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Jamie’s Italian, is one of a chain of restaurants from celebrity chef Jaime Oliver. Serving meals with rustic charm it is a contemporary Italian diner found in the heart of Newcastle.

Jaimie's Italian Newcastle the outside of the resturant

Last weekend was my birthday and to celebrate we  went for lunch at Jamie’s Italian, Newcastle. We had been invited to try the Super Lunch menu which offers two courses for £11.95 or three courses for £13.95. This is only available Monday to Friday between 12 – 6pm. Jamie’s Italian is situated opposite Grey’s Monument in Monument Mall, a prime central location. If you are searching for Great North Snow Dogs there is one just outside. As it is the city centre there is no parking outside. The city centre has plenty of car parks within walking distance and Monument Metro station is right outside.

Inside Jamie’s Italian, Newcastle

Inside the restaurant is huge. From the outside it does not look like there is going to be as much space as there is. Downstairs there is a bar area with plenty of seating in different styles. The restaurant is upstairs and accessed by a spiral staircase at the rear of the bar area.  The lift access is not immediately obvious which may cause a problem if you have limited mobility.

Jamie's Italian Newcastle - the bar area

Upstairs the restaurant oozes with charm and ambience. It has a rustic feel with plenty of quirky touches to draw your eye. From murals on wall, to pans hanging from the ceiling to racks of wine bottles in the corner. The restaurant feels cosy and welcoming. There is plenty of seating in a range of styles to suit the size of your group. The overall feel is of an Italian cosy country restaurant, even the blinds on the windows add to that feeling.

Jamie's Italian, Newcastle - inside the restaurant

Jamie's Italian, Newcastle - inside the restaurant

Jaime’s Italian Super Lunch Menu

The super lunch menu offers a selection of four or five different choices for starters, mains and desserts. Some of the selections are included in the main menu and some are special to the lunch menu. At £13.95 for three courses it provides great value for the centre of town. The drinks menu contains an extensive choice of cocktails, wine, soft drinks and beers. The beers are Italian and chosen by Jamie specially for the restaurant. If you want to start your meal in authentic Italian style you can even have an aperitivo in the form of an Aperol Spritz.

Starters

Since it was my birthday we went for the three course menu. To begin with the service was quick and efficient, our waiter was Italian which made things feel more authentic. The starters came quickly. My son went for the creamy celeriac soup which was served with a rosemary focaccia. The soup was really hot and took a while to cool down but he really enjoyed it.

Creamy celeriac soup at Jamie's Italian

 

My choice was the silky pate bruschetta, the chicken liver pate is mixed with panacetta, vin santo and Parmesan to make a delightful starter. The pate has a gorgeous taste and I could easily have eaten more. The bread was lovely and crisp and the pate silky and smooth with plenty of flavour.

silky pate bruschetta at Jamie's Italian

Truffle tagliatelle was my husband’s choice, hand made pasta in black truffle oil with Parmesan. It looked nice on the plate but he thought it was luke warm and lacking in taste.

truffle tagliatelle at Jamie's Italian

Main course

After the starter the restaurant became rather busy and we had to wait quite a while for our main course to arrive. As the place got busier the waiter was finding it harder to be attentive. He was trying his best but there were only two waiters for the section we were in. We were ready for our main course when it came. Rather predictably my son chose Gennaro’s Chicken Club which is a chicken burger. I am sure he is determined to try a burger in every restaurant that we visit. The bun comes packed with marinated free-range chicken, crispy pancetta, spicy ‘nduja mayo, fontal cheese, tomato & rocket and was big enough to please him. Strangely it does not come with any side dish, a portion of fries would not have gone amiss.

Gennaro's chicken club burger at Jamie's Italian, Newcastle

Gennaro’s tagliatelle bolognese was my choice and it was well presented on the plate. Sadly the flavour was a disappointment, the whole dish was rather bland. I always expect bolognese to be bursting with tomato flavour but this dish lacked that. It is a shame as a good bolognese is a delight to eat.

