Anyway, today I decided that finding out it was 'National Burger Day' was useful information. Clearly it isn't useful, it's utterly ridiculous, but it meant that I had an excuse to eat burgers, win/win! So it was decided: burgers for lunch. (Told you Twitter was dangerous!)
Two places were in the running, The Fat Hippo in West Jesmond which I've never visited but have been meaning to try, and The Broad Chare on the Quayside where I've never tried the burgers. We decided on The Broad Chare because it was such a lovely day; we could park on the Gateshead side of the river and walk over the Millennium Bridge. With our two kids in tow this was an added bonus, and with any luck Sophie (our 4 month old) would fall asleep on the walk. Do you think this happened? No? You're right!
So, it was with that familiar feeling of anxiety that I crossed the threshold of a restaurant (the anxiety comes from the minefield-like experience that eating out with a toddler and a baby is, just breathe!). Then came the oversight: the dining room at The Broad Chare is upstairs and we've got a buggy, good start! However, the staff were great, they offered to help me carry the buggy up the stairs which I refuse (incomprehensibly!) but we manage to bundle ourselves up to a (thankfully) quiet dining room. We had it left it quite late for lunch and this worked in our favour as there were only 3 or 4 tables occupied.
They've pitched the decor just right for the style of the food and the fact that it is a pub; lots of wood, informal and no unnecessary props which is always a relief! There's no children's menu but again, this is a pub. However, the front of house team explained to us the options for kids as soon as we sat down (all £5). It's little touches like this that make the difference when it comes to service, seeing potential questions and answering them for you before you've asked.
I particularly liked that they mentioned the 'tap' word without prompting! You know the scene:
"Would you like water for the table sir?"
"Still or Sparkling?"
"Erm, can I just have a jug of tap water please. You're going to ask me to leave now aren't you?!"
Strangely, the fact that I was offered "still, sparkling or tap" right from the off actually made me choose bottled water! I really enjoy it but just hate feeling pressured into it.
Disappointingly, Sam decided on Sausage and Chips when I really wanted him to choose the Monkfish Cheeks! Mandy and I both ordered the Ground Rib Steak Burgers with Northumberland Cheese, served with Chips (£10.50) and I ordered a side of Onion Rings. (£2.50) This took some deciding as there seems to be menu items scrawled onto every available mirror and blackboard around the room. Cue the inevitable awkward moment where you hover over somebody's meal to see what's on the menu!
When the food arrived (promptly) I had mixed feelings. They went a bit like this "mmmm.......meh". The burger looked the part, glossy finish on a well-made Brioche Bun with a decent sized lump of meat inside. The 'meh' moment was the chips, looking rather limp and sorry for themselves having just been hurled onto the plate. Now, i'm not one for serving everything on a plank of wood but a bit of effort in presentation wouldn't go amiss here; maybe a slaw or pickle of some variety to liven the plate up.
The chips were as they appeared, lacking a good crunch and quite greasy, disappointing and certainly worthy of a 'meh' in anyone's language! However, the burger was first class. The meat was perfectly pink and seasoned right to the edge of being over-seasoned. Just the way I like it. Ideally the gherkins would have been thicker to add a contrast in texture to the soft bun and meat, but you could serve me this burger all day long and i'd be a happy man! The onion rings were as good as I've had anywhere, faultless.
This was as 'incident-free' a meal as we've had with our little people present, thanks in no small part to 'Minion Rush' on my phone which kept Sam entertained until his sausages arrived; good quality and thoughtfully served on a cold plate, nice touch again. Sophie was quite happy as long as she was being rocked so we took turns to eat, as you do!
After the sausages had disappeared Sam simply announced to the dining room "I want to go home now"! So that was the end of that, no dilemma necessary for Mandy between the Chocolate and Salted Caramel Sundae or the Warm Chocolate and Raspberry Pudding!
The bill came to just under £40; I had a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (£4) to sooth the anxieties and a service charge of 10% was automatically added. (I hate this but they all do it so hey ho!) The service was excellent, warm and engaging; I didn't even hear the (usually audible) sigh of relief as we left the restaurant; they must have waited 'til we'd crossed the road! ;-)
For more information on this venue go to http://www.thebroadchare.co.uk/