Panis Cafe, 61 High Bridge, Newcastle
TURNING the corner from Grey Street on to the cobbled street of High Bridge, Panis Cafe makes a welcoming sight for sore eyes for two ladies seeking a cool spot for a late lunch.
The authentic Italian cafe/restaurant, run by the Pani family (made up of five brothers and one sis), is a haven amid the hustle and bustle of the city centre.
And for us ladies in a hurry it was the perfect spot for a hearty lunch, which was turned around in pretty quick time. Handy too, if you’re after a quick bite to eat pre-theatre.
Those with long memories will remember the eaterie from its simple beginnings as a small cafe, but still with that indefinable great vibe.
Remarkably, it’s 18 years old now and still going strong with the establishment having expanded over the years to encompass a rear restaurant.
Staff told us with pride that the busy restaurant’s coming-of-age birthday was due to be celebrated the day after we visited.
Although the front of the cafe enjoys natural light, the back restaurant is artificially lit and while cosy and imbued with ambience in the evening, can appear a touch gloomy in the daytime.
I only remembered this as we turned down seats in the front of the restaurant for a table at the back!
Here it is simply furnished in rustic style with wooden floorboards and undressed, sturdy wooden tables with paper napkins, and warm orange walls.
Display cases show Italian nick-nacks and chalkboards are dotted around the walls with various dessert and wine options.
Daughter Serena had a view of the old-style serving hatch from the kitchen, which she was rather taken with, watching the chefs go about their business.
We were on a parking meter and since eagle-eyed traffic wardens in Newcastle never miss a trick, we had one eye on the clock.
A chalkboard with a list of lunchtime specials was already in place on our table.
The ricotta and porcini ravioli, £6, caught my eye while Serena opted for tortellini with ricotta and spinach, £6.20, from the main lunchtime menu. There are no pizzas on the menu but everything else from soups, toasties, appetisers such as bruschetta, antipasto and piadine flatbreads, and pasta dishes as well as hearty fillers such as sausage casserole, chicken and sea bass dishes.
Our orders were quickly dispatched and we sipped glasses of mango juice, £1.60, and a small glass of Trebbiano house white wine for me, a bargain at £2.45.
We liked the relaxed feel of what is evidently a popular eaterie, the staff were super-friendly, and there were a few other mums and daughters resting weary legs after an afternoon’s sales shopping.
Some had popped in for a coffee and snack, others were sharing a bottle of wine. It looks the sort of place that offers all things.
We shared a starter of Panis bruschetta, £3.25, a doorstop-sized piece of toasted crusty bread laden with goodies, which was just a little on the cool side. It came spread with black olive pate, and topped with large slice of Provolone cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.
It was ample for two, and the strong flavours of the olive spread and the mild smoky flavour of the thin cheese worked well.