Newest Review: ... sectioned off, it didn't look huge although there is seating upstairs where the toilets are also situated. We were greeted immediately ... more
Run to the Hills
Seven Hills Restaurant (Newcastle)
Member Name: fizzywizzy
Seven Hills Restaurant (Newcastle)
Advantages: Tasty Turkish cuisine, friendly staff, good value
Disadvantages: Toilets on upper floor, a bit shiny and less personal than sister restaurant
I actually got a chance to try Seven Hills earlier than planned when a Saturday afternoon drink with friends turned into an early dinner. The food and the service were excellent but, due to having over-indulged in the sampling of real ales (including an excellent espresso stout called "Barrista"), I didn't feel that my recollections were good enough to produce a review. A few weeks later I visited again, having reserved a table earlier the same day, armed with my Groupon voucher.
The restaurant is situated in a very historic part of the city, among a sweep of magnificent half-timbered buildings close to the quayside and just opposite the Newcastle end of the Swing Bridge. Alas, Seven Hills is not housed in one of the really old buildings but it is fairly old although you'll only see the handful of original features if you go upstairs. The décor is fairly similar to that of Red Mezze, new and modern and just a little bit over the top with lots of shininess and flat screen TVs showing promotional films from the Turkish tourist board. One thing I do really like is the semi-open kitchen, so if you're sitting in the right place you can see the chefs at work preparing your meal.
We arrived just before half past six and found that a couple of tables were already occupied. When you enter the restaurant there are tables to the left and right of the door and more upstairs. We waited to be seated and were a little disappointed that we were shown over to the side where there were already tables occupied and would much rather have been seated on the other side where no other tables were taken. The table for two was a bit on the small side and was too close to the next table, in my opinion, so that we had to endure the scintillating pronouncements of the one of the other diners, such as "The thing about flatbread is that it's flat".
As far as I can see the menu is identical to that at Red Mezze. It's an old cliché but there is something for everyone - dishes from the grill, stews and soups, salads, fish and veggie options. There are plenty of hot and cold starters and I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem to pick a couple of starters instead of a main course. Mains start around £6.00, rising to around £12.00 for the most expensive dishes which is excellent value especially as most come with a side dish.
Recently we have been passing on the starters and just having a main course but with the Groupon we had a certain amount to spend and we wanted to get full value from the offer so we both ordered starters and mains. I started with the lamahcun (£4.50), a traditional Turkish snack food a bit like a thin pizza topped with finely ground lamb, while Himself picked the Imam Bayildi (£4.25), an old favourite.
The lamahcun was excellent but too big for a starter really; the base was not so thin as I would have liked (in Turkey I had some lamahcun that was almost paper thin) but the topping was delicious, not too spicy but perfectly seasoned. The sausage was as good as it always is at Red Mezze, nicely cooked and with a fiery kick, oozing orangey-red paprika stained oil as you cut into it.
Now, Imam Bayildi is such a classic of Turkish cuisine that any restaurant offering it should understand that it is the mark by which it will be measured. The name means "The Imam fainted", the idea being that the dish of braised aubergine stuffed with a mixture of tomatoes, garlic and onion presented to the Imam was so good he swooned with pleasure. Again the portion was hefty for a starter but Himself, who practically lived on aubergines when he was a veggie, made light work of it. There are stories that suggest that the Imam, rather than being overcome by the taste of the dish, was actually shocked at how much oil it contained and had he been presented with the dish at Seven Hills, he would at least have felt a little light-headed; not a dish for slimmers, this one shimmered with olive oil, making the aubergine skin a glistening slick of smooth back shininess upon which the tangy and garlicky tomato mixture perched. It was delicious!
My main course was Karniyarik (£7.95), the meaty version of Imam Bayildi, aubergine stuffed with a mixture of minced lamb, tomatoes, garlic and onion. This was another excellent dish but having eaten all of my lamahcun I did struggle to finish this dish. The aubergine was nicely cooked and there was still enough texture to it while the stuffing was well flavoured and not too heavy. I was sure that there was a note on the menu saying this dish came with rice but when both dishes were on the table no rice appeared. This was actually a relief as the portion of rice provided with the other meal was more than sufficient for two people and I took a little from it and pput it on the side of my plate. Seconds later another bowl of rice appeared! As at Red Mezze the rice was perfectly cooked (as someone who cannot cook rice to save her life I will always give due praise where well cooked rice is concerned), long grained white rice with a smattering of wild rice, the grains were separate and the texture was just right.
Himself had chosen a kebab from the grill, the lamb beyti (£7.95); in this one the lmab is minced and mixed with herbs before being reformed around the skewers and grilled. There were a couple of fair-sized skewers along with the rice and a pile of salad and a heap of tangy relish. The lamb was tasty and moist and, although the relish was flavoursome it didn't overpower the meat.
A bottle of very drinkable house red came in at £12.00 and a full range of drinks, alcoholic and not, including Turkish Efes beer and for an authentic Turkish theme "ayran" - a sour-ish yoghurty drink. I fancied a Turkish coffee but our Groupon only covered food and we were trying to keep costs down; next time I'll have one.
In terms of quality of the food we weren't disappointed: Seven Hills is every bit as good as Red Mezze. The service too was as friendly and cheerful as we've come to expect up in the town. But as far as ambience goes, this place is not quite so cosy as Red Mezze and, being on the quayside, is likely to attract a livelier (read noisier) crowd, particularly at weekends.
Toilets are on the first floor which may be an issue for some, there are a few steps but they aren't steep. The ground floor dining area is wheelchair accessible but you may wish to make a reservation to ensure that a ground floor table is available as these tables are filled first, then the upper floor.
Seven Hills Restaurant
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tyne And Wear
Tel : 0191 2322 122
Note - in case you're wondering the name refers to the city of Istanbul which is built on seven hills
Summary: Terrific Turkish food on Newcastle's quayside