Forget pizza and pasta by the gallon - Jesmond eatery is the new face of modern European cuisine
Lovage in Jesmond is one the newest additions to the city’s blossoming restaurant scene.
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Lovage. A love of food, love for service and love of freshly picked, local produce.
This eatery at the heart of Jesmond’s busy restaurant scene is a more than welcome addition - providing Mediterranean food with a twist - that twist being it’s a long way different from your traditional southern European fare.
This is no cheap pizza place, no pasta by the gallon, type offering. It’s more your sweeping olive garden, warm Med breeze type experience, right in hustle and bustle of the city.
Located at St George’s Terrace, at the site of the former Sale Pepe eatery, the restaurant, part-owned by chef Kleo Tabuku, prides itself on using high quality ingredients in order to provide seasonality as well as sustainability.
In fact, speaking to the front of house and chef partners who run the place, it’s clear to see that this a real family venture. Working through the busy weekend the pair use their ‘days off’ at the start of the week to go foraging for mushrooms to use on the menu, pick wild garlic and herbs to flourish their incredibly well-thought out dishes.
The attention to detail is no coincidence, with chef Tabuku, whose Albanian influences from childhood shine through, having worked at the high end of North East cuisine for around 25 years. Fulfilling a lifelong ambition to open his own place, Tabuku has worked at Jesmond Dene House and Wynyard Hall. Lovage has been launched in partnership with Northumberland Pub Company, who have won awards for their pubs, such as The Blackbird in Ponteland and The Northumberland Arms in Felton.
On entry the clear, fresh and bright atmosphere and feel is calming, service exemplary.
My dining experience started off with a beetroot hummus, bejewelled with pomegranate and apple salsa and a glass of Portuguese red. The bread that came with it was a new one ‘carta di musica’. The crisp of the poppadom-textured accompaniment was to die for, and certainly was music to our ears.
Scrolling down for our starters, the list of choice was endless - and full of mouth-watering quality. Dishes include calamari in chickpea and garden fennel pollen batter served with lemon aioli, crispy sardines with lovage mayo and more. Myself and my foody double act for the day - NewcastleWorld football writer Jordan Cronin - went for the spiced local lamb koftas and cauliflower fritters.
Put simply, it was divine. The lamb with a herby, minty hit and the cauli, which can often be boring, was anything but, laced with cumin and eastern spice.
For the main course - with the menu offering anything from lovage papardelle with girolles, peas and sun blushed tomatoes, sustainable cod with Savoy cabbage, mussels and fish cream, gnocchi with smoked duck, ricotta and pears and salt aged flat iron steak - the man across from me went for double lamb, of which he described as “the best he’s ever tasted”. I, on the other hand, went veggie(ish) again with morden blue cheese parpadelle with walnuts and tenderstem broccoli.
Deserts are also distinctively Mediterranean, such as pistachio tiramisu and roasted black figs with honey, mascarpone and Prato biscotti.
Tiramisu is kind of ‘my thing’. And this one was rich and voluptuous, bursting with sweet cream and crunchy nuts to top. I can also concur, this was the best I’ve ever had.
A lemon posset rounded things off for JC, who could not help himself with his summary “unbelievable, Jeff”. You can take the man out of a football setting, but, as the saying goes, they never change.
While this was quite simply a Mediterranean dream, if you would like something a little more traditionally British, the new restaurant will also be offering a special Sunday lunch menu, with different options to suit different tastes and age ranges. Two courses will be priced at £28 and three will be at £32.
Tabuka said of the opening of Lovage: “It’s fantastic that we are finally open and we are all very excited about showcasing the food to our diners. It’s the kind of food I grew up with and what I like to cook, using the very best local produce we can find so that everything is as fresh as possible. We can’t wait for people to come along and experience it for themselves.”
Long live Lovage. A wonderful experience from first to last mouthful. This writer will 100% be back for more.