Chic and stylish is the order of the day
STEPPING inside stylish city centre watering hole Barluga has the mystery effect of somehow making life seem a tad more glamorous.
The chic Art Nouveau-inspired interiors and kind lighting can’t help but lift the spirits – especially on a miserable, drab, winter’s day.
For those seeking a chic haven from the chill I heartily recommend it.
And an interesting gastro-pub menu offering everything from light bites and hearty lunches to pre-theatre speedy dinners and Sunday lunches, makes it a big draw with the city crowd.
The trendy bar had a £1m revamp three years ago and its award-winning interior with its dramatic chandeliers, comfy club chairs and back-lit wine display complements the grand facade of the handsome building on the city’s famed Grey Street.
The lunchtime I popped in with two friends to sample their winter menu it was extremely busy, but with a friendly buzz to the place.
It is clearly a popular bar in a prime position in town and I’m told it does a great line in delicious cocktails.
The open kitchen is run by head chef David Blackhall who offers a gastro-pub menu of comfort food and modern British cuisine.
Settled in our seats on the intimately-lit mezzanine floor, we had a great vantage point of the main bar area. Perfect for people watching between courses.
Our moods lifted, we sipped glasses of Fantinel Prosecco, a fresh, dry, fruity sparkler at £25 a bottle, a good choice for lunchtime, not being too heavy.
We chose from the winter menu which runs until March.
We opted first of all for the Barluga taster plate, £8.95, a platter groaning with mostly healthy goodies.
We picked and mixed from a selection of tempura prawns, Serrano ham, salami, hummus, Northumbrian cheddar, breads, homemade pickle, olives and spring rolls.
This was very much a sociable dish and all appeared super fresh, the tasty ham paper-thin and the nutty hummus particularly good.
For mains I opted for a warming Thai green chicken breast curry with roasted red pepper and coconut rice, £9.75.
I got tantalising aromatic wafts from the dish when it was served up. The chicken breast came as one piece and was completely enveloped in creamy, mildly spicy sauce, the zingy flavour of fresh coriander coming through. So far, so good.
Although the accompanying dome of coconut rice was cooked with the right amount of bite, far from being mild and fragrant, it was rather too spicy for my liking. It was the unmistakeable warmth of chilli.
I’m afraid to say I could only manage half the rice. My dining companions also tasted the rice and they, too, found it spicy hot. It was a shame because the rest of the dish was really very good but it did leave my lips somewhat tingly.
Across the table, fish pie with saffron and leek cream and gruyere- topped mash, £9.95, proved a big hit. A real winter warmer of a dish, it came served in its own little rustic dish with crunchy, bright green mange tout accompaniment.
It was described as “awesome”, the mash was creamy, cheesy, and the fishy contents included chunks of salmon, scallop and prawns. It was both hearty and filling.
The other mains choice of crispy belly pork with black pudding mash and cider and sage gravy, £9.75, was also a good dish and very substantial.
The fantastic crackling gave way to sweet and succulent meat, the bed of mash had an earthy flavour, and the subtle apple-tasting gravy worked well with the pork.
This was comfort food at its rib- sticking best!
For dessert, my cranberry and white chocolate chip flapjack with peanut brittle ice cream, was expensive at £4.50.
However, the flapjack treat, a substantial wedge of a piece, tasted homemade and was generously studded with cranberries. The fabulous caramel-coloured ice cream tasted exactly like peanut brittle. A decadent treat – especially at that price!
An exceedingly generous serving of apple and cinnamon crumble, £4.95, meanwhile, defeated the taste tester across the table.
The dish, which came with a little jug of fresh cream, would easily have fed a couple of us.
The tangy, not-too-sweet apple base was topped with thick layer of golden crumbly topping, given gentle warmth by the cinnamon.
The star pud of the day was Crema Catalana, a Spanish crème brûlée, costing £3.95.
This creamy dessert had a crisp, caramelised topping which cracked satisfyingly on contact with the spoon and a deliciously creamy custardy middle.
A sweet and satisfying finale.
By now, the wine was all but gone, the chat exhausted and we were feeling replete. It was time to venture back into the real world.
But we were all agreed Barluga made for a stylish lunch in a chic setting
Katherine Capocci, January 7, 2011
Fri, 7 Jan 2011 11:43:21 GMT (updated: Fri, 7 Jan 2011 11:57:34 GMT)