Review: Barrio Comida, Newcastle

Barrio Comida, by night, down on Newcastle's Quayside.

Barrio Comida, by night, down on Newcastle's Quayside.

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Pick a few things and do them well.

In the days of a million menu options, it’s a good thing if a place focuses in on a few dishes and concentrates on getting them right.

Tortilla chips and salsas.

Tortilla chips and salsas.

This is exactly the game down at Barrio Comida, which has opened up in what was Riley’s Fish Shack down on the Quayside.

The shack consists of two shipping containers, fitted with a wood burning oven, charcoal grill, and seating around 30 people.

The menu focuses mainly on traditional tacos, with a selection of smaller dishes to snack on while your tacos are being cooked to order.

We took up high stools at one of its tables covered in bright Mexican oilcloth and snacked on tortilla chips and salsa (£4 with two accompanying sauces), with five dips to chose from.

Forget your supermarket tubs and jars - these fresh, vibrant pots knock socks off them and the chips are subtly seasoned and crunchy.

Forget your supermarket tubs and jars – these fresh, vibrant pots knock socks off them, and the chips are subtly seasoned and crunchy.

Our salsas looked like a traffic light of colours.

I picked the verde, a mild one made of tomatillo, green chilli and vinegar, which was refreshing and tart, and a roja, which has a medium heat, with guajillo chilli, cumin, garlic and tomato.

Meanwhile, my chilli-fiend friend chose the hottest, a negra, made with chipotle, molasses, vinegar and garlic, and a serving of arbol, made with chilli of the same name, vinegar and seeds.

Ox cheek taco, left, and chicken mole taco.

Ox cheek taco, left, and chicken mole taco.

One came with a heat warning, but neither of us had our heads blown off, punchy though they were.

They were all excellent.

On to what you could call the main course. The place specialises in tacos, small enough to fit into your hand but plenty to fill you up.

The menu recommends ordering three per person, with six to pick from – ox tongue, black bean, fried fish, braised ox cheek, grilled prawn and wood roast chicken.

Despite the recommendation of three per person, after the tortilla chips, I decided to stick with two, opting for the ox cheek (£3) and chicken (£2.50).

The soft tacos are all served with accompanying sauces and salad (head to www.barriocomida.com for the full rundown, and opening times) so the gooey ox cheek came with crumbled feta, slices of radish and shredded lettuce.

As soon as it was gone I wanted another, so thankfully I had the chicken to follow.

The dark mole sauce works well with the pink onions and what I think was sour cream and texture of the seeds sprinkled on top.

This is get-your-hands-messy food and there were rolls of kitchen paper on the tables so you can tidy yourself up as you go along.

They also have some interesting drinks to hand, along with beer, mezcals, tequila wine and a good offering of soft drinks, even a cocktail featuring hot sauce.

The side of the building has been opened up to create huge windows looking out onto the River Tyne and its bridges. It is walk-ins only, so there is no need to book.

I can picture a trip down in the warm weather, a plate of food and a beer or cocktail, watching the world go by with a seat outside on the Quayside – it would be even better if we had something similar down by the RiverWear.

I thought this had opened just as a pop-up, but a quick check on the way out with the friendly staff revealed it is there for the next two years.

Plenty of time to pay a visit, but I’d recommend one soon.