simple, light and actually surprisingly delicious! To be fair, all tempura stuff is good in my book, but the combination of the crispy batter and the soft aubergine inside, with the sweet tang of the balsamic glaze was a real delight.
Next was a seafood fritto misto. Prawns, calamari and chunks of some kind of white fish with the obligatory dollop of aioli. More batter, I know, but the nature of it means it wasn’t heavy at all, and each different fish had its own character. The white fish was a surprising favourite but the whole dish was a great nibble reminiscent of long, lazy lunches on the coast somewhere.
Our final choice was chorizo. Cooked in cider I think, and served on a sweet parsnip puree – the slightly-spicy smokiness of the chorizo and the sweet puree working perfectly together. I could actually have eaten about four of these but hey, restraint won and all that.
We left it there and headed off to the gig, but I could quite happily have sat at Kaltur all night and tucked into plenty more of their dishes. They do all sorts of meat and cheese platters and a quick gander at other reviews suggests that their desserts are amazing.
It turns out that the Dean Street branch of Kaltur isn’t their first one but is building on an already strong reputation. I can see why. It’s the whole package: the food is good, simple but well executed; the wine list is great; the decor light, airy and has the right balance of swanky and casual and the service is warm, knowledgeable and efficient.
I’ve seen that one criticism is that apparently the dishes you order come out at different times and not all at the same time. Sorry guys, welcome to tapas. That’s exactly what we experienced and to me it just sings out loud that it’s a place where stuff is cooked fresh. It brings the authenticity that is so often lacking in mainstream ‘tapas’ restaurants but is the hallmark of somewhere that is trying to transport you to Spain through your experience. In fact, it took longer to drive to Newcastle than it would to fly to Spain, but if you want to experience both in one place you could do far worse than swing by Kaltur.
We paid in full at Kaltur. They didn’t know I was a blogger.