“ Forster St,Byker, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 2. Tel:+44 191 222 1110 „
As someone who has lived very close to Newcastle City Centre most of my life, and worked in the City Centre for over 6 years I regularly would dine out with Mr Lools, friends and colleagues. I'm a massive fan of a range of food however Italian is always a popular choice. One of the Italian restaurants I have and continue to dine at is Azzuri Bar and Restaurant.
***Azzuri Bar and Restaurant***
Azzuri is described as "contemporary Italian dining" which has a 200 seater capacity restaurant and 200 person capacity bar area. Azzuri offers locally selected ingredients to make contemporary Italian dishes in "relaxed yet stylish" surroundings. In both the bar area and restaurant to décor within Azzuri is modern yet quite luxurious with light wooden floors with backdrops of deep reds and detailed mirrors and flower decorations.
Azzuri operates a smart casual dress code which is stated on the website.
The restaurant is open for lunch Monday-Saturday 12pm-2pm. On an evening the restaurant is open from Monday to Thursday and Sundays from 5pm-10pm, Friday- Saturday 5pm-10.30pm.
***Location and Getting There***
Azzuri Bar and Restaurant is located on the Newcastle Quayside in the City Centre less than a minute walk away from the river Tyne and Millennium Bridge. From the main shopping centre and area of Newcastle Azzuri is a 10-15 minute walk away.
The restaurant does not have a car park but there is car parking nearby. The closest car park is a multi-storey pay and display car park which is shared with the nearby Travelodge. This is less than a 30 second walk away from the entrance of Azzuri.
The nearest Metro station is Manors which is a 10 minute walk away from Azzuri. From the main train station (Newcastle Central) the restaurant is less than half a mile away but would also take 10-15 minutes to walk to.
Quayside, Newcastle NE1 2NH
0191 222 1110
Depending on how busy Azzuri is on the time you visit you sometimes do not need to book a table and can walk straight in to a table, however to avoid disappointment I have found it best to book a table. On a weekday evening for groups of under 6 people simply turning up at the restaurant is fine however on a Friday or Saturday night even as a couple you probably need to book as the restaurant does get busy. You can telephone the restaurant directly or fill in the web form on the Azzuri website and a member of staff will call you back to confirm your booking. If you want to book a table less than 48 hours in advance you have to call the restaurant directly. I have found that the restaurant often has availability even on a Friday or Saturday night if you ring up with less than 48 hours' notice but you might not get a table for the exact time you wanted but they will try and accommodate you within 30 minutes of the original time that you specified.
When booking for a large group you do need to give notice quite far in advance and telephone the restaurant in order to arrange a suitable time, especially on peak times on a weekend evening. When I booked a table for a group of 20 people through work I had to book the date a month in advance as they could not fit us in with only a fortnights notice.
***Food and Dining Experience ***
The bar area is large enough for 200 guests and makes a good meeting point for couples and groups as there are smaller tables and large round tables to gather around. You can order directly from the bar or a member of staff will take your order. Azzuri has a wide range of draught and bottled beers and lagers, in addition to wines and spirits. The restaurant also has a cocktail list. I have only ever ordered one cocktail (long Island Iced Tea) this was made well although not the best cocktail I have ever had but at £5 it was cheaper than many cocktails I have ordered from a restaurant bar. Drinks are average priced and you should expect to pay around £3 for a pint, £4-5 for a large glass of wine and £14 for a bottle of house wine.
Although Azzuri operates a smart/ casual dress code the bar area does seem quite informal as the area is large and often quite noisy especially if there are a number of group bookings. The location of Azzuri often means on a Saturday night it is popular for hen and stag nights so it can get noisy especially in the bar area but in the restaurant area I have noticed staff asking these groups to keep to noise down if they do get too noisy.
The restaurant area of Azzuri is large and there is a range of different sized round or square tables. If you are visiting as a large group of over 8 people you will be put on a long table therefore your party may seem quite spaced out. The dining area has light wood floors with lights coloured walls, but with dark coloured tablecloths. The tables are minimal and set with just cutlery and glasses.
What sets Azzuri apart from other Italian restaurants in the area and makes suitable for larger groups (despite the poor service) is the range of food and different dishes on the menu. There is definitely something for everyone and Azzuri has a wide range of reasonably priced pizza and pasta dishes, but also has a wide choice of fish and meat dishes.
I always find that I order something different every time I visit the restaurant as there is so much choice. The menu into starters; Antipasti Freddi, Soups and Antipasti Caldi then mains; Pizza, Pasta, Pollo, Carne, Pesce and Barbeque and then there is a Dessert menu.