Gennaro's tagliatelle bolognese

Somewhat unsurprisingly my husband chose the Italian steak and fries, which there is a £3 supplement for. This is steak served in true Italian style, cut very thin and flash grilled. It came with garlic butter, fries and a red cabbage slaw. The steak was delicious, I was allowed to try a little bit, and well worth the wait. The slaw was lovely as well, it had some kind of vinaigrette dressing on it which really set off the flavour.

Italian steak and chips at Jamie's Italian

Desserts

Comfortably full we did manage to choose a dessert. It would have been rude not to considering it was my birthday. My husband wanted to try the wobbly panna cota but sadly there were none of these left. He opted for the tiramisu pavlova instead which is coffee meringue served with chocolate ice cream and hot chocolate sauce with smashed hazelnuts.

tiramisu pavlova at Jamie's Italian

My son and I both went for the Epic Brownie which did not disappoint. A warm meltingly soft brownie topped with flavourful salted caramel ice cream and caramelised pop corn it was a fitting end to the meal. Perfect for a birthday treat.

Jamies Italian epic chocolate brownie

In conclusion, at just under £55 for a three course meal for three of us in the centre of Newcastle the meal was good value. Jamie’s Italian is a lovely spacious place to eat and the rustic look and feel of the place is spot on. If it hadn’t been for the disappointing pasta dishes the whole lunch would have been delicious but these let it down. If I went again I would opt for the steak as that was gorgeous and worth the £3 supplement.

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It is always lovely to go out for a meal and even better when it is is free. Last Monday night I was lucky enough to grab two places at Bella Italia’s big free dinner. Ten places for two people were available at Bella Italia restaurants around the country to try out their new menu items. I didn’t expect to be able to book a place so it was a lovely surprise when I did.

Bella Italia Silverlink

We set off for Bella Italia at the Silverlink. It is right next door to the cinema in the retail park so there is plenty of parking available.  At the moment there are lots of roadworks going on around the Silverlink so it is a good idea to allow plenty of time to travel.  We found Bella Italia easily but it wasn’t clear how to enter.  There was a door but it was very stiff to open. At first I thought we were trying the wrong door and almost walked away to find another way in. Luckily the lady inside spotted us trying to get in and indicated it was the right door. After a bit of pushing we made our entrance and were shown to our seats.

Bella Italia

While we have been past Bella Italia many times this was our first time on the inside. The atmosphere was welcoming, with subdued lighting. The walls had many quirky features to look at and an array of copper pans hung from the ceiling. It felt rustic with an overtone of modern. The tables were cosy and well spaced out.

Bella Italia

 

Bella’s Big Free Dinner

The Big Free Dinner was a set menu which showcases the new items on the Bella Italia menu. It consisted of three courses, two starters, three mains and three desserts which we shared between us. The service was friendly and efficient without being intrusive.

Starters

Our starters were Mozzarella Pizza Bread and Arancini Fungi. The Mozzarella pizza bread was placed enticingly on a wooden board which seems to be in vogue these days. The slices were thin and crispy with a lovely cheesy taste and a hint of garlic and parsley. While not the most exciting starter it was certainly tasty.

Mozzarella Pizza Bread at Bella Italia

The Arancini Fungi was delicious. Consisting of balls of risotto, porcini mushroom and mozarella in breadcrumbs served elegantly in a small wire basket. The presentation was completed with a small bowl of pomodoro dip and a rocket salad. The tomato dip worked well with the mushrooms and the rocket added a nice peppery taste.  I would have loved a couple more mushrooms, but as a starter it was the perfect size.

Arancini Fungi at Bella Italia

Main Course

For the main course we had three different bowls of fresh pasta to dip into. The portions were generous. It was hard to decide which to try first but I opted for the Panzerotti Funghi. These pasta parcels are filled with mushroom in a creamy mushroom and spinach sauce with rocket and Granello cheese. The pasta is light and delicious. You can taste the mushrooms in the filling and the sauce acts to bring out their flavour. It is a light and creamy dish which is full of delicate flavour.

