Comedian and food-fiend Jessica Fostekew puts her mouth where others fear to tread. A celebration of eating: from posh nosh to kebab shops to stuff that’s been on the floor. This week Jess falls in love with a roast dinner in Newcastle.
I’m as happy as a shark when I get to do stand up at any of The Stand comedy clubs. They’re in Edinburgh, Glasgow and their newest home, Newcastle, where I landed on this most recent trip. They’re exemplary comedy clubs. Upstairs though, all humour aside, Newcastle’s an incredible eating-stop.
Comedy venues and wonderful nosh are extremely rare mates. Half the time there is nothing to eat at all apart from lager and bowls full of nuclear waste and straws, I mean, cocktails. When there is food, it’s most often ‘shapes of dry beige’. It comes in a packet, a basket, or a laminated brown cardboard box. You always eat your shrivelled nugget or frowning old sandwich feeling like a grounded astronaut.
Then The Stand in Newcastle rocks up, gets that trend and holds it still while a horse kicks it to bits from behind. It’s brilliant. On my last Sunday afternoon there, I had the best roast dinner I’ve ever had in my life.
I know I love food and I know I love hyperbole but I promise, it was the most delicious roast I’ve ever had. It was only £10, which isn’t bad at all. I’ve had glorious roasts in the past where one element was so perfect that I got an excited jiggy leg but this was something else. Not one element of the whole massive meal was anything short of perfect. It made me want to sing and cry at the same time.
The restaurant is on a cobbled road only just off the beaten track. In the day it feels bright and fresh and at night it becomes quite twinkly and intimate.
Anyway, back to this roast. I went for beef, which sat atop roasties and mash. Well, it is winter. It had a giant Yorkshire pud by its side, Watson to its Sherlock. All in a pool of gravy. The mash was like edible velvet. As soft as the first time you ever touched a baby’s hair. The roasties were incredible. They were blazing fresh and hot, their innards oozing, satiny and moist. Their coats were crisp and crunchy, dissolving into molten bliss on impact with your teeth. What fireworks and I’ve only described the carbs.
I’m so used to the beef in roasts arriving in emaciated sheets like some sort of essence of brown; this was more like eating a fillet steak. As lean as a dancer and as rare as a real apology. It hit your mouth, fired gorgeous flavour off all around it and then vanished like snow.
The Yorkshire pudding was a beautiful giant tower of tastiness. If I have to run a nit comb around it until I found a fault it would be a general note. It’s a shame you can never have a truly ‘fresh from the oven’ Yorkshire when you’re eating out. I understand it, you need to make them in advance when they’re catering for more than one table-load of diners. People would hate waiting 30 minutes (my perfect Yorkshire making time from batter-whisking to the end) for lunch. But when they’re pre-cooked and reheated there is always some element of crunch overload. But they were meant to be scoffed immediately out the oven. When they still have that juicy, steaming almost wet middle, I’d kill for them. It was still wonderful.
It all sat in a gravy so rich and dense with flavour it made Bovril seem like water. And all this is fine, this heavy hearty centre piece but now for the vegetables. I loaded it up with the chunky strong horseradish sauce which set it all off like a starter gun.
In a separate little bowl (proper posh) were a selection of seamless good for you bits. Sort of. There were a few sprouts, green beans and baby carrots. They were all only-just-cooked so still packed with taste, bite and nutrients. There was a spoon of spiced red cabbage, heaving with inky cinnamon like a mouthful of Christmas. And a puree.
“But where’s the parsnip?” You’re screaming like a twat. I think it was in the puree. Here’s where the ‘good for you’ bit falls over. I think it was most likely swede and parsnip, reduced down to a glorious cream and run through with proper chef-loads of butter. Oh God. Just remembering it, I’ve just had to readjust how I’m sitting.
There were pudding options but I was outdone, it was giant and I boshed almost all of it. I left feeling stuffed and quite high. It had been revelatory, almost spiritual. It had been so delicious that I felt honestly emotional.
Go. Comedy schmomedy. Go there to eat.
Address: The Stand, Newcastle, 31 High Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Tyne and Wear, NE1 1EW
Tel: 0191 300 9700
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 11am-12am, Sun: 12pm-12am
Accessible: Yes, throughout. Restaurant and accessible toilet all on one level. For the comedy club slightly fiddlier and more circuitous but still totally accessible – they ask for the comedy club only, that you book over the phone for wheelchairs so that they can reserve a seat. Free carers tickets. More details on the website. Note that won’t be on website – the staff are all, without exception, lovely and will help with anything that they can.
Jessica Fostekew is a writer, comedian, actor, law degree-waster, sister, daughter and beard-fan with an unabashed food infatuation.