Cabana recently got in touch to invite us to try their new restaurant that has opened just next to The Gate in Newcastle. With new restaurants popping up all the time in the city centre, does this one stand out from the crowd?
We were running soooooooooo late for our dinner reservation at 7pm. We couldn’t blame the baby, she actually went to bed at 6.30pm, and our babysitters (the in-laws) had arrived promptly at 6pm, giving us ample time to get there. No, we had forgotten about the roadworks from the Redheugh Bridge up to St James’ Stadium. We called Cabana, and apologised that we weren’t going to be on time. A happy member of staff said it was no problem and that they would see us soon. Phew.
We decided to park in The Gate car park which I’m usually against doing as there are so many ‘free after 5pm’ car parks in the city, but after 6pm you only pay £2.50 for up to 4 hours in The Gate car park and it seemed worth it just to be so close to the restaurant.
The first thing that struck us about Cabana was the décor. It was bold. It was loud. It was fun and colourful. It had such a casual atmosphere and lots of different seating options.
We ordered fresh lemonade, a super-suco smoothie and a jug of water for the table. The lemonade was really delicious with big wedges of lime and lemon. It was very more-ish and perfect for a hot day. However, my smoothie was not what I expected. On the menu it said “An invigorating blend of Amazonian açai with banana and strawberry” but all I could really taste was the açai which wasn’t very sweet. I think people could order this from the menu and be disappointed with the taste, as it is quite unusual. However, it is one of those ‘superfoods’ everyone is loving at the minute, so I felt incredibly healthy sipping on it, and did find it refreshing!
Choosing what to have for our starters was quite difficult. There were a lot of things we would have liked to try. You can order the starters tapas-style, and I think that would be nice if you weren’t after a big dinner but just wanted to socialise with some food and drinks.
In the end we went with the salt cod fritters (that were served with lime mayo) and the pulled pork sliders. I was expecting the fritters to be small battered pieces of cod like how you get a piece of battered fish from the fish and chip shop. Instead, they were small fishcakes with a potato/fish filling. They were still scrummy, and the filling was super light (a good thing!), and the lime mayo was the best thing about the whole dish. I’m going to be recreating that at home ASAP, especially the next time we get fish and chips.
The pulled pork sliders were okay. They came in cheesy dough ball buns which were lovely, but the pulled pork itself didn’t have much flavour. It had a little drizzle of sauce on it but not enough for us to make out what the real flavour was – was it trying to be a little spicy? was it trying to be BBQ? We’re not sure. However, we did love the size of our starters. They were just right, not filling us up, and tempting us with what was to come. I think too many places are upping their starter portion sizes and there have been a few moments where I’ve had excitement-mingled-with-dread that I’m not going to be able to hack my main course.
For my main course I ordered the pork and papaya sausage wheel and a side of corn on the cob and cassava fries (which the menu described as The Brasilian french fry, with Malagueta mayo). MrJ ordered the Steak Fritas Osvaldo Aranha, and asked for stir-fried garlic spring greens and Feijoada Fries (sweet potato fries covered with melted cheese and our beef, pork & bean feijoada). He felt that his steak was decent, cooked exactly to medium like he asked for, but lacked any real depth of flavour. However, he was grinning from ear to ear with his sides, which were delicious. He definitely rubbed it in my face that his sides were better than mine.
Not that there was anything wrong with my sides, the corn on the cob was, well, corny – it could have been more buttery, but I wasn’t complaining. And my fries were lovely and crisp on the outside with a fluffy inside, and the mayo was super tasty. (This place does good mayo variations I’ve come to realise…) I also really enjoyed my sausage and papaya wheel. It was sweet and savoury at the same time with noticeable soft papaya chunks.
What got us excited was the dessert menu. We wanted everything. It helped that we are massive peanut butter fans. A lot of the menu is made up of nutty-style desserts, which Chloe pointed out on her blog post, can be frustrating as a nut allergy sufferer. Fortunately for us, we had plenty of choice.
But as soon as I saw Nutella on the menu, I knew I had to have it. One of my favourite desserts is the Nutella and mascarpone calzone at Gusto. It is the stuff dreams are made of. Anyway, the desserts at Cabana looked fantastic: peanut butter frozen yoghurt, a Brasilian overload sundae ft. chocolate truffles, a banana and caramel cheesecake with toasted almonds. It’s been a while since a chain restaurant dessert menu has appealed to me so much. But the main draw was the raindrop doughnuts stuffed with Nutella, and then served with a Nutella dip. SOLD!
MrJ went for the Brasilian chocolate cake which was flourless and served with a caramel sauce. They were both fab. I must admit that after 3 or 4 doughnuts I was nearly done, the intensity of the Nutella was so great (I was loving it!), but I managed to carry on and devour the whole lot. MrJ loved his cake and then declared that all gluten-free diners should try it!
Overall, a lovely night spent. I think it definitely tops all the restaurants inside The Gate and really, if you’re heading there for a movie, you can’t go too wrong by popping in here beforehand whether for a cocktail and some snacks, or a three-course meal. If you don’t have time, go afterwards and indulge in dessert. The choice is yours!
Cabana can be found at 117 Newgate Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 5RF.