If you have been around Newcastle city centre in the last couple of weeks then you may have noticed that the students have swarmed back for their graduations. If you are a student like me then you will know the pain in the bum task of finding a great restaurant for the whole family to dine at to carry on the celebrations.
Branches opened its first restaurant in Ponteland and since the success of this fine dining took off, Branches Jesmond launched earlier on this year. As a local and a student I knew that the city centre of town would be heaving and probably all restaurants would be fully booked. After the amazing reviews that I’ve heard about the Ponteland restaurant I thought I would bite the bullet and try the Branches near my area(I’m talking as early as April and my graduation day was late July).
A graduation set menu was launched from Branches so I rang the restaurant up and made sure that this would be available at the time of my visit. This was not a problem at all and even when I asked to add on one extra person to the booking and for the table to be on the ground floor the staff were more than happy to oblige. So the day came and I must admit I was slightly apprehensive for the meal as I knew how particular some of my family members were about their food and portion sizes.
We arrived slightly early intending on ordering a couple of drinks. My parents are lovers of gin and were intrigued by the Whitley Neil Rhubarb and Ginger flavour which was priced at £9.95. To their delight the gin was fabulous and apparently if you’re a gin lover (I’m not) then you would love this combination with elderflower tonic as they did. For me a Branches Pornstar martini was calling my name. I am a self confessed expert when it comes to these cocktails so I wanted to see if Branches in Jesmond lived up to my drinking expectations. The result? The absolute BEST Pornstar martini I have ever had! The combination of Ketel One Vodka, Passoa, lemon and pineapple was perfect with it best topped off with a hint of vanilla sugar and shot of Prosecco.
Soon enough the whole family arrived and the waiter took us to our table. Best seat in the house he said. Our table was in the centre of the restaurant and right under the most beautiful white artificial blossom tree which was the centre piece of this restaurants artistic design. The special set menu listed there would be 6 courses served to us for the price of £29.95pp. The waiter took our starter and main orders first alongside the complementary Prosecco which was included in the deal. A bread basket was first with warmed creamy butter to build our appetites. A choice of either the soup of the day (mixed vegetable), smoked salmon, slow cooked beetroot salad, chicken liver and mushroom pate or sautéed king prawns in mango and chili were our starter choices. Every single started was ordered from our table. I went for the king prawns which were served with salsa and crispy kale (although it was an extra £5.95 supplement). It was absolutely phenomenal! The tastes and flavours complemented each other beautifully and the presentation was superb. The smoked salmon I was told was on par with the quality of my prawns. Salmon was served on celeriac remoulade, sour dough croutons and drizzled in herb oil. Finishing our starters we were all blown away by the food and thought it can’t really get much better.
We were wrong, the chef’s intermediate course was feta cheese, black olives and a tomato salsa served in a baby leaf lettuce. I wasn’t really looking forward to this course as I am not a fan of either olives or feta but to my surprise…it actually tasted really good. I was quite amazed by the flavours and how the certain combination seemed to mask the olive-like taste for me. You can imagine with massive smiling faces we were enjoying the meal so far and the Prosecco which was complimentary was so tasty that we began to order bottles of it.
Next was the grand main course. Three of us had the confit Welsh black belly pork which came with a black pudding and sage fritter, fennel and sautéed potatoes. Again another breathe taking meal full of flavour and just certain food you would not think of putting together totally worked. Fennel, black pudding and gravy? The chef must be a mastermind in the kitchen. Others ordered the Yorkshire barn reared roast chicken breast. This main course was accompanied with duck fat fondant potato, walled garden vegetables and hand picked mushrooms. Presentation was another work of art and the food was perfection. The fish and chips was the most surprising. The biggest portion of battered fish was served to one of my relatives and she was shocked. The lovely waiter had warned her of the size when she ordered it and that wasn’t going to stop her. She said the mushy peas were like no others and that regular fish and chips would never taste the same again!
My family and I were having the best time indulging in rich and glorious food and in the great atmosphere of Branches Jesmond. The pre-dessert came out and made us start to feel our stomachs grow. Peach compote served in miniature wine glasses lightened our taste buds and cleared our pallets perfectly before we continued to completely savour every mouthful of our desserts. These deserts took a bit of deciding. With some excellent advice from the serving staff we ordered three of the coffee and petit four, two of the Branches mango and passionfruit cheesecakes and for myself I ordered the lemon sponge with mascarpone. I was torn between my lemon sponge and the petit four as the idea of four sweet desserts sounded heaven especially when one of them was white chocolate and coconut fudge and another a dark chocolate and raspberry truffle. In the end the waiter swayed my decision towards the lemon sponge and told me I would not regret it. He was completely right. The light sponge complemented the sharp mango coulis and soft mascarpone. I even managed to sneak a taste of the fudge which my lord….incredible! I could have eaten a whole slab of that heavenly treat.
All in all Branches Jesmond was absolutely phenomenal. It is very rare these days that when dining at a restaurant there is not one single complaint or spoiler moment. The staff could not have been better especially their friendly and charming attitudes. We even complemented the manager on his restaurant and how honoured we were to be part of the experience. The taste of the food and presentation was top notch as my whole family agreed that it was the best restaurant we have dined at EVER! I could not recommend Branches enough to you all. My experience at this spectacular restaurant really topped of such a fantastic graduation day for me and we couldn’t fault a thing.