Panzerotti Funghi at Bella Italia

The Pollo Robiola was my favourite of the three pasta dishes. These pasta parcels were filled with Robiola cheese and rocket served with chunks of roast chicken in a creamy red pepper sauce. The sweetness of the sauce make a lovely background for the pasta parcels and their savoury taste. The bits of chicken just set the dish off perfectly.

 Pollo Robiola at Bella Italia

Carbonara is a dish that I often make at home but this variation on the classic uses tagliatelle. The thicker pasta strips work well in the classic carbonara sauce and the strips of crispy pancetta and leeks were the perfect finishing touch. Carbonara is always a filling dish and this was no exception. The sauce was light and not heavy as carbonara can sometimes be.

Dessert

It is always nice to finish a meal with dessert and these desserts were small works of art in a glass. They were just the right size to eat without feeling that you were stuffing yourself.

Bella Italia big free dinner dessert

 

On the left is  strawberry cannoli made with sweet ricotta, candied fruit and chocolate chips with strawberry coulis and a cannoli biscuit. Cannoli always makes me want to quote the Godfather “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”. In this case I was more than glad to take the cannoli, the balance of sweetness and creaminess was just right.

The centre dish is orange cheese cake which is topped with Cointreau orange sauce. The Cointreau was added using a small pipette which was an unusual touch. The flavours were lovely, bitter orange with the sweetness of the cheesecake made a lovely dessert.

Salted Caramel Chocolate was on the right. Thick chocolate mousse was layered under a salted caramel topping on a Bourbon biscuit crumb base. The flavourings were perfect, the salted caramel making a great contrast to the chocolate mousse.

We thoroughly enjoyed our Big Free Meal at Bella Italia and felt that an effort had been made to impress. It made a lovely change to have a meal out on a Monday night and we would definitely go back there again. The new dishes are lovely and make a great addition to the menu.

 

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Why not try this Papa John’s Arabian pulled lamb pizza? It is a new limited edition pizza that  combines Middle Eastern flavours with slow cooked lamb.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen making meals from scratch. Preparing meals is just a question of planning. Once you have a plan you can organise meals in advance. We do like to have a takeaway as a treat sometimes. When Papa John’s asked me if I would like to try their new limited edition pizza I was more than happy to. The timing was apt as I am currently in the middle of taking up all our carpets in order to get new ones installed.  It is like a giant jigsaw puzzle, trying to work out where to store all the furniture. An evening with no cooking allowed me more time to get on with this.

Papa John's Arabian pulled lamb pizza

Papa John’s Arabian pulled lamb pizza

One of the hardest parts about waiting for a takeaway is waiting for the delivery. There is nothing worse than being hungry and the takeaway arriving late. One of the good things about Papa John’s is that the pizza always arrives at the time you order it for. There is no sitting around, you can just open the box and eat it. Papa John’s have recently started offering the choice of low fat cheese on your pizza so you can enjoy the your takeaway without the guilt.

Papa John's Arabian pulled lamb pizza

A lovely smell wafted out of the box. Inside I found Papa John’s Arabian pulled lamb pizza. This limited edition pizza is inspired by slow cooking and the flavoursome spices of the middle east. The lamb is marinated in a blend of Middle Eastern spices and slow cooked for eight hours to make it meltingly tender. It is spread onto a pizza base with pepper confit and sliced pepperoncini.

How did the pizza taste?

The pizza has a unique and unusual taste. There is a hint of spices from the lamb which blends well with the hot kick of the peppers and the soft juicy tomatoes. The Middle Eastern influence works really well making the Arabian pulled lamb pizza a taste sensation. If you like a little spice and flavour this pizza is definitely worth a try. Papa John’s Arabian pulled lamb pizza will only be on the menu until mid November. At the moment there is a special offer on. If you make an order which is more than £10.99 that includes a pizza you can get a small pizza for £5. Papa John’s have 250 locations around the UK so there is bound to be one near you.

