“ Address: 29 Pudding Chare Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE1 1UF „
As a resident of Newcastle I regularly eat in the local restaurants in the City Centre. Italian is one of my favourite cuisines but I tend to stick to the more modern, upmarket restaurants which tend to be higher priced than the wealth of traditional Italian restaurants in the centre. Mr Lools and I were planning a night out with two other friends and we decided although we wanted to enjoy nice food we wanted to dine on a budget therefore wanted to eat at more value for money establishment. After asking around within my group of friends the general recommendation for quality Italian food at a low price was Puccini.
The description of the restaurant on the website is "inspired by the elegant charm of classic Italian ristorante, Puccini brings the true "taste and enjoyment" of Italy and world renowned dishes to our customers"
"We pride ourselves on the basic philosophy of sourcing responsibly and use suppliers who use traditional methods. Our menu focuses on freshly prepared classic and contemporary Italian dishes featuring a range of pizza, pasta, seafoods and meats."
Puccini is not a restaurant in my opinion that will draw you in from outside. The restaurant is very understated and just a small door off a quiet side street. I have lived and dined in Newcastle for many years and had never noticed the restaurant before. Compared with other Italian restaurants in the city which describe themselves as contemporary I would definitely say that Puccini is more towards the relaxed traditional Italian pizzeria feel rather than a luxurious plush Italian establishment which is bright, light and airy.
The restaurant is open Monday- Saturday 12pm-2pm, 5.30pm-10.30pm and Sunday 6pm-9pm.
29 Pudding Chare
Newcastle upon Tyne
The restaurant is located on Pudding Chare in Newcastle City Centre. Although this is directly in the centre of Newcastle the reason I had never noticed it in passing before it is down a small cobbled street. Pudding Chare is just off the Bigg Market which is the rather busy and rowdy nightlife area in the City Centre. Obviously on Friday and Saturday nights the Bigg market is full of revellers however where the restaurant is located is not rowdy even during busy times.
The restaurant is located between two Metro stations. It is a 5 minute walk from Newcastle Central Station and around 7 minutes from Monument Metro station.
The restaurant does not have a car park and because of its central location, car parking is limited. There are a handful of metered car parking spaces on the Bigg Market and Groat market which are less than a minute away from the restaurant but spaces are very limited. The main car parking areas closest to the restaurant are at Central station which is a 5 minute walk away. This carries a charge even to park at night. There is also a car park located on Dean Street which is around a 5 minute walk away (although you do have to walk up a large hill). This is a council run multi story which carries a charge during the day but it is free to park in this car park after 5pm.
I have visited Puccini twice now and on both occasions I have not booked a table. On the first occasion we visited it was a Saturday night and we arrived at the restaurant for around 6.15pm so this was early evening but the restaurant was reasonably busy as it was happy hour and at least at half capacity. As a party of four I did not expect to be seated immediately but we were shown to a table and advised that if we wanted to benefit from the happy hour we had to have our order in the kitchen by 7pm.
On the second occasion Mr Lools and I decided to dine as a couple on a Saturday night and arrived at the restaurant for 7.30pm. We did find the restaurant had a lot of larger groups in on this occasion and was almost full but we were shown to a table immediately. In many other dining establishments in the City Centre you are likely to wait at least 30 minutes for a table at this time of night so we were both pleasantly surprised.
Personally although the restaurant was not extremely busy on the two occasions I dined here I would always make a reservation during peak hours on a Friday or Saturday night or if you were dining as a large group to ensure they can accommodate you. The restaurants website advises to call them directly on 0191 2321961 to make a booking.
You can also fill in an online enquiry form on the website at www.puccininewcastle.com and someone will call you back to confirm your reservation.
***Dining and Service***
When we arrived at Puccini for the first time I was unsure as to what expect as the restaurant has a sign above the door but from the outside you can't actually see inside the restaurant. As soon as we entered the restaurant we were greeted by a member of staff at the bar who asked if we had a reservation. When we said no he was extremely friendly and asked if we wanted to follow him to a table.
The bar/ entrance area of Puccini is not large but it is brighter and more modern than the dining area. This area has modern bar fittings a leather sofa and light wooden floors. We were shown to our table immediately and I think this is done purposely to keep the bar area clear as if a large group arrived together this area would feel quite cramped. Therefore I personally would not recommend this as a restaurant to choose if you want to sit in the bar area for drinks as it is too small but is comfortable enough to wait in for a table if necessary.
Once at the table I did feel that there was quite a difference between the bar area and the dining area. The dining area was a lot darker as the lights were dimmed and there were only a few side lights scattered around, with candles on the table and blue fairy lights around the main archways in the restaurant. I overall décor in the dining area is quite traditional and what I would expect from a traditional Italian restaurant. It does not have the light and airy atmosphere of a contemporary Italian restaurant. Instead the floors are dark and the walls are painted a dark red colour. The walls have cream and red tiles on them and traditional pictures in frames. The tables are plain but quite old fashioned with dark red table clothes with a white candle and white tableware and napkins.
Once we were shown to the table the waiter gave us the leather bound drinks menu and leather bound food menu and a printed paper with the specials on. As soon as we were given the menu he explained that we needed to order before 7pm in order for us to benefit from happy hour prices. The happy hour runs Monday- Saturday between 12pm-2pm and also on an evening Monday- Saturday from 5.30pm-7pm.
