For some time I’d considered the best deal in town to be the afternoon treat offered by Porterhouse Butcher and Grill. For £9.99 it was possible to take a break from the bustling streets and stores of Newcastle’s busiest shopping district and sit in the quiet and calm space the restaurant offered. Sipping chilled champagne while grazing on savoury treats, I found it to be the most reviving, restoring and really quite delicious indulgence.
What impressed me was not only the wine from a respected champagne house – served perfectly chilled – but the thought and preparation which had gone into the tray of “nibbles”. Succulent anchovy-stuffed olives, a selection of nuts spiced and roasted beautifully and – something which has claimed its place in my list of favourite savoury snacks – truffle flavoured popcorn. A variety of colours, flavours and textures all of which complemented the champagne well. That afternoon offer achieved the goal I suspect it was intended to – to encourage the customer to stay or to return for a more substantial meal.
Over a period of months I tried light dishes in Porterhouse. Those light meals and “small plates” were all enjoyable with good quality ingredients carefully cooked and presented. On my last visit – just prior to the onset of pandemic-induced restaurant closures – the main feature of the meal was steak. Porterhouse offers a range of dishes but – as the name points to – what this restaurant is really about is good quality steak.
Cuts of steak come in many shapes and sizes and to make matters more complicated, different countries and regions sometimes use different names for the same cut. Not relying on the menu alone, I asked a staff member for advice and recommendation. This proved to be a wise move as the meal I received was exactly what I’d had in mind.
The 220g pichana steak was ordered. It came with a very simple garnish – watercress leaves – and a portion of chips along with a selection of mustards and a béarnaise condiment. The presentation could not have been plainer in fact I’d describe it as austere. The simple display served to make the meat the focal point. There was nowhere for the chef to hide. No pouring sauce to cover imperfections whether in appearance or flavour, no frills to distract. The steak would have to be cooked to perfection and a very good quality piece of meat.
The steak was tender, juicy and packed with flavour, having been seasoned well enough to enhance but not so much as to overpower. The thin-cut chips ( people outside of the UK would likely call these French Fries ) were hot, crunchy and well seasoned. The watercress, which had appeared little more than a colourful decoration, proved to be a good compliment for the steak as it provided freshness and a peppery kick. To accompany the meal, a glass of Amaru Malbec was an excellent match – just as the waiter had advised it would be.
The cost of that 220g picanha steak meal was £19.90. (Currently £24.80) There are cheaper steak meals to be found in Newcastle city centre and, to be frank, that is part of the reason it took me a while to stay for a full meal at this restaurant. A mental barrier had initially gone up at the idea of spending this amount on a meal at a venue other than a “proper restaurant” – one where it would be easy to sit and relax and I’d be happy to pay for the restaurant experience as much as the food itself.
What those occasional champers-and-nibbles treats had provided was the opportunity to discover that once inside the dining area and settled, it really did offer a “real” restaurant experience. Staff were friendly and knowledgeable about the menu, food was cooked very well using top-rate produce and the ambience was really quite enjoyable.
The decor of the dining area is what I would term a muted monochrome with cheerful additions of colour. Rather than a severe black and white contrast, ivory colours are set against a backdrop painted dark brown and upholstery in a muted orange shade adds warmth. Marble topped tables add to the cool, airy feel of the dining area. Should you wish to watch the chefs in action, stools are available to sit at a counter and watch over the food preparation area. The restaurant is not fully closed off from the store, so it is still possible to observe activity in Fenwick’s Food Hall, but I can’t say I’ve found that feature either noisy or an intrusion.
You may be wondering where my descriptions of starters and light meals are hiding. Reviews on those dishes will be included in a future review because – and this is not as complicated as it sounds – they came from a different restaurant! Porterhouse Butcher and Grill is situated immediately adjacent to another 21 Hospitality Group restaurant, The Saltwater Fish Company. Another reason for my hesitance to dine at Porterhouse had been, quite simply, my preference for seafood. It took me a very long time to learn that these two restaurants operate what I would term “a mix and match” approach. On many an occasion I’d been undecided whether a juicy steak main course trumped a succulent seafood starter until I eventually “twigged” that I could combine the two.
Steak cuts and other main courses from the Grill Menu range from £19.90 to £41. Snacks are offered for around £5 and “small plates” are priced from £10.50 to £18.80. Desserts cost from £6 to £9.50. In addition to the Grill Menu, a blackboard list offering larger cuts of steak and a mixed grill menu allowing customers to compile their own selection of items is available.
Wine is offered by the glass starting from £6.70. Bottles begin at £26 and go North (quite a long way North!) into the range of wines which the restaurant describes as its “Big Guns”.
Look out for offers such as the one currently available at the time of publishing: “Autumn in the City” which includes a 150g rump steak served with peppercorn butter, watercress and shallot salad and thin-cut chips for £14.50.
Porterhouse Butcher and Grill is situated on the ground floor of Fenwick Department Store. The nearest store entrance is located on Northumberland Street and can be accessed without the need to negotiate steps. Although the restaurant does not have it’s own bathroom facility, several toilets and washrooms are situated within the store and are accessible by lift or escalators.
In my opinion, the cost of meals at Porterhouse mean that this venue is one I’d have to regard as a “treat” rather than an everyday fuelling station. In some respects, this reflects my personal approach to buying meat products in general. I’d rather eat a small amount of a very high quality product infrequently than purchase cheaper meat more often from outlets where the source of the products and their farmers’methods of rearing and feeding animals is unknown.
This in-store restaurant from the 21 Hospitality Group offers freshly prepared food from carefully selected producers. Staff are approachable and friendly and help customers make menu choices that they will enjoy without, in my experience, attempting to up-sell either the food or wine. The dining area is comfortable, airy and provides a good atmosphere in which to relax.
Executive Chef: Chris Eagle
Address: Porterhouse Butcher and Grill, Fenwick Food Hall, Northumberland St,
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7AS
Telephone Reservations: 0191 239 6612
Restaurant Website: porterhousencl.co.uk
Store Website: fenwick.co.uk
Reservations can be made through Open Table’s website or App
A butchery counter is located at the entrance to restaurant, within Fenwick Food Hall.
A.P. 31 October 2021