Sunday, 22 January 2012

Albaik, Newcastle, Restaurant Review


Sometimes I can be a horrible snob.

Yes that sounds as bad written down as it does in my head. I mean this is in the sense that I can be very particular about what and where I eat; I turn my nose up at the idea of fast food, take aways and 'restaurants' that laminate their menus and include pictures on them. So the idea of spending my Friday night in a restaurant which also sells its food on Just Eat and is located next to a KFC and the Byker Wall may perhaps seem a little strange.

But i'd actually been wanting to try Albaik for ages, after regularly walking past it to the Free Trade or Tyne i've peered curiously in at the windows and wondered what Lebanese food was like. Amusingly I'd been on the phone to O2 before we went out, when I told her I was going for a Lebanese she replied that she thought that was a type of triangle. I wasn't really sure how to reply to that.

Albaik, 98 Byker Bank

This is one of those strange locations which was a Chinese one day and a Mediterranean cafe the next but Albaik was certainly doing well on the night we went.
I've never seen a restaurant so rammed full of people, massive tables so close together you could barely move, and you could definitely see a bit too much of the 45 year old woman in a leather dress at the next table. She would have been enough to put you off your food, if the food hadn't been so bloody good.

It was good and it had laminated menus. My snobby little mind almost imploded with the concept.

Menu, Albaik Newcastle

Between us we tried a lot of the menu, there were various charcoal cooked kebab skewers of different types of lamb or chicken. I opted for the Lahem Meshwi which were big chunks of succulent lamb, beautifully marinated and served on a sizzling hot platter with onions and parsley.
Lahem Meshwi, £7.50
Other dishes included a moussaka, very rich sauce, chicken skewers, a Fattoush salad, lovely crispy little falafel bits and tons of different dips - no idea what most of them were but all very good. 

Moussaka, £7.00
Fattoush Salad, £3.00
Strips of Lamb & Chicken, Chips Onion Salad, £7.50
Falafel, £3.50

This was one of those nights where I leave somewhere feeling very uncomfortably full, I just crammed my mouth with all the deliciousness in front of me then realised I got full half an hour earlier. 

We got all the things above, sides, bread (which was 50p a basket for massive freshly cooked flatbreads!) and chips and it came to £10 head with change. I couldn't believe how little we paid for so much good food. O and its BYOB making it the perfect meal for any broke students out there.

The service had been polite but the food did take along time to come with some dishes arriving slightly after - i'd snobbishly put this down to it not really being a 'proper restaurant' where they bother with service. But no, to apologise for our delays and forgotten orders they gave us a huge free dessert to share, something kind of like a panna cotta, with mango sauce and coconut shavings.

So yes, try Albaik out, its cheap & cheery and you'll be so full you won't be able to move. Which is why although it was a fun meal out, I think I may have just discovered the best thing to order in. 

5 comments:

  1. I neglected to say in my last comment, how great your blog is. It has been crying out for someone to expose the cuisine of the North East.

    The North East has historically had a penchant for a sort of cooking which revolved around well done meat, pies, piles of chips, mixed veg with waterfalls of gravy. Add to this the importance of size of portions and the results were hearty but not much more.

    Then a revolution occurred headed up by Terry Laybourne and the food got better. But it went too far and played on the public's love affair with Masterchef fussiness, a willingness to pay high prices,an eternal love affair with matching pink tablecloths and knapkins and a traditional view that eating out should be a special occasion and not a daily occurrence.

    Now something truly magical has happened.

    You can find any kind of food in the North east for relatively little money. Last week I had a Philippino breakfast, an Iraqi-Kurdish lunch a Turkish tea and was divided as to whether it should have been a Malaysian, North or South Chinese dinner. One of the best chefs from Lahore is now here, the Poles and Baltic states are represented,as is almost everywhere else.

    This restaurant is fantastic. I was reccomended it by the Egyptian take-away in Willington. You might be deceived as the place is called Pizza Time and has an Italian flag in its logo, but it makes the most delicious spicy chicken kebabs. He also has a friend who makes Jordanian felafel in Durham.

    So I hope you keep trying and reviewing the vast wealth of variety available to you. Seeing that you love steak, you could point us all in the direction of the best steak in the North East. I have not had a good one yet - most seem to have been butchered in the Good Year factory.

    Very good luck to you.

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    1. Hi,

      Thanks for the nice comments and all the suggestions of places to try out, safe to say I've heard of very few of them and definitely want to try a few.

      I know what you mean about good steaks - there are no dedicated restaurants for it, although I did have an absolutely incredible one last night that I will have to write up. Incidentally it was at one of Terry Laybourne's places and although I know what you mean about fussy eating I can't speak high enough of all of his places i've tried.

      Now, I must go and find out about that Jordanian felafel...

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  2. Albaik is good, went recently for a birthday. We were a table of 16, the whole restaurant was heaving, and when it was decreed that we would be each ordering individually rather than go for mixed mezze and grills among us all, I thought the manager was going to have a breakdown. He performed the minor miracle of getting us all fed in reasonable time. Another place for really good, really cheap lebanese is Al Basha in the Bigg Market (no, really!). Go on a fri/sat night when it's an oasis of booze-free calm (religious or licensing reasons, I don't know) in the eye of a grimly over-lubricated storm.

    I lived near Albaik when a student and went to it's chinese forerunner once. It was all-you-can-eat, or "all-you-care-to-consume", as I think they had it. We were the only ones in, and god knows when the bains-maries had last been refreshed, but for approx two hours we laid steady and determined siege to that buffet. It was only about £4.50 each. Write it off as studenty high-jinks. Needless to say, Albaik is a mega-improvement.

    @The Accidental Bus Driver: For great steaks, go to David Kennedy's place at The Biscuit Factory, if they still do a steak night. Went once- choice of 4 cuts (no fillet, sensibly), cooked and rested to complete perfection and great treble-cooked chips. Or, go to Jesmond Dene House, eat off the market menu which always has steak on it. It's about £30 for three courses, but they lob free extra amuse-whatsits at you, and the bread with seaweed butter (also complimentary) is amazing, rendering the whole thing pretty good value.

    Glad I ate recently, or typing that out would've famished me.

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  3. I love Al Basha, and any form of Lebanese whether it be high end or cafe- my only other recommendations are in London. Will have to try Albaik.

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  4. Things have gone SERIOUSLY downhill since this review.
    They coast on the fumes of a once magnificent reputation and the food is now as cheap as the prices.
    I keep hoping the hit and miss quality will settle, and unfortunately it has.....into a mediocre, belly churning yuckfest.

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