Last time I dined out at an Andy Hook restaurant a suckling pig’s head on a platter was paraded around the table as guests downed goblets of mead and listened to a court entertainer plucking Greensleeves on a mandolin.
That banquet took place at restaurateur Andy’s Blackfriars restaurant in Newcastle and the costumes and ceremony were in keeping with the medieval theme of the night.
What then would Andy’s ‘Geordie-influenced’ new venue have in store? Gazza lookalikes in comedy plastic breasts dishing out stotties and Brown Ale to the tune of the Blaydon Races?
Rest easy. There’s a world of difference between Geordie-influenced and Geordie-themed. Hinnnies, reassuringly, falls into the former.
When we arrived, the weather was certainly Geordie in nature, with a squall off the North Sea fair blowing us into the restaurant.
Fortunately the welcome at Hinnies is as warm and endearing as its name.
Half-kitchen, half-seaside beach hut, but all very contemporary, there’s plenty to catch the eye inside the restaurant. In one corner pots and pans hang from the ceiling, in another, a wall of shelves is dotted with kitchen paraphernalia like ye olde jelly moulds, antique kitchen scales and what looked like a Homepride Be-Ro man flour shaker.
But the kitchen kitsch is not at all gaudy. The decor oozes warm and homely.
As this was a Geordie-influenced restaurant, I decided every menu choice I made would be dictated by my internal Geordie-ometer. If it had a North East link in its name, I was ordering it.
Starters included some tempting options like foraged mushrooms on toast with poached egg and Scottish hot-smoked salmon with chive crème fraîche and lemon.
But the Geordie-ometer klaxon sounded on spying the North Sea creamy crab soup.
Hinnies boasts of locally-sourced produce and this bowl of warming soup couldn’t have been more coastally-sourced had it washed up onto our table on the back of a North Sea swell wearing a sou’wester.
The dish came with a couple of hefty slices of still-warm home-made bread and equally formidable knob of salted butter.
The menu at Hinnies is straightforward: Most of the prices are rounded up (or down) to the nearest pound and all the courses fit on one side of A4. And that’s not say there is a paucity of choice. The mains section included, at the more exotic end of the scale, a pumpkin, chickpea and banana curry (accompanied with mint yoghurt and flatbread) to, at the more traditional end of the scale, fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce.
My Geordie antenna twitched at the pan haggerty with greens, poached egg and mustard cream.
It was either the pan haggerty or the beef, slow cooked in Newcastle Brown Ale, with horseradish dumplings. Fortunately, I could indulge in both as my missus couldn’t finish her ample cut of beef.
I can report the pan haggerty (a kind of Geordie take on dauphinoise potatoes) and the beef were spot on.
For puds, it had to be the singing hinnies. The Geordie-ometer went into overdrive when it spied these little beauties. The little known pud is a rival for the Cornish cream tea and derives its name, apparently, from the singing noise it makes when cooking. I don’t know about the singing, but with a dollop of cream and splodge of jam, it certainly dances on the tastebuds.
With a carafe of wine and two cappuccinos accompanying our three-course meals, the bill came in at a canny £57.
Tynemouth up the road may think it has cornered the market in contemporary restaurants on this stretch of coastline, but it’s pleasing to report another serious culinary rival has emerged in Whitley Bay. And about time too.
Does the Geordie-influenced Hinnies deliver the goods? Why aye man!
AT A GLANCE
Hinnnies, 10 East Parade, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, NE26 1AP.
Telephone: 0191 447 0500.