Within the 3 categories in the starter menu there are a choice of 15 dishes which include traditional Italian starters like bruschetta, and garlic mushrooms to more special dishes like mussels and king prawns. The price of starters varies but are priced between £3.50 and £6.50.
The choice of main dishes is massive and I would say Azzuri has one of the largest menu's of all Italians in Newcastle. The main menu alone has around 20 pasta dishes on it which include traditional dishes like lasagne, arabiatta and mushroom risotto to mussel linguine and seafood risotto. Pasta prices vary but you should expect to pay between £8-£10. There are 10 pizzas on the main menu with a range of toppings which cost around £8. The pizzas are large and I find quite filling as a main dish. The meat, fish and barbeque dishes on the main menu are slightly more expensive and are priced between £14 up to £21. The range of dishes varies however within each of the categories (pollo, carne, pesce and barbeque) there are around 5 different dishes. These include steak, veal escallops, panfried chicken and racks of lamb. These dishes are served with roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. You can purchase extra side dishes for £3.
The quality of food is excellent and although it takes some time to arrive on all occasions I have dined at Azzuri I have never been disappointed with the meal I have ordered. The food is cooked very well and even when we dined as a group and there was a massive mix up with the order, the food was still hot and cooked well. The meat and fish has always been a good quality and has never been or undercooked. The pasta dishes are very nice and the pasta is never overcooked and stodgy . Portions are not the largest you will get at an Italian restaurant in Newcastle, but they are still large and Mr Lools with his large appetite is always full up. I would say the starters are on the small side so it is often worth filling up on bread especially if the restaurant is busy as you may have a long wait for your main course.
I have not always ordered a dessert when I have visited but on the occasions I have these have always been huge portions. There are a range of dishes which include a lot of ice cream and rich chocolate desserts including profiteroles and chocolate fudge cake which are priced at around £4.
You bill will depend on what you order but typically on the occasions we have dined here Mr Lools and I have spent around £60 on three courses each and a bottle of wine which I think is extremely reasonable. This total might be slightly more or less depending if we have ordered meat dishes or slightly less if we have opted for pizza or pasta.
The level of service within the restaurant is very inconsistent. I have visited Azzuri at least 10 times over the last few years and have felt the service has been great on some occasions and shocking on other occasions. I would say generally as a small group or couple you do receive a better level of service than if you visit the restaurant as a large group, especially if you visit on a Friday or Saturday evening when Azzuri gets busy.
I have always found when arriving at the restaurant you are met with a very friendly welcome and shown to the bar area. On all occasions I have visited I have never been shown straight to the table in the restaurant. You are offered drinks and given the menu to browse. This is probably a good thing as the menu is quite extensive therefore you need at least 5 minutes or so to fully appreciate the range of food!
When we have arrived as a couple or a small group I have been shown to the table within 10 minutes of arriving, however as a group I have always waited longer. Dining as a group of 10 took 30 minutes for our table to ready. On the occasion when we booked for 20 people to dine at 7.30pm, despite all of the guests arriving for 7.15pm we were not shown to our table until 8.15pm which was disappointing.
Service at the table is good but not outstanding. Staff are friendly but are quite quiet and do not offer suggestions or seem extremely knowledgeable about the food. Something they never do is run through the order to confirm they have taken it down correctly. When we dined as a group of 20 this caused a massive problem as 8 out of the 20 main dishes were incorrect despite the guests actually writing down what they wanted for one member of the party to read this to the order taker. After checking our order against what was written it was a fault of the order taker however no apology was given but the mistake was rectified very slowly but it did mean some members of the party having wait until their correct meal was cooked!
Even on a weekday evening I feel the wait for food is quite slow, and when the restaurant is busy on a weekend it is even slower. Even as a couple you should expect to wait at least 30 minutes for your starter to arrive and you can then wait a further 20 minutes for your main to arrive. As a group after ordering on both occasions I have waited over an hour before the starters have arrived which is a long wait especially when you are hungry.
Azzuri may not be my favourite Italian restaurant in the area but it is a better example of a "contemporary Italian dining" in Newcastle City centre. The restaurant boasts an extensive menu which is cooked extremely well which I feel is definitely a strong point and makes it worth a visit.
The food is good value for money and although it is not the cheapest Italian restaurant in Newcastle City Centre, it is not the most expensive especially as this a modern more upmarket looking restaurant . The restaurant is clean with modern contemporary décor and large enough not to feel cramped. However despite the restaurant being large I think at times this works against it and the service can struggle to keep up with the needs of customers at peak times, which can lead to long waits for food and an inability to look after large groups which is disappointing for somewhere where has such a great menu and food.
A restaurant I will continue to visit for the delicious food but probably wouldn't recommend for group bookings or those that do not like to wait for their food!