Thursday, 9 April 2015

The Staith House: Review

In my infinite wisdom, I decided it would be a good idea to get the ferry from South Shields over to North Shields to have a walk along to the Fish Quay for some dinner (lunch!).  Where's the problem with that?  Here it is: two kids, one parent, no buggy for Sophie (my soon to be 2 year old), plus the biggest problem of all, my woefully inaccurate memory of the distance from the ferry to the Fish Quay!  With the sun beating down on us, I staggered along the road holding Samuel's (aged 4) hand and using the other to carry Sophie (she decided she'd had enough walking well before we'd even reached the Old Wooden Doll!).

I hadn't decided where we were going to eat but I was pretty sure it would be either Irvins (yet to try it) or The Staith House, both conveniently situated at the farthest point from the ferry!  Yep, I'm really nailing this Daddy daycare!  We'd been to the Staith House on its opening weekend and I really enjoyed this game dish.  The service was a bit all over the place, as you would expect for an opening weekend but the food certainly warranted another go.  It had the added advantage of outside seating which helped finalise my decision; not because of the glorious weather but so it would be easier (in theory) to keep the kids happy!

We stopped to read the menu in the window just to check Master Samuel would be happy; he really wanted Sausages but happily settled for Fish and Chips just as long as we didn't have to walk any further!  I just wanted something simple and filling to set me up for the return march back to the ferry!  The pulled pork bun caught my eye, not least because it would be portable should I have to make a sharp exit!

I was interested to see how much the service had improved from the opening weekend and, to be honest, it was much the same experience.  They don't seem to have a good system in place for getting orders from the bar to the kitchen.  There appeared to be only two members of staff, one working the dining room and one manning the bar.  I'm sure it works well enough if guests are ordering and paying from their table.  However, you can also order and pay at the bar before sitting; here lies the problem.  The bartender had the thankless task of trying to take payment for orders, pour drinks, deliver cutlery/high chairs to outside seating areas (can't think which idiot needed those!) which, inevitably, doesn't work.  A case in point: I ordered, paid and went to sit outside.  We had been outside a few minutes when Sophie decided she wanted Sam's drink, so we all traipsed back inside to order another.  My food order still hadn't made it to the kitchen as the bartender hadn't been able to extricate himself from his many duties to communicate the order.  Luckily, the waitress working the dining room came behind the bar and he asked her to relay the order to the kitchen.   

I want to make it very clear that I am criticising the system here, not the members of staff. They were friendly, engaging and very accommodating throughout our entire visit.  They were a credit to the establishment, maintaining the level of service they did under the circumstances was very impressive. The front of house are simply being let down by a system which doesn't work.  In my opinion, they need to either increase staffing, or install an EPOS which enables the orders to be relayed directly from the bar to the kitchen. Anyway, what do I know?  Well, I do know that when the food arrived, it was good, very good!

Pulled Pork is one of those dishes that has become ubiquitous and much maligned.  I have taken its name in vain on many occasions because it is regularly a massive disappointment.  It is the Hatem Ben Arfa of cuisine, promises so much and delivers so little!  Well, this pulled pork is the reason for the ubiquity, it's that goal against Blackburn in the cup, it's the potential reached!  The meat was the definition of tender, the kind of tender which can only be achieved by using quality pork with a healthy fat content.  It was bathed in a glossy, deep jus which suitably softened the dark-crusted piece of sourdough beneath.  The jus had an intensity which accentuated the porkiness of the pulled shoulder, it was, well, you know when you roast a piece of pork and it leaves that almost black residue on the roasting tray?  That, in liquid form!

What would make me an effective reviewer at this point would be a photograph of the succulent swine in question.  Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control (I'm sure you know their names by now!) I didn't manage to take a second photograph once I'd moved the onion rings.


By the way, the onion rings?  Rock n' Roll!  Until now, my award for the best onion rings has gone to The Broad Chare, but these bad boys are at least as good.  I'd need to verify in a controlled environment to establish a definite winner but you get the idea, lush!  Light, golden batter with an audible crunch leading into melty, oniony goodness (I like that spell check doesn't recognise 'melty' or 'oniony', they do the job for me!).   Lurking behind the stack is a well-made apple sauce which I forgot about for the most part as the pork/jus combination combined with the Sam/Sophie combination was more than enough for my senses!  The chips were Armadillo-esque (if you're old enough to remember the Harry Enfield Dime Bar adverts) smooth on the inside, crunchy on the outside (Armadillo!).

There is some top-notch cooking happening in The Staith House kitchen, talented chefs using quality produce and making the most of them.  It's the type of place that I dream, one day, will grace a street in sunny Hebburn (we're on the Tyne too!).  They also do set-menu taster nights which would be a very tempting proposition if I can get a babysitter and a designated driver!  If they can crack the front of house then they will be a model of the perfect gastropub (I know everybody hates the term 'gastropub', but much like 'melty' and 'oniony', it does the job for me!).  Cheers,

FoodandFrets

P.S.
The kids' fish and chips were cracking!  We'd been to Seahouses (Pinnacles) the day before and The Staith House rendition of Fish and Chips is infinitely superior!  Next time you see The Hairy Bikers, be sure to let them know!  


4 comments:

  1. It sounds like a lovely meal! It's funny how choosing a restaurant when going with kids is about so much more than the food. Do they give out free colourings? Will service be quick? Will I get stared at if my child starts screaming? Can I get out quickly if I am getting stared at because my child is screaming? Restaurant eating will never be the same again... :-)

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  2. :-) Very true! I always plan my escape routes before ordering! It's a minefield but there is always that occasion when the kids are perfect and it fools you into giving it another try! Thanks for the comment, much appreciated.

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  3. I went along to one of their tasting menu evenings (still haven't blogged about it) found the food amazing but the service bizarre. We were there from 7.30pm and didn't leave until four hours later, which would make you think there was 12 courses - there weren't! When we queried waiting half an hour between each course we were told things were being grilled before they left the kitchen and there was one grill etc - it just seemed like a bizarre system to have so many tables in for one sitting and not to try and stagger things so that people wouldn't have to wait so long between courses. I've been pondering going back for a day visit but this puts me off...

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  4. It's a real shame that they consistently have problems with service because the food is excellent. Hopefully they'll get it right soon! I've been wanting to get to a tasting menu night for ages. Half an hour in between courses sounds frustrating though! Thanks for the comment.

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