The River Cafe is North Shield’s Fish Quay’s best kept bistro secret, hidden away up some stairs facing the Fish Quay itself, and the dramatic North Sea skyline. It is one of only a handful of restaurants in the North of the region to have made its mark on the foodie scene, and earned itself a prestigious Michelin Bib Gourmand Award.
The Michelin Bib Gourmand award is not the same thing as having a Michelin star, but it means that it is a quality restaurant which is very good value for money. It is also a favourite of the Michelin Inspector, and is actually a place where they will go on the weekend with their own pocket-money if they have to. The River cafe has won this award for seven years running!
Owned by Paul and Michelle Scott, the River Cafe does offer good value and a great deal of choice. On offer is good bistro dining, where everything is home cooked using fresh local produce wherever possible. There are some cracking set deal specials, some very interesting dishes on the a la carte menu and a top notch Sunday dinner which is extremely popular with locals. The menu changes regularly at this family run restaurant, and the market fish of the day is often straight from the Fish Quay which is literally yards from the door of the River Cafe. The Head Chef here is David Gill, who has a long track record in top eateries like Terrence Conran’s Butler’s Wharf Chop House and the Blue Bird and Marco Pierre White’s The Canteen.
It’s a small team here and very friendly – the manager Alan Watson made us very welcome indeed and was keen to tell us all about up coming plans despite suffering through a bit of man flu at the time! There are some very good wines available too – the Chateaux Lions La Martine we enjoyed is an outstanding French white wine which I thoroughly appreciated.
We started our meal with Tempura Lindisfarne oysters, which are a real local delicacy. If you are not an oyster fan, then the Tempura option is a good way to introduce yourself to this special seafood. Our oysters were beautifully presented and were topped with chilli sauce and Aioli and looked very pretty. I confess I’m not a big oyster fan but I respect the shellfish.
For starters I had an amazing Scotch egg which was a meal in itself with a golden Duck egg centre rolled in rich venison, cranberry and rosemary sausage meat. Rich and substantial it was pretty much a meal in itself!
For mains there is a wide choice, but fish is unsurprisingly a dominant feature. You can have fish of the day (I nearly went for the North Sea Cod) or the ever popular beer battered fish with thrice cooked chips. In the end I plumped for the Seabass with artichoke, shallot and smoked potato and chive mash. Very nice it was too. To finish there is an excellent choice of very tasty desserts on offer. We chose sticky toffee pudding with licorice ice cream – STP – a perennial favourite of mine – and lemon posset with shortbread. Lemon posset is another classic which never goes out of fashion with its creamy light citrus tang.
The River Cafe also offers a feasting option for larger groups (you need to book in advance for these) including a huge 1kg Picanha rump steak with beer yeasted Grelot onions (French pearl onions) or you could have whole roast suckling pig belly with caramelised apples, or why not try a whole lobster with oysters and prawns?! You really need to have your hungry head on for these!
There are lots of events happening too. There are Beer and Bait nights where food is matched with local ales, and Food and Wine evenings where wines are partnered with particular dishes. The River Cafe is a very accessible dining option for any day of the week (almost – closed Mondays)
So don’t forget to take a walk along our lovely Fish Quay out at the coast, and if you are looking for a bite to eat why not pop in and try the River Cafe, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! Check out what’s on the menu at the moment here