For fancy food with fun vibes in an Insta-worthy setting, Leila Lily’s in Newcastle’s city centre hits the spot. I’ve eaten here before and thought it was nice but a little average, however, since Chef Jim Hall joined the team to head up the kitchen, I can definitely say that the food has been elevated to new heights.
‘Big Jim’ as the restaurant manager affectionately called him when we visited on a Saturday afternoon, is one of only 140 Master Chefs in the country. This accolade is a prestigious one and recognises those in the culinary industry who’ve excelled at their craft. Having worked previously at Lumley Castle, Ramside Hall and Malmaison to name a few, Jim aims to reflect and celebrate the diverse and multicultural city of Newcastle through his food. “So, while customers can enjoy quintessentially British flavours – including the steaks and grills we cook on our Mibrasa charcoal oven – they can also experience Asian tastes and textures along with a range of vegan dishes we believe to be among the best in the city.”
We’ll take Jim’s word for it on the vegan menu because during our meal, there was too many gorgeous meat based plates on the menu that we couldn’t wait to get stuck into. We did start with two veggie dishes though – a salt and pepper cauliflower covered in umami gochujang glaze, with spring onion and radish, and the twice baked Croxton Manor cheese souffle which is one of the best souffles I’ve ever had the pleasure of sinking my fork into. Light as a feather yet laden with flavour, there was no scrimping on the rich cheddar cheese sauce which swam around the skillet. The perfect combo of airy deliciousness and creamy thick bechamel with so much depth of flavour.
Choosing a main course was difficult because there are so many wonderful sounding dishes to select from. After debating whether to go for the duck, seabass or truffle poached breast of chicken, my friend and I reached the same conclusion – it had to be the sharer sized beef wellington. A word of warning – make sure you’re really hungry if you’re ordering this because the welly is HUGE. As our server cut through the puff pastry at the table to reveal a perfectly pink fillet of beef, the accompanying dishes started to arrive – truffle mash, buttered fine beans, beef fat carrots and a red wine sauce. It’s easy to get welly wrong, but this one was absolutely spot on with an intensely flavoured mushroom duxelles between the tender juicy beef and the flaky pastry. Outstanding.
Too full for dessert, we opted for the liquid variety because Leila Lily’s has a fantastic cocktail menu full of really interesting concoctions. We decided on the signature vodka based ‘Sweet Leila Lily’ with raspberry liqueur, grenadine and a lychee juice top. It’s one of those cocktails you can’t taste the alcohol in whatsoever (even though you’ll feel the effects), and it was so easy to drink, we were on round two before we knew it. It seems like a lot of thought has gone into the cocktail list, so I’d recommend leaving room to try two or three at least after you’ve eaten!
Leila Lily’s floral interiors, foliage based back drops and neon signage make it a popular choice for the modern drinker and diner, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is just another bar / restaurant in Newcastle that looks nice. The food is truly exceptional and you can tell the staff have been trained as well as in any fine dining restaurant. If creative twists on British classics made with fresh produce are right up your street, Grey Street is your go-to. For private events, Eva Rose Garden has just opened, offering a space for special occasions. Book here.