Whenever I go to a new city, one of the first things I do is research the best places to eat. Unfortunately when I go away with work we usually have all meals (plus a ton of snacks!) provided, and the courses obviously run all day so it’s hard for me to get out and explore the city. By explore I mean eat my way through the city of course 😉
My most recent work trip was to Newcastle, and we got put up at the Hilton, which is always guaranteed to have an awesome buffet! Breakfast is by far my favourite meal to eat out for, and I found a huge number of cafes and brunch spots that I’d loved to have visited, but the course timings combined with the location of the hotel made it impossible 😦 I have to say that the breakfast buffet at the Hilton is one of the best I’ve seen in the UK though – it’s not often you can find crumpets, waffles, pancakes and English muffins as part of their bread selection, plus an incredible spread of other breads and pastries and even a tarte tatin! The cooked part was impressive too – you could order fresh items but at the counter they had eggs every way, both streaky and back bacon, sausages, veggie sausages, crispy hashbrowns, and those cute little potato discs that remind me of my childhood! Does anyone else remember those? For some reason they always remind me of The Little Chef (do they even exist any more!?), where I’d pester my parents to stop at the service stations and order the Olympic breakfast, where the most exciting part for me would be those little fried potato discs! I guess I’ve always been a little fatty at heart 🙂
You could even get porridge with loads of different topping combinations – it’s made to order with your choice of toppings so I went for strawberry compote with maple syrup one day, and blueberries with cinnamon sugar the next. They make their porridge with a mix of whole milk and cream and it’s divine.. I usually make mine with semi skimmed, but the whole milk combined with the cinnamon sugar stirred through literally made it taste like a dessert!
We also got lunch provided along with almost as many coffee and snack breaks as there were talks – it was a good few days! Dinner on the first night was a American diner-style buffet, with mini burgers, hot dogs, fries, etc, and dinner on the second night was more formal – a three course sit down meal. I wasn’t sure if I’d attend the formal meal on the second night – often those things stretch out for hours, you’re left making awkward small talk with a bunch of people you’ll never see again and the portions are often tiny! Never one to miss a buffet though I went along to the dinner on the first night, but I was desperate to try a couple of restaurants which I liked the look of, so the only obvious solution was a double dinner! After the buffet I wandered into the centre to Lola Jeans. It had been recommended by some of the people on my Instagram and I particularly loved the look of the sharing platters!
When we arrived I remember being surprised at how quirky the interior was. It was pretty dark inside, with a large bar area – I think they’re well known for their cocktails – and huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. I loved the haphazard interior design, with some walls painted, some exposed brick, some crazy bright paintings done straight onto the plaster and even a random chunk of corrugated metal above our table. Some tables had adorable vintage lamps – the type you’d expect to see in an old English country manor, and each table had a little pot of flowers and a cute little tea light. Around the bar were some more comfy seats – sofas and armchairs covered in a velvet type material and the bar itself had drawers and cupboards that wouldn’t have looked out of place in someone’s kitchen!
Menus are brought on clipboards, and it’s clear that their focus is on simple foods done well. I guess the style was more of a refined American diner, with burgers, steak and sandwiches and all of the fried foods for sides – buffalo chicken, buffalo shrimp, triple cooked chips, fries.. they even had buffalo cauliflower! Although some of the burgers and sandwiches (fish tacos and roasted med veg with halloumi in particular!) sounded appealing, there was no doubt that I was going to get a sharing board. I was torn between the seafood platter which had Cajun cured smoked salmon, salt and pepper calamari, crayfish tails and buffalo shrimp and the surf & turf platter which featured steak and king prawns with garlic butter. I ended up going for the surf & turf platter with a side of buffalo shrimp which was the best of both worlds. I upgraded to fillet steak at a premium and while I can’t comment on how it compared to the standard rump steak, the cut of meat I got was absolutely divine. I’m usually very hesitant to order steak when I’m not at a steakhouse – in fact I don’t think I ever have for fear that it will be poor quality, poorly cooked, or both. This however, was spot on. Seasoned to perfection and cooked medium with the perfect blend of red and pink, it literally melted in my mouth. Combine that with soft, succulent garlic buttery prawns, a mountain of Cholula hot sauce (it was my first time trying it – I know, who even am I!?), warm pittas, salad and a pot of triple cooked chips and you pretty much have the ultimate meal.
I was actually planning to eat alone at this place, as I assumed that everyone else would just go to the buffet, but my friend decided she wanted to come with me and she ordered the chicken platter (BBQ glazed chicken breast, deep fried chicken breast in buttermilk batter and a portion of jumbo chicken wings). One thing I will say is that the platters are surprisingly small. They’re for 1,2 or 3 people so obviously I didn’t specify when ordering and the waitress just brought a one-person platter. I know I eat a lot but there really wasn’t much food. The girl I ate with has a tiny appetite and eats painfully slowly – I certainly don’t think I eat quickly by any means but I polished off my platter and ordered and demolished another side of fries in the time she finished about a third of her meal! She was full up, so it was human dustbin to the rescue. Chicken would probably have been my last choice as I’m not a huge fan of wings (I feel like a disproportionate amount of effort is needed to get a tiny amount of meat!) and I also don’t really like fried chicken which was obviously the main part of the platter. She’d eaten the BBQ glazed chicken breast though, which would have been my favourite part (cry.. it’s not like it was her meal or anything!) so the wings and the buttermilk fried chicken were left to me. The wings were wings – the glaze was nice but as usual it took me forever to get the tiny bit of meat off. The buttermilk chicken was a little on the dark side. Certainly not burnt, but definitely closer to mahogany rather than the usual golden honey colour you’d expect from fried chicken. It was predictably stone cold (we’d probably been ‘eating’ for over an hour!) which didn’t help matters but the meat itself was tender and boneless which made life easier and it was still crispy despite having been sat out for quite a while. I did find the batter a little on the salty side but I seem to have quite a low tolerance for salty foods so I’m not sure how much my opinion is reflective of the average person!
The dessert menu looked pretty good – they had a cookies and cream cheesecake and a pecan pie which caught my eye but by the time we’d finished it was pretty late and knowing she isn’t a dessert person I was more than happy to head back to the hotel to relax with a mug of tea and some (okay a lot!) of spare snacks which I’d accumulated from my first class journey up that afternoon. Given that it was my second dinner it was probably for the best – see, I do show the occasional bit of will power! 😉
I’d definitely recommend this place – it’s certainly unique, the food is delicious and presented beautifully. The service could definitely have been better – it was a little slow and haphazard but not to the point that it detracted from the experience and it wouldn’t put me off going back again!
Link to their website: http://www.lolajeans.co.uk