The menu is reasonably large and I would say has a wide range of quite traditional Italian dishes. I feel compared to other Italian restaurants in the City Centre, Puccini does not have so many extravagant or contemporary Italian dishes the choice is more basic and has lots of traditional dishes and a lot of variations on these dishes without being overly fussy or fancy. There is a range of hot and cold starters (about 8 dishes on each menu) however I would say the starters are quite traditional and include cold dishes like tomato and mozzarella salad, prawn cocktail and hot dishes like loaded potato skins and garlic mushrooms. These dishes cost no more than £4 and the two soup dishes are less than £3 which is extremely cheap.
The main menu consists mainly of pizza and pasta but there are a variety of meat dishes. There are around 12 different pizza and 12 different pasta dishes on the menu. Both pizza and pasta dishes are not the most adventurous but there is a lot of choice of vegetarian, meat and chicken dishes and pizzas. The sauces on the pasta tend to be tomato or cream based. With pasta dishes you have the choice of penne, spaghetti or tagliatelle and you can also order gluten free pasta. Pasta dishes tend to be priced between £5.50-£7 with the majority being £6. Pizza dishes are a similar price but you have the option to choose half a pizza with chips and salad for £5.50.
There are also a wide choice of meat and chicken dishes on the menu all of which are served with vegetables and potatoes or chips. There are around 20 different dishes in total, which include a number of steaks, rack of lamb, chicken in a cream sauce and wide choice of fish dishes. The price of these dishes varies from around £10 for a chicken dish to £15 for a steak dish. This is a lot more expensive than the pasta menu but a lot cheaper than other Italian restaurants in the city centre.
The menu also includes a wide vegetarian selection. This is in addition to meat free pizza and pastas and includes 10 dishes costing no more than £6.
Desserts in the restaurant are displayed in a large cabinet and there is a wide choice of gateaux's and cakes. These cost around £3 per slice.
Happy Hour prices offer any pizza or pasta dish for £4.50. What I particularly like about the happy hour is it is slightly later than many other restaurants in the centre which finish these types of deals at 6.30pm. Secondly this really is any pizza or pasta dishes meaning you are not limited to just a select few basic dishes from the pizza/pasta menus.
The restaurant also has a fully stocked bar which serves a range of lagers and beers on draught and also a wide choice of spirits. The wine menu is not extensive. There are 5 red and 5 white wines on the menu. This includes a house wine and these are available in various sizes which includes a 1 litre carafe for £10 or ½ litre for £5.50. The majority of wines costs around £13-15 bottle.
The first time we dined at Puccini all four members of our party dined from the happy hour menu and ordered pasta or pizza. I ordered a tomato, chicken and mushroom penne dish and Mr Lools a chicken, salami and pepper pizza. Both dishes were huge and the 12 inch pizza Mr Lools ordered had a thin base but was packed with toppings and cheese and even he struggled to finish it. My pasta dish was delicious and the pasta was firm but not hard and the chicken was cooked perfectly. I would say the portion was far too large and I would have preferred half the amount of pasta as I wasted a lot. We also ordered starters which were also large. My potato skins were a large portion; too large for a starter but cooked well. Mr Lools ordered garlic mushrooms and was given 4 large mushrooms; again too large for a starter but cooked well.
On this occasion when we dined for a party of 4 for two courses each, a litre of wine and 4 diet cokes the bill came to £44. This was outstanding and probably one of the cheapest meals but nicest meals I have eaten in the City Centre. Our friends who were dining with us live in London and were outstanded that we got so much food for so little money and were actually questioning if something had been missed off the bill.
Mr Lools and I returned to Puccini to dine as a couple a few months later and this time ordered meat dishes. For two courses each and a litre of wine this came to £45 which I still feel is very cheap. I ordered a 8oz fillet steak and Mr Lools ordered sliced duck in a plum sauce. Both these dishes were very pleasant and cooked well and I think the ingredients were of a reasonable quality but not the best as Mr Lools did say the duck was slightly fatty. My steak was cooked well but a little more medium than medium rare like I ordered. We did find the starters to be tasty but the dishes we chosen were very basic.
The service in the restaurant is very friendly and warm but I do think this is a very relaxed restaurant. On a Saturday night the majority of diners were in jeans and not dressed up smart. On both occasions when we dined the restaurant was full or at least half full and the staff were busy but service could not be faulted. All of the staff were polite and helpful and attentive. Once we ordered our starters took 15 minutes to come and we had a further wait of 20 minutes for main courses on both occasions when we dined. I think this was a reasonable amount of time to wait and I did not feel rushed even though it was clear on the second occasion we dined customers were waiting for tables.
Although on the occasions we dined there were no children in the restaurant Puccini states it is family friendly and children are welcome to dine on any day at any time. There is a children's menu and the restaurant has 4 highchairs. Because of the relaxed atmosphere I definitely would feel comfortable dining here with children as it is not too formal or quiet.
I would definitely recommend Puccini to those looking for a value for money Italian meal in Newcastle City Centre. The service is relaxed and friendly and the food is cooked well.
For £44 for a party of four with wine and two courses I think this is extremely good value and feel you would struggle to find somewhere that offers the same meal cheaper.
Puccini does have a large menu and there is a wide choice of dishes but I would say the majority of these dishes are basic and do not offer a fine dining Italian experience. I would say the atmosphere is relaxed and informal and if you are looking for a more upmarket, modern Italian this is not for you.
Great value, great food just a little dark in the dining area!