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Food & Drink Reviews

sydneys.jpg Restaurant review> Sydney’s Bistro

Chloe Corkhill jumps on the train to Hexham to sample the town’s latest fabulous foodie offering.

There’s something particularly pleasing about a bistro, as oppose to a restaurant. A bistro comes with cheerful connotations of simple food cooked with love, intimate spaces and a chilled out cosiness. Sydney’s Bistro has all this, and more. Family-run and welcoming, this is an excellent little place in the heart of Hexham. After a few hours of Christmas browsing in the market town’s galleries and gift shops, Sydney’s is your go-to for a well-earned glass of wine or a decent coffee, a few tapas-style snacks or a more substantial main meal. It’s great for Sunday lunch following a bracing riverside walk on Tyne Green, and ideal for a mid-week romantic treat.

The menu is composed of carefully selected classic Mediterranean dishes, with a generous smattering of Northumbrian goodness thrown in for the sheer pleasure of it. So you can order a selection of ‘Petit Plats’, which brilliantly combine local and European flavours. Try Hexhamshire sausage with sourdough and a tangy apple pickle (£6), a pleasingly robust chicken, chorizo and chickpea casserole (£6) and sweet potato and sage ravioli topped with mushrooms (£5.50). From this side of the menu, my friend and I ordered slow roast belly pork with black pudding, mustard mash and apple crisps (£6.50).

On a November evening after a trying day at work, impossibly crunchy crackling and yielding pork hit the spot very nicely, mustard mash is always a yes and apple crisps leant the dish just the right kick of artisan sophistication. Alongside this porky delicacy, we ordered the Tuscan fish stew (£6). This spicy dish is generously packed with prawns and chunky pieces of fish, merrily luxuriating in a well-balanced, thick tomato sauce.

To supplement these smaller plates, we looked to the second side of the menu, which is a series of sharing platters, each with its own distinctly delicious theme. There’s the Northumbrian Platter, which boasts locally crafted cheeses, pork pie, pease pudding, ham hock and pickles (£13.95). Or how about the Greek mezze (£11.95)? This hummus, tsatiki, feta and halloumi combo is a tasty reminder of sunny island holidays. For beer lovers, there’s the baked camembert marinated in Newcastle Brown Ale (£9.95), which is an unexpected but very successful marriage. We chose the Spanish sharer (£13.95). Crispy frittatas that made me wonder if there was a Spanish granny concealed in the kitchen, plump anchovies and silky slivers of irresistible Serrano ham take centre stage. Manchego cheese with almonds, bountiful olives and roast tomatoes stuffed with chorizo complete this moreish platter, which somehow demands that you order another bottle of Rioja, grab another hunk of homemade bread and keep up the chatting and the laughter ‘til well past bedtime.

Sydney’s Bistro is a restaurant where regular visitors and newcomers will be greeted with the same warmth, and served the same wholesome, tasty, comforting dishes. Pop in, try it out and add it to your regular restaurant repertoire. It’s right at the top of mine.

Sydney’s Bistro, Battle Hill, Hexham. www.sydneysbistro.com