Brand new to the Jesmond restaurant scene in Newcastle is Lovage – a passion project for part-owner and chef Kleo Tabaku who has partnered with the Northumberland Pub Company to bring this buzzy Mediterranean style bistro to St. George’s Terrace.
The former Sale Pepe has been completely transformed into a light and airy restaurant with beautiful oak flooring, slat panelling (which really helps the acoustic of the space when you’re chatting), and high end tableware.
‘We eat like this at home’ Lisa reassuringly tells us as she takes us through the menu. Lisa is Kleo’s partner and thrives in her role as the front of house, with Kleo at the helm of the kitchen with his small team. Their devotion to service and simple dishes done well is evident in her animated descriptions, making each of the small plates sound like poetry.
All ingredients are hand-picked and foraged where possible with all of the suppliers they’ve chosen based on real quality and sustainability. There’s nothing too fancy about these classic dishes, they’re just great tasting, well presented plates which are executed to perfection.
We start with the pumpkin (in season with it being November) and goat’s cheese arancini (£8) – a golden tower of deliciousness with just the right amount of crunch on the outside and a gooey rice based centre oozing with flavour and complimented with a punchy romesco sauce.
For our main courses, my friend goes for the grilled stone bass which comes with chunks of sweet potato, parlour made feta, and coriander, and being in the mood for something hearty on a cold and rainy night, I go for the slow braised lamb shoulder.
The lamb for this dish is soaked in pomegranate juice for a whole day to make it juicy and moist, and then it’s marinated in Mediterranean spices and served on a bed of cous cous and pomegranate seeds for crunch and texture in equal measure. The textbook smear of sumac is just the thing to mop up all of these different ingredients and create one irresistible combination of flavours. The tenderness of the lamb was something else and while the menu has since changed, this one is staying which is lucky for you as it’s an absolute must-order.
Torn between limoncello posset, dark chocolate torte and vegan salted caramel, we actually decide on the pistachio tiramisiu in the end – a favourite of Lisa’s and of her customers. She’s right, it’s an incredible tiramisiu, layered well with just the right amount of cream and layered sponge. The thick sprinkling of milk chocolate tops it off.
While Lovage has only been open around 7 weeks, the community feel is already strong – Lisa greets each and every customer as if they’re an old friend and that’s probably another reason for the repeat business – that and the sensational food. Kleo works tirelessly in the kitchen but as it partly open, it’s easy to see he’s absolutely loving every dish he creates. He and his small team are enjoying every second.
For simple but classy food in a really lovely environment, Lovage has it covered. Menus change frequently which means there’ll always be something new to discover, while there’s also a special menu on Sundays including a roast with all the trimmings. Click here to book.