WHERE would you take friends who’ve never visited Newcastle before?
Despite being born and bred on Tyneside, it was a question I pondered for quite some time when two old pals from my student days said they fancied a visit.
We’d studied journalism together and they now run a series of lifestyle magazines in the Welsh Borders so were used to dining out in style.
A bog-standard Italian was out of the question. I considered Six at The Baltic (fantastic views but too expensive), Fat Buddha on the Swan House roundabout (a great vibe but again a little pricey), Las Iguanas (always seems full but not tried and tested by me), Blackfriars (historic but too romantic) and Pan Haggerty (great food but not enough people).
Eventually I settled on As You Like It in Jesmond as you can spend the whole evening there. I’d always loved the decor – a mad and eclectic mix of vintage finds, taxidermy, opulent chandeliers and even a trapeze hanging from the ceiling – and there’s plenty of variety on the menu to please everyone. It was also voted the seventh-sexiest restaurant in the world by the Observer in 2008.
Cath and Howard seemed pretty impressed by my choice and the place had a great vibe, being packed out with well-turned-out young professionals. One even kindly bought me a drink when I let him get served before me. This is certainly the place to take anyone who thinks Newcastle is full of Geordie Shore-style spray-tanned chavs!
We bagged one of the best tables in the first floor restaurant too – a rustic four-poster-style arrangement. Although the views outside are akin to a Slough industrial estate, inside there are so many quirky eye-catching items of decor that it didn’t matter.
My eyes always dart to the most expensive things on the menu so when I spied the fillet steak at £25 (and that’s not including a peppercorn sauce or onion rings), it seemed like prices had gone up considerably since my last visit a year ago.
Cath chose the scallops, despite being disappointed in the past by restaurants that overcook them. She was impressed that they were done to perfection and still moist in the middle but would’ve expected another one or two for the £9.95 price.
Howard loved his arancini balls, a flavoursome veggie dish of crispy fried risotto, and my goat’s cheese tart was deliciously tangy. These starters were also better value at £5.50 and £6.50 respectively.
Although the website makes a point of highlighting their use of quality local produce, my pals are sticklers for organic, free-range food and asked if the chicken was indeed free-range. The waitress didn’t know but was super-efficient and friendly and went out of her way to find out.
Unfortunately it wasn’t – surprising in a quality establishment like this – but at least they were honest and my friends were offered a bespoke vegetarian version of the Thai curry with whatever veg they fancied.
It came with jasmine rice, aubergine, mushrooms and crunchy peppers while the creamy Thai sauce was very aromatic with just a hint of spice. However, at £14.95 I felt it was overpriced.
I plumped for the spiced lamb rump at £17.95 with leek, mash and a fantastic butternut squash.
To finish, we shared a cheesecake and chocolate brownie – both £4.95 and both generous portions compared to the starters. I’d recommend skipping the starter and choosing a dessert instead.
On previous visits I’ve loved their haddock strips in Newcastle Brown ale batter and proper chips prepared with beef dripping. Their bar menu is better value too if you fancy eating downstairs during the week.
Add the bottle of sparkling water at £3.70, fruit tea for clean-living Cath at £2.50 and a couple of glasses of La Campagne cabernet sauvignon for me and Howard, and the bill was nudging £100.
Still, it was great atmosphere and a fantastic band called Livewire kept us entertained for the rest of the night. They even managed to get the crowd dancing to Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five and The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles.
Next time I’ll eat somewhere cheaper and pop in later for a dance.
This is the place to take anyone who thinks Newcastle is full of Geordie Shore-style spray-tanned chavs!
Address: As You Like It, Archbold Tce, Jesmond, Newcastle, NE2 1DB.
Open: Food served noon-3pm in bar area then 6pm-10pm in restaurant Sun-Thur. On Fri/Sat food is served from 8pm in restaurant.
First impressions: 70s office block but another world inside.
Style, design and furnishings: Uber-stylish and quirky.
Cuisine: Modern British and world cuisine.
Service: Attentive and friendly.
Value: Over-priced, especially for the portion sizes.
Disabled facilities: Fully accessible.