Papa John's Arabian pulled lamb pizza

Papa John’s Arabian pulled lamb pizza was a lovely tasty treat which is a great addition to the pizza menu. We have tried other Papa John’s pizzas previously and each time have been very happy.

Order Papa John’s on-line and try it yourself.

Papa John’s BBQ Beef Brisket Pizza

Papa John’s Hawaiian pizza

I was sent a pizza to try in return for an honest review.

 

 

 

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I love pizza and would be happy to eat it every day. Unfortunately pizza contains lots of calories and eating one can use up most of your daily calorie allowance. Papa John’s now offer the choice of a lower fat cheese topping on all their pizzas.  They took on board customer feedback to make this change allowing you to feel  less guilty about eating a pizza. Papa John’s have also made it easier to find the lighter options on their menu by highlighting them in green.  Chargrilled corn on the cob is a new side dish and frozen yoghurt  is an enjoyable dessert. 

Papa John's lower fat cheese pizza

Papa John’s lower fat cheese pizza is meant to be just as tasty as their normal pizza. Recently I was sent a pizza to see if I was able to tell the difference.  You can pick the lower fat cheese option when you order the pizza. Just choose the pizza you want and then tick the “switch to lower fat cheese” option. We chose All The Meats pizza which is a combination of pepperoni, succulent sausage, crispy bacon, spicy beef and ham.

Papa John’s lower fat cheese pizza taste test

Soon the delivery arrived and we found that we had been sent some char-grilled corn on the cob and some brownies as well as the pizza. Opening the pizza box we found the pizza inside. Looking at the pizza you could not tell that lower fat cheese had been used. It looks very much the same as normal. A delicious smell wafted out.

Papa John's lower fat pizza

Next the taste test. I hadn’t told my son that it was lower fat cheese and to be honest he didn’t notice. He was quite happy eating the pizza. I knew that it was lower fat cheese and I couldn’t really taste the difference. The one thing I did notice was that the cheese was not as stringy as normal. Usually when you pull the pizza apart the cheese forms strings but that didn’t happen. This did make the pizza much easier to cut. The pizza was very tasty.

Papa John's lower fat cheese pizza

 

I have to quickly mention the char-grilled corn on the cobs which are a lovely addition to the menu. They allow you to add a side dish without adding calories and they taste delicious as well. I would definitely try the lower fat cheese option again if I was ordering a Papa John’s pizza. It reduces the calorie count without compromising on taste.

You can also find out what I thought of Papa John’s BBQ Beef Brisket pizza which is a fairly new addition to the range. If you prefer to make your own pizza then why not try my recipe for home made pizza.

 

t www.papajohns.co.uk

 

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NE1 restaurant week gives you a chance to dine out Newcastle City Centre’s finest restaurants from only £10pp or £15pp. It is a great way to try new restaurants and find out if you like them. This time NE1 restaurant week coincided with our 18th wedding anniversary. We decided to treat ourselves and go out for an evening meal somewhere we hadn’t been. A lot of restaurants participate in restaurant week and we spent a lot of time going though the list before deciding where to go. It was a difficult choice to make and hard to decide which restaurants offered the best value.

During NE1 restaurant week last year we visited the Hop & Cleaver which is a bar and smoke house on the quayside. We have also been to the Coop chicken house which we enjoyed. We wanted to try something a little different this year and finally chose to go to El Coto Newcastle. This is a Spanish restaurant a few minutes walk from Eldon Square just behind St James Park. There is parking outside El Coto, it is free after 6.30pm. If you are drinking it is a few minutes walk to the local bus stations and the metro.

