“Don’t play with your food,” my mum always used to tell me.
Not sure if head chef Dave Coulson’s mum said the same. But if she did, he certainly didn’t listen.
The former Masterchef The Professionals contestant uses his loaf to tinker with textures and put the fun in fine dining at Peace and Loaf, the restaurant he co-owns in this off-the-beaten track corner of Jesmond, in Newcastle.
Don’t let Dave’s tattoos and beard fool you into thinking that this will be a serious menu: it’s all playful fare that dances around your tastebuds in the amuse-bouche rounds and then packs a punch with the main courses.
It was actually one of the amuse-bouche that stole the show. In most restaurants these serve just a cameo role but in Dave’s deft digits they’ve become stars in their own right.
Though the other dishes put up a more than impressive fight, the breakfast on toast snack served gratis in between the starters and main was the knockout for me - a slice of toast topped with blobs of purée each made from a full English ingredient. We felt like we were in that scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Willy Wonka unveils the three-course dinner chewing gum as we exclaimed ‘oh, that’s baked beans’ ‘oooh that’s sausage’ and ‘that’s the egg.’ See what I mean about the fun.
The menu commands your attention too with its kaleidoscope of ingredient inclusions, ranging from popping candy to Marmite. Price-wise, it ranges from £9 to £26, which isn’t unreasonable for a restaurant of this standard.
I chose the scallop, pigs head, carrot and tarragon (£14). There’s no faffing about in the naming of the meals, but it soon transpires that all the attention to detail has gone into the execution of the dish. Expect your Instagram likes to shoot up when dining here: this is picture-perfect food - and it tastes as good as it looks.
The silky scallop contrasted well with a light and fluffy pig skin crisp and a smooth yet rich terrine. An extra level of flavour was added with dainty slivers of carrot and satisfying blobs of a punchy tarragon purée.
My main, one of the vegetarian options, had the title ‘death by beetroot’ (£17) and it did what it said on the tin - and then some.
It arrived looking like a painter’s palette: all artful swirls of pink and splodges of green. Never has the humble beetroot appeared so versatile and interesting than it does with this dish, where it had been finely cut into wafer-thin circles as well as being served puréed and roasted as a huge chunk. Lurking beneath the variety of beets were plump fried goat’s cheese balls that added some richness to the proceedings while smoked apple injected a piquant edge. It all worked together to provide a playful medley of textures and flavours.
A finale of sorbet topped with rum, Prosecco and popping candy was an effervescent palate cleanser and made sure no tastebud was left un-tingled.
The venue itself echoes the food’s ethos and though it feels ‘special’ - so special it’s best to book in advance - it’s also laid back with its New York loft style mezzanine, bare brick walls, tablecloth-free settings, tattoo motif artworks and ubiquitous stag’s head on the wall.
Three years after opening and this balance of fun and fancy has proved a recipe for success. As well as having two AA Rosettes and a Michelin Guide inclusion under its belt, it’s been named as this year’s Good Food Guide’s local restaurant of the year for the North East. And it’s easy to see why.