NE1 Restaurant Week: Saltwater Fish Company, Fenwick Newcastle

You start to notice how quick the years tick by when NE1 Restaurant Week comes around again. It only seems like yesterday since the last one, when it was actually 5 months ago back in August. January is such a depressing month - the festivities of Christmas are over, bank accounts are emptying at a rapid rate, and to top it off the guilt of 'new year, new me' and Dry January is slapping you in the face. You need something to make you forget all of that, you don't need that kind of negativity. Fitting that NE1 Restaurant Week started on Blue Monday!

Of course, you have to book WAY in advance if you want to get the restaurant you want at the time you want it. I booked my two favourites in yonks ago, and have kept a day spare for a wild card midweek. As Restaurant Week has been going for a good few years now, I have my strategy bossed. If anyone remembers way back, the whole premise of Restaurant Week was that you got to try a menu for £10. It didn't take long for some restaurants to stretch that to £15, which for some restaurants is still a real bargain. Others however, are questionable - so you really need to read the menus and the everyday offers of each restaurant to see if you're actually getting a good deal. First visit was Saltwater Fish Company in Fenwick, Newcastle. 

Saltwater Fish Company, surprisingly, were going for the 2 courses for £10, and 3 for £15. Absolute bargain. Some of the fish dishes alone can be £15+, so if you've not yet been to the restaurant, this is a great time to try it. I have been to Saltwater a number of times since opening, as it reminds me so much of Ondine and their Oyster Hour. It's the only place in town where you can prop yourself up at the fish bar, order a glass of Champagne and as many oysters as you like while watching the world go by. If you have more of an appetite, there are heartier dishes on the menu that will leave you fuller than full.

I opted for two courses last night, and added a couple of snacks with my glass of fizz; Mason & Rye sourdough and smoked salmon blinis with caviar. Small mouthfuls, but packed with a punch of flavour that gets your taste buds eager for the next course. It's very rare that anywhere does good blinis, but here tops it.

To start I had the Seahouses kipper pate. Oh my days - I do love a pate, but this was something else. I was so pleased it came with pickles, as it's smokiness is intense, everything you want from a pate. A pate dish from anywhere else is always boringly presented, which isn't to the fault of any restaurant - how can you make a ramekin and some bread look pretty? Well look at the image above and tell me that's not a beautiful plate?! The addition of the boiled egg and caviar was sublime.

For the main I opted for Brill, such a sweet, delicate fish put packed with flavour from the garnish. It came with two sides, for which I chose the fries and a salad. Fries because they are super delicious from here, and a salad to make me feel a little healthy. The '9 Herb Salad' had an irresistible slightly tangy dressing on it and a scattering of sunflower seeds, which elevated what you think would be a boring salad, to something I couldn't get enough of.

They run a tight ship (excuse the pun) at Saltwater - the kitchen is so compact, and their restaurant seating is two rows of bar stools. It's like watching a ballet when they're preparing the food, cleaning down, serving up drinks, and to top it all - running a retail counter of the fresh produce at the same time. It all makes for a great atmosphere for dining as you can chat away with the kitchen team on where exactly your fish is from, how they cook it and then seeing every process of your food from preparation to cooking.

There were a few menu changes on the night - but when you're eating freshly caught produce, you get what has been caught so if it runs out, it runs out. You can always count on alternatives that are just as mouth watering though, so don't be too disheartened if you have your eye on something on the menu and it's already gone. One thing you can always rely on (which is true of any 21 Group restaurant) is the impeccable service. Always met with a smile, nothing too much trouble and a friendly,welcoming atmosphere. Even my bad mood that had been hanging around with me all day was quickly diminished when I was casually asked if I wanted another glass of fizz - of course I said yes and merrily tucked in to my food.

All in all for a meal for two with a couple of drinks each and additional snacks, it came to around £40 - a great way to dine out midweek while keeping the costs down.

Wherever you're dining this week - be sure to enjoy!

K x