THE Toby Carvery at Kenton Bank is something of a crowd-pleaser, feeding – at least on Sundays – hundreds upon hundreds of diners.
People descend in droves for the carved meats and the plentiful veg – and good value, I imagine.
It’s easy to be snooty about the Toby, but really I wanted to judge for myself the eating experience it offers. And not be swayed at all by the fact our window seat overlooked the car park!
Besides, sometimes a hugely filling, simple Sunday carvery just hits the spot, especially when cooked by someone else. And the Toby is famed for its carvery meals with all the trimmings.
I popped in early doors one Sunday lunchtime with the teenage daughter, who was less than keen, it has to be said.
When I told her there was a choice of freshly cooked joints of meat and up to eight veg, including mash and roasties, she soon cheered up.
It had been a while since I last visited, so I was rusty with the seat reservations and the ordering format.
Basically, it’s form an orderly scrum in the direction of the chap stationed by the front door, taking down names for tables.
You then take possession of an electronic gadget that flashes when your table’s ready.
The wait wasn’t too long – about 15 minutes – and we took a seat in the busy bar area and ordered drinks in between. The house white was a cheap and cheery £2.30 for 175ml and apple and mango J20 juice £2.10.
The place was absolutely heaving – lots of large and small family groups hoping for filling nosh.
After our flashy gadget went off we were led to a table in the window, overlooking the aforementioned car park, but otherwise really it was quite a homely setting.
The restaurant is divided into smaller areas and our allotted spot had a chintzy feel to the decor, snappy wallpaper on the walls, wall lights and dividing walls with windows.
A friendly waitress talked us through the queue-up system of ordering meats and veg.
I was surprised how expensive it is on Sundays these days. It’s £9.49 compared with £5.95 from Monday to Saturday.
There were veggie options available too, including Med veg lasagne and nut roast Wellington. And for those not fussed on the carvery, mains included salmon fillet and chicken tikka salad.
We were here for their meat-fest, though. We skipped starters, which included options such as melon jumble and prawn cocktail, saving ourselves for the main event.
We made our way to the serving area after having decided on our roasts – from a choice of honey and mustard-glazed gammon, British turkey, British or Irish beef (British the day we visited) and pork with crackling.
There was a queue of maybe half a dozen people in front of us, but the line shuffled along quick enough.
It’s pretty well organised with an army of chefs carving and plenty of waiting staff, industriously clearing tables.
The giant joints were carved in front of us and handled with care, which we liked. Every piece of meat looked really tasty. And then it was a case of do as the others do and pile the veggies high.
There were a staggering eight veggies to choose from – you could have them all! – plus various stuffings, sauces and jugs of gravy at a separate station.
My topside of beef was tasty and tender, cooked through, two large slices filling half the plate.
The veg, including red cabbage, broccoli, carrot slices, cauli in white sauce, white cabbage and peas, was mostly excellent, and cooked al dente.
The mash was super creamy and buttery, the roasties sweet and crispy. The broccoli was maybe not as fresh as it could have been, but really I’m nit-picking.
The Yorkshire pud was big and crispy. Maybe a little too crispy, as in close to disintegrating!
The teenager’s turkey, she reported, was also good, a generous enough serving and not too dry. As we tucked in back at our table, we were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was ... even the teenager was smiling by this point.
We were going for broke this Sunday so desserts were on the cards.
My treacle sponge, £3.65, was pretty good and hugely filling.
The light and airy sponge came surrounded by a moat of syrup and with a choice of cream, ice cream or bottomless jug of custard. My choice was cream and, suffice to say, I couldn’t move the remainder of the afternoon.
The teen enjoyed every mouthful of her creamy chocolate brownie ice- cream sundae, £3.45, served up in attractive glass and topped with chunks of chewy brownie.
With a coffee, the bill came to just over £32 for the two of us, which really you can’t complain about. It was a satisfying feed at a good price. I can’t say it was a hugely relaxing afternoon, but that’s not what carveries at the Toby are about.
The noise and the general bustle of diners, backwards and forwards at the carvery, and the rapid turnover of tables, makes it somewhere you don’t want to linger too long.
You take it for what it is ... filling fare and decent quality. And although it’s more pricey on Sundays, the carvery is very competitively priced through the week.
Address: Toby Carvery, Ponteland Road, Kenton Bank, Newcastle, NE3 3TY. Tel: 0191 214 0877.
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 11.30am-10pm; Sun, 11am-10pm.
First impressions: Carvery draws crowds. Based at busy spot, near Kingston Park.
Welcome: Names noted down by restaurant staff who give you an estimated waiting time for tables. Waitress in our section very friendly and helpful.
Style, design and furnishings: Chintzy and homely interiors, although views of the car park not the most restful.
Cuisine: Carvery, a toast to the roast, plus traditional pub crowd-pleasers.
Service: Staff brisk and efficient, dealing with large numbers of diners, but still friendly.
Value: Carvery more expensive on Sundays, at £9.49, but filling fare and decent food.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.