Every now and again me and the husband like to have an evening out without the littl’un so we can enjoy some adult time and actually have a conversation without stopping for a rendition of “I can sing a rainbow” every 5 minutes (I now know the order of every color in the rainbow but haven’t got a clue how my husbands job has been going for the last week!) Evenings out often revolve around food, because we love to eat, basically, but finding places to eat healthily when out and about can often be difficult.
One of our go to places in Newcastle for healthy food has got to be Vegetarian and Vegan cafe and restaurant Scrumpy WIllow & the Singing Kettle.
This lovely little gem is mostly open throughout the day selling a variety of deliciously healthy breakfast and lunchtime offerings, but recently they have re-opened their doors three evenings a week and have expanded their menu to include a variety of scrumptious starters, mains and deserts. We were lucky enough to be joining them on their first evening of re-opening and got to sample some of the food produced by their new and very talented chefs.
The menu was large and varied enough to allow some choice but not so large that it became confusing or overwhelming. The food, as predicted, was healthy and clean and there were one or two lovely looking sugar-free options for me. Their website mentions that they pride themselves “on providing fresh, healthy and tasty food options from locally sourced produce” and the menu definitely backs this up. To start I opted for a small plate Mezze which included roasted peanuts, dahl and olives served with carrot and celery sticks. The portion size was really generous and I ended up letting the husband share some (almost unheard of for me, I don’t usually do food sharing!) the dahl in particular was really tasty (in fact that was the only part I wasn’t too keen on sharing…help yourself to more celery darling but hands off my dahl!)
Husband went for beetroot and quinoa salad which looked like it could easily have been served in a gourmet restaurant, it looked super fancy and tasted just as good (I might have had a sneaky taste, well I did share my starter with him!)
I’d already decided what main I wanted before we even got there (I always like to check the menu out online before we visit places) and I was really excited to try the vegetable tagine; sweet potatoes and courgettes in a Moroccan influenced tomato sauce and served with rice or bulgur wheat. I was informed when ordering that the chef was playing around with the presentation of this dish and asked would I mind it being served with a side of pitta bread as well, I was even offered a gluten free version if required. I accepted and although I did donate it to husband (I’d already eaten some bread that day and didn’t want to over-carb) I have to say that I think it would have been lovely accompaniment to the meal. The tagine was really delicious and was beautifully presented with a fancy rice tower. I would have preferred the sauce to be a little thicker but in fairness we were told that the chef was playing around with this dish and was planning to try thickening the sauce a little (great minds) I would definitely order this dish again either way to be honest as it was wholesome, clean and really tasty.
Husband went for the griddled polenta which was served on a caramelised onion and mushroom sauce and topped with metled goats cheese and balsamic glaze with green leaves. I have to say I did have a bit of food envy, I might well have gone for this had I not been trying to go sugar-free. I had a little taste of the polenta and it was totally delicious. It has even inspired husband to try some polenta based dishes at home and anything that encourages clean eating experiments at home is a winner in my books.
As much as I would have loved to try the house crumble I had to make do with a dandelion tea while the husband exercised some kind of torture on me by eating sticky toffee pudding. With cream. Right in front of me. I had a little sniff and it looked and smelt delicious. I has some serious food envy going on! We’ll just have to go back when I’m not sugar-free and can treat myself.
So the food was great, but what about the rest of the experience? This family run restaurant doesn’t feel like it’s in the center of a busy city, it had an incredible cosy, relaxed and intimate atmosphere and the staff were so friendly and chatty. We had a lovely chat with the owner and his daughter who were both working that evening and they told us that since they took over the restaurant last year they’ve been playing around with the menu and experimenting with different foods to try and make it as healthy and wholesome as possible.
There was also a feeling of culture that you often find with independent and home-run restaurants, we noticed a poster for monthly music evenings featuring acoustic blues, folk and soul from regional and national artists and on the way out I stopped to peruse a selection of arty home made cards which were created by a local artist.
You got a sense that this place was all about supporting family, friends and young and fresh local talent whilst passionately creating wholesome, good quality and stylishly presented food in a homely and comfortable environment. There was genuine excitement from the front of house staff each time a new dish came out of the kitchen, and I personally, am excited to keep going back to see how their menu develops and expands. In fact we were encouraged to go back during the day and to bring Molly with us, they consider themselves family friendly and do have high chairs on offer so I think we will be taking them up on their suggestion!
If you like good quality, clean and wholesome food but dislike the pretentiousness that often comes with it then I would definitely recommend a visit to Scrumpy Willow & Singing Kettle.