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Discovering the unexpected
Marco Polo (Newcastle)
Member Name: dee778
Marco Polo (Newcastle)
Advantages: Delicious food, flexible eating spaces
The restaurant is located right in the heart of Newcastle, close to the river, the railway station and the main shopping area. It is easy to spot due to the enormous frontage; it looks as if the restaurant has taken over about 3 large shops and turned them into one large restaurant. The frontage is decorated with unusual and rather beautiful columns - painted in pale blue and gold, they separate the large glass panes that make up the front of the restaurant. The entrance is a very solid wooden door set in a rather grand ornate stone porch. It all looks very old and very authentic, and I'm sure the building is quite historic.
Inside the owners have divided up the very large space into five separate areas. As a smallish party we sat inside the smallest area. This was dark and cosy, with an intimate feel and a minimum of noise.
I know that Newcastle can be a loud party place at night, and when I looked at the other areas available I could see that the restaurant could easily cater for all types of group. The other areas were very large and open, each with their own bar, and I could see that this would be perfect for a large noisy group.
The different sections are both upstairs and on the ground floor; each decorated with the same theme of brown leather banquettes, dark wooden floors, dark wooden tables and chairs, and walls of exposed brick. The whole effect is rather Spanish, but gives a nice rustic feel to the whole place without being at all tacky.
Every section has a lot of natural lighting due to the glass frontage and the fact that the restaurant is wide rather than deep in structure. Each section looks out onto the high street.
The restaurant serves Italian food, but with a bit of an unusual twist and of very good quality. Many of the other diners were eating pasta or pizza, and this looked very appetising - but we were out for a celebration lunch and wanted to eat something a bit different.
None of my party ordered a pizza, but there was a choice of 12 different pizzas on the menu at around £8.50. Most of them looked fairly traditional with the exception of the shredded duck and grape pizza! I was tempted by the pasta and risotto, which did look very different but extremely meaty. Some of the ingredients included rabbit and slow roasted shin of beef. The pasta and risotto again came in at around the £8.50 mark.
For starters I ordered Mozzarella e granchio (mozzarella and crab). I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but when it arrived I was very glad I had ordered it. A large ball of very fresh mozzarella sat on a bed of finely shredded crab, with some beautiful slow roast tomatoes and rocket around it. It was huge and rather rich, so I swopped half of it with my son, who had ordered Funghi Selvaggi (Mushrooms grilled with garlic and ricotta and served on sourdough) This was equally delicious but not nearly as rich, so the half and half combination was perfect. Both of these starters were around £6. My other son is a meat addict, and had the Antipasto Misto - a delicious looking line of meats, cheese and fruit. I quickly swiped the lovely artichoke from the end and the olives and figs - they were gorgeous - and I left him to work his way through the meats, many of them which were wrapped around the cheese. It was beautifully presented and at first I thought it was a kebab.
For main course I ordered the Pollo Farcito - a really delicious breast of chicken stuffed with a smoked Italian cheese called Scamorza. The chicken was wonderfully tender with a really brown and crispy exterior - and when I cut into the breast the cheese just oozed out all over the plate. It was served with olive tapenade and sat on a bed of spinach cooked with garlic and sunflower seeds - one of my favourite vegetables. The chicken cost £12.95 and I ordered a side dish of tomatoes and red onion which I really struggled to fit in as the whole dish was again very rich.
My meat-loving youngest son ordered the Occhio di Costola for £18.95. A chargrilled Rib of Beef which was very nearly too big to fit on his plate, this was served with tapenade and roast potatoes. Although it is not something I would enjoy, it looked beautifully pink in the middle and he cut through it as if it were butter, finishing every last morsel with a bit of a struggle.
After all of this rich food I really couldn't fit in a desert, but several people in my party did. They all looked delicious, but of them all the Pear and Almond tart with Almond ice cream for £4.95 looked like the one I wish I could have fitted in. The ice cream sundae was also very impressive but not something I could think about after such a huge meal.
With a couple of drinks each (I had a nice chardonnay and others drank Peroni) the bill came to just over £30 a head which I though was very good value for such good quality food.
There were a couple of children in the restaurant when we visited, and the restaurant prides itself on welcoming children, with crayons and drawing materials and a special children's menu. Because there are different sections to the restaurant it would be easy to separate out any noisy parties with young children, which would benefit both the families and other diners.
We were greeted very quickly at the door when we entered and our booking was found immediately. We sat in the smallest area, with around six other tables of small parties or couples, but at no time did we feel neglected. The service was absolutely excellent, with plenty of staff in black aprons within sight and attentive to our every need.
The food arrived very quickly, served by a small team of people - two to carry the food and a third, (who had an earpiece in and appeared to be a manager) supervising and making sure that everything was OK. Several times during the meal somebody checked with us that we were happy and it was easy and quick to order extra drinks. I imagine the earpiece was radion communication for the duty manager, and this was an excellent idea - allowing her to keep control of the many large spaces in the big restaurant very efficiently and discretely.
We used the toilets on the ground floor. The ladies was surprisingly small and although it was very clean, it not that well maintained (wobbly toilet seats etc). My son investigated the men's toilets and again reported that it was small with only one hand basin. I believe that there are more toilets in the restaurant - I cannot believe that only 2 cubicles in the ladies serve such a large place - but I did not investigate further.
I was very glad that we had booked Marco Polo for our special lunch. The food was delicious and the food choices different enough to make the meal one that we will remember for a long time. Although the prices were very reasonable, the whole experience was excellent and the service and ambience were the sort that I would expect in a much more expensive restaurant.
33 Dean Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne NE1 1PQ
Summary: Marco Polo lives up to its reputation; all the enthusiastic internet reviews are very well deserved.