El Coto Newcastle

el-coto-6

 

From the outside El Coto looks small but it has dining space over two floors. On entering the restaurant there is a bar area where you can enjoy a drink before your meal. We had booked a table and were quickly shown though to the dining area. The restaurant had a rustic feel with wooden ceiling beams and dark floors. Spanish painting are dotted around the walls adding a splash of colour and an authentic feel. The tables are small but nicely sized and there is plenty of space between them so you do not feel crowded. The atmosphere was pleasant and the staff were attentive.

We ordered a drink while we looked at the food menu.The drinks menu had a selection of Spanish beer and a variety of different wines. Sangria could also be ordered if you wished. If you do not want alcohol you can choose from a selection of soft drinks

 

Inside El coto Newcastle

 

Inside El Coto

 

Inside El Coto

El Coto Newcastle

 

The Menu at El Coto

El Coto is a tapas bar where you can choose a selection of small dishes which you can then share. You can either choose a selection of dishes from the menu or choose one of their selection menus. The selection menu is for either two or three people with a selection of ten dishes for £15.95 per person. The restaurant week offer allowed you to choose three tapas dishes for £10. There were two separate lists, you could choose one tapas from the first list and two from the second list per person. We decided to order nine different dishes and share them in order to try as many as possible. Once we ordered we did not have to wait long until the food came.

First list on the menu

The first list had a choice of ten items and we chose:

  • Pan y ali-oli – bread served with a garlic mayonnaise dip.
  • Papas bravas – potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce
  • Patatas con salsa de mostaza – potatoes with a creamy honey and mustard mayonnaise.

Papas bravas is  a dish I have made myself so I knew what to expect. The dish did not disappoint, small crispy potato cubes with spicy sauce. The creamy honey and mustard mayonnaise on the other potato dish was delicious.

Papa bravas at El Coto

 

Patatas con salsa de mostaza at el coto

Second list on the menu

We chose two dishes each from the second list which contained thirteen choices:

  • Pollo pepitoria – chicken in a creamy tomato sauce
  • Albondigas en salsa espanola – home made lamb meatballs in a Spanish sauce
  • Ternera a al mesonera – home made beef stew
  • Bocarditos de salmon -deep fried breaded chunks of salmon
  • Chorizo frito – chunks of chorizo sausage fried with garlic and white wine
  • Gambas al ajillo – king prawns fried in olive oil with chillies and garlic

Pollo pepitoria at El Coto

 

Albondigas en salsa espanola at el coto

Ternera a al mesonera at el coto

Bocarditos de salmon at El Coto

 

 

Chorizo frito at El Coto

 

Gambas al ajillo at El Coto

 

My favourite three dishes were the Pollo pepitoria, Albondigas en salsa espanola  and the Ternera a al mesonera. These were dishes that were bursting with flavour and melted in your mouth. For me the king prawns were nice but did not live up to my expectations. I love king prawns and was expecting these to have more of a garlic flavour. It may just have been overwhelmed with the garlic sauce that came with the bread and the salmon chunks. I found the Bocarditos de salmon a little dry.  My son loved the Chorizo frito but my husband was not so keen on these.

El Coto – would we return?

We enjoyed our meal at El Coto. The restaurant is tastefully decorated and has a nice feel about it. The meal was enjoyable and well cooked. The tapas experience is nice for a different type of night out, it is enjoyable to have a range of foods to try. The portions were a decent size, we all felt full after leaving. The service was quick and efficient and we did not feel rushed but when we left we realised we had only been there for around half an hour. An evening at a restaurant should take a little longer than this to make it an really enjoyable night. We could have ordered another drink or a dessert to stretch the time but we would have preferred the meal to last a bit longer.

We would return on a special occasion as we enjoyed the ambience and the food. The restaurant week deal was a good chance to try El Coto as the normal prices are a lot more. I think if we went again we would take advantage of the lunch menu offer of three tapas for £10.95. If you like tapas this is a lovely place to visit and has a great ambience.

Have you visited any restaurants for NE1 restaurant week? What did you think? Let me know below.

 

 

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