HLN Review: Restaurant Pine, Northumberland
Serving up a modern, refined tasting menu concept from their Northumbrian home in a converted cow barn, it’s safe to say this new dining spot is everything we’ve pined for over the past six months.
By Lucy Murray
Hospitality has been well and truly put to the test this year – so to say we have a huge amount of respect for Northumbrian Cal Byerley, along with his fiancé Siân Buchan, for their recent launch of Restaurant Pine would be something of an understatement.
After delaying their November opening and making it through Lockdown 3.0 by serving at-home offerings and takeaway afternoon teas, we’re not sure there’s anything the chef and hospitality manager (respectively) can’t handle if it’s thrown their way. It’s clearly taken the duo perseverance (and several opening dates) to reach this point. Luckily, we’re here to confirm, it’s most certainly been worth the wait.
It feels good to finally sit on one of their sought-after seats facing the bespoke open kitchen, although turning our backs on the floor-to-ceiling windows – which look out for miles over the sloping Northumberland landscape – seems almost criminal. Here, however, it’s the kitchen that takes centre stage and Byerley is playing the lead role.
He’s honed skills by working in some extremely notable kitchens, from Simon Rogan’s Rogan & Co and Forest Side in Cumbria, to the more local Jesmond Dene House, so he’s well versed.
Restaurant Pine has a self-proclaimed purpose: to awaken our interest in ingredients found around Northumberland, supporting local producers in the process. This theme runs across their drinks offering just as much as it does in the single tasting menu on offer, (although the team are happy to tweak for allergies, dietary requirements and personal preferences).
Quaffable English wine? Sustainable European grape juice? Sommelier Vanessa Stoltz is on hand to assist with picking your poison – and if it’s anything like what we went for, it won’t disappoint. Order a Flowering Collins to start, then sit back and soak up the buzzing atmosphere (which, on this occasion, is partly provided by the evening’s Fleetwood Mac playlist). It feels lively and full, which is impressive considering the restaurant seats no more than 30.
Throughout the evening, dishes from the tasting menu trickle from the open kitchen before us. And while many may seem high-brow, Byerley’s flavour combinations are tried-and-tested classics.
Take the Doddington cheese and wild leek canelé, for example. It might look like the classic rum and vanilla French pastry, but instead of a sweet hit, there’s a creamy cheddar filling, caramelised crust and a pickled onion gel garnish – worlds apart, to say the least. Just like many of the other dishes on the menu here, it shouldn’t work, but it does. Clever cooking at its finest, that’s exactly what you can expect here.
More dishes follow. Byerley tops pumpkin crumpet with squash purée, pumpkin seeds and Lardo (we’ll let you work that one out). A combination of fluffiness, crunchiness and silkiness – it’s about more than just flavours, it showcases textures too.
Similarly, sweet raw milk curd is infused with bitter horseradish, split with a lovage oil concoction and topped with edible flowers from the kitchen garden. You might be sceptical (we were too), but one mouthful will cast away any doubts.
Without sounding too cliché, the ethos here is very much farm-to-fork. For many of Byerley’s dishes, plants and vegetables lie at the forefront – and most are grown just metres from where you sit. But he’s taken plenty of consideration for carnivores too.
Oxtail broth is served peppered with mushrooms, which we’re told were picked just this morning. Dry-aged lamb – which we spotted slowly cooking, while working our way through the aforementioned courses – is served alongside heritage potato, charred lettuce and a bite-sized, lamb-fat muffin with a hint of wild garlic.
There’s plenty for seafood fiends to feast on too, from fleshy langoustine tartare topped with pickled rhubarb, to perfectly flakey steamed wild halibut.
One palate cleanser (in the form of Darwin’s Barberry sorbet, topped with Lemon Verbena syrup) later, and desserts quickly followed. From intricately piped and thumb-sized ice cream cones, which Byerley explains were made using potato and artichoke, to apple marigold and pickled blackcurrant macarons. Each made for a sweet ending to our evening.
Despite being just weeks old, Siân and Cal have created something very special in Restaurant Pine. The service is slick, informative yet unimposing. It’s the kind of dining destination every gastronome deserves to experience and, luckily, now they can.
Pine, Vallum Farm, Military Road, East Wallhouses, Northumberland NE18 0LLBook Now