Until recently my only experience of taking my own booze to a Newcastle restaurant was at a curry house in the west end. I never expected to be able to turn up to a high end Italian restaurant with my own wine but Caffè Vivo allows diners to do just that on the 1st Wednesday of every month!
Caffè Vivo is part of the renowned 21 Hospitality Group, which for the uninitiated is a collection of some of the best loved eateries in the North East, owned by revered local chef Terry Laybourne. There’s a rustic, laid back vibe to Caffè Vivo (which is definitely more restaurant than cafe) but a mere glance at the menu or quick chat with the staff soon lets you know that you are somewhere special.
The location is pretty awesome too, just a stone’s throw from the Quayside and right beside the Live Theatre, so it’s perfectly placed for pre-theatre dining or a romantic after dinner stroll.
The concept of BYO nights are Caffè Vivo is simple, it gives you a chance to pop a cork on that bottle of fizz you’ve been saving for a special occasion or crack open the wine that’s been gathering dust at the back of the cupboard with no corkage charge. Or, if you’re like me and unfamiliar with the concept of hoarding expensive booze then you can always pop to the shops on your way and grab whatever’s on special offer (there’ a Tesco directly opposite!) Just remember to chill your chosen wine before you arrive.
Our meal began with what can only be described as the best bread basket in Newcastle, there was a fine array of crunchy bread sticks and thick soft focaccia, it was all so yummy we demolished it without even grabbing a pic!
For my starter I enjoyed a mouth-watering Arancini stuffed with wild mushrooms. Having devoured this traditional Italian snack several times on my recent trip to Rome I couldn’t help but compare but I’m pleased to say the Caffè Vivo version was every bit as delicious as those I’d had on holiday!
James chose a starter sized portion of a dish from the specials board, it was a hearty bowl of pappardelle with slow cooked venison. He let me try a forkful and I was immediately jealous, it was soooo tasty! The meat just melted in my mouth. However, pasta always bloats me and I think if I’d have had that for a starter I wouldn’t have managed a main.
Thankfully that wasn’t the case and I still had room for this wonderful roasted cod dish. I don’t normally order fish but I was so glad I did, this was every bit as tasty as it looks. The sides were also delicious, the spinach was cooked perfectly, the mash was beautifully seasoned and the red onion and raisin topping added as much flavour as it did colour.
One of the reasons I don’t usually order seafood is because I’m sometimes guilty of eating with my eyes and the look of fish puts me off even though I know it’s probably delicious. James got the turbot which is exactly the type of fish I couldn’t bring myself to order. He seemed to put in a lot of effort in to avoiding any bones whereas my boneless cod loin required no such effort. Nevertheless he said it was delicious and was glad that he’d ordered something we wouldn’t normally have at home.
James has a huge appetite so I wasn’t surprised when he ordered the chocolate soufflé for dessert. I was also secretly delighted as I’d wanted to try that from the moment I spotted it on the menu but I definitely didn’t have room to order one all to myself.
Having tried the cheese soufflé of dreams at Café 21 I knew the chocolate version at its sister restaurant would be epic. It came with a toasted almond ice cream which was the perfect accompaniment, order this and you will not be disappointed I assure you!
I took advantage of the delightful dolcetti menu. This genius Italian invention means you can complete your meal with a coffee and mini desert without over indulging. My macchiato came with a dinky tiramisu and a sweet little biscotti. For a second I thought I had been transported back to Italy.
BYO nights are held at Caffè Vivo on the 1st Wednesday of every month, you can book online or call 0191 232 1331 to reserve a table. Our meal was complimentary but all views are our own.