Food & Drink Reviews
Trial Shift at the Toffee Factory
There’s so much about the experience of eating out that needs a shake-up. What if, instead of breaking diners off piecemeal in settings of two, three and four, there were long banquet style tables where both the intimately acquainted and complete strangers could enjoy one another’s company? How about, instead of the awkward dance of ‘are you getting a starter, I don’t know if I’m hungry enough’ and the irritating bill calculations, there was one price and one awesome feast of dishes to try; a long line of magnificent morsels arriving in a parade of flavour and colour to dig into as you see fit? And, what if the restaurant wasn’t anchored in a singular geographical spot, but was free to roam from one funky venue to the next, enchanting new diners with every fresh stop off? This is Trial Shift. For £35 (excluding drinks) my friend and I were treated to a smorgasbord of thrilling South East Asian flavours; dishes that had us exclaiming, “Oh my God. That is amazing. Try it! Try it immediately!”
Our Trial Shift took place at Newcastle’s Toffee Factory, in a room with Bruce Lee flickering on one wall, neon bright paper lanterns bobbing above our heads and vibrant coral dragons on sticks beside the huge baskets of prawn crackers on every table. And so it began. Dish after dish of tasty lushness. First up, the Hot & Numbing White Cut Chicken Salad, which was fresh and zesty, surprising and singing with yummy sesame and coriander goodness. Next, Crispy Pork Belly & Watermelon, scattered with fresh mint, sweet and salty and dangerously filling. A traditional Japanese dish arrived as the last chunks of crispy pork were being devoured -Okonomiyaki Pancake, Nori & Kewpie. Hot and soft on the inside, browned on the outside, the cabbage-based pancakes absorb the umami kick of the seaweed and the creamy mayo provided a note of indulgence. This is comfort food Japanese style. The Korean Fried Chicken was a highlight for me and for the woman sitting next to me (who I had just met). She’d sampled it a few weeks previously when Trial Shift popped up at Newcastle’s Boiler Shop Steamer and had come along to the Toffee Factory singularly on the strength of this dish’s deliciousness. She wasn’t wrong. In an oddly kinky, yet infinitely practical move, we were given blue plastic gloves to wear whilst eating this hot, sticky mess of scrumptiousness. The crispy, spicy glaze yielded with a crunch leaving the steaming succulent meat within vulnerable to our greedy advances. Get some. By this point, we were nudging saturation, but we soldiered on because the food was just fantastic and it just kept coming. Singapore Chili Crab & Savoury Doughnuts arrived to take their turn in the spotlight. A mite too fiddly for people who are no longer ravenously hungry, perhaps this dish should have made an earlier appearance in the meal. It was however, divine. The penultimate dish was a sweet wrap-your-own affair - Bo Ssam & Condiments. Gently cooked strips of tender pork are wrapped in crispy lettuce and flavoured with garlicky relishes, kimchi and other vinegary treats. Finally, the palate cleanser: Gin & Juice Ice Pops to refresh and hydrate after your epic eating experience.
Far more fun than formal dining, this is food so good you can taste the chefs’ obsession in every mouthful; and it’s also incredibly affordable. Trial Shift is a super supper concept. Get involved.