Review of Lovage as new Newcastle restaurant proves a real hot spot in Jesmond
On a nippy Friday night looking for this new hot spot, a warm green glow alerted us to Lovage’s location.
Much like the perennial herb it’s named after, Lovage takes a little bit of finding if you’re not a Jesmond native.
For those familiar with the Newcastle suburb, it recently opened its doors in the former Sale Pepe site in St George’s Terrace, and for those visiting from outside the leafy confines of NE2, it’s a five minute walk from West Jesmond Metro station, tucked away from the bright lights and blaring music of Osborne Road.
It’s not often you walk into a restaurant and feel instantly at ease, but there’s a palpable warmth to Lovage, from the atmosphere which strikes just the right balance of being both casual and special to the Scandi-esque aesthetic of wooden panelled feature walls, tan leather chairs and minimalist lighting. It’s all very smart and stylish, but unpretentiously so.
It’s just what you want from a modern, neighbourhood bistro. So much so, they’ve already built up a regular clientele, no mean feat in today’s climate of constant restaurant openings and the novelty of being ‘new’ vying for our patronage.
Then there’s the menu: an ever-changing ode to the seasons which takes its inspiration from the melting pot of flavours in the Mediterranean, with much of the produce foraged or hand-picked from local allotment holders.
After 25 years working in hospitality, including stints donning whites at some of the region’s top kitchens at Jesmond Dene House and Wynyard Hall, this is head chef and part owner Kleo Tabaku’s first restaurant of his own.
Going into partnership with The Northumberland Pub Company, who are also behind Novellos in Washington and the popular Northumberland Arms in Felton, it’s given him the chance to really flex his culinary muscles with the kind of food the Albanian-born chef cooks at home.
As such, there’s some real love gone into the food, with a back story to each dish explained by our knowledgeable server, Lisa, who heads up the front of house.
We started with snacks of house pickled vegetables (£4), a real medley of flavour and texture that whet our appetites for what was to follow.
We also dunked our way through an incredibly smokey aubergine with greek yoghurt dip (£6) whose incredible aroma was only matched but its rich flavour. We mopped up every last thick dollop with Carta Di Musica, a Sardinian crispbread named after the Italian for sheet music because of how thin they are.
Starters were also a triumph: a big fat mound of melt in the mouth burrata (£10), its silkiness given extra texture with a sprinkling of toasted seeds and a the delicate crunch of a persimmon and mint salad.
I also eyed up my friend’s choice of sardines with salsa verde and lovage mollica (£9), a treat you don’t see on many menus in this country and one that elicited plenty of ‘mmms’ from across the table.
My mains choice was pure comfort on a plate: Lovage pappardelle with Alba white truffle and wild mushrooms. The hand-made pasta was good enough to devour on its own, but the seasonal white truffle added a real seasonal, earthy depth. A dish I could never tire of.