NEST is the indulgent Heaton restaurant you can’t book a table at until 2022… here’s why it’s worth the wait
NEST promises to be a real feather in the North East’s foodie cap.
Of course it’s frustrating, especially when you’re chomping at the bit to try the newest addition to the North East’s foodie scene.
But you can’t deny that it’s a good sign when the restaurant in question is immediately and persistently so popular, you can’t get a table booked until next year.
Well, that’s NEST for you. Heaton’s new neighbourhood restaurant is born from a shared love of good food and wine and is committed to making quality dining relaxed and accessible. So, it’s not really that hard to see why it’s proving so popular.
Still, we love any excuse to slip behind the pass to get all the after-hours secrets from the pros behind the pomodoro. Which is why we stopped by NEST to see for ourselves…
SO, WHAT IS NEST?
NEST is the brainchild of restaurateur Jack Brown and chef Chris Wood, along with their business partners Nick Smith and Marc Hardy. The premise? That indulgent dining doesn’t need to be daunting.
‘I think people here in the North East don’t want to come out for a meal and pretend they’re someone they’re not,’ says Jack. ‘And we never want anyone to come into NEST feeling like they have to do that. A quality dining experience means different things to each individual and we respect that.’
Their eight-course tasting menu (served at 7pm sharp and coming in at an incredibly reasonable £55 per person), promises to provide honest, humble dining with a little creative flair and only the finest quality, all served in a warm, welcoming and informal atmosphere. Best of all, you can opt for a complementary wine flight, where you’ll be served a hand-picked selection of wines throughout your evening, all specifically chosen to bring out the flavours of each course.
‘We do get customers expecting a Michelin-star restaurant, even though that’s never been who we are,’ adds Chris. ‘And we don’t aspire to that. We’re not in this business to be recognised by the industry. We chose to open a restaurant because we’re passionate about tasty food. And we’re pretty sure our customers here in the North East are passionate about that, too.’
MEET THE TEAM
Restaurateur Jack Brown manages NEST’s front of house. Everything from the perfectly-positioned cutlery to the Molton Brown soap in the bathroom’s dispensers are down to his meticulous attention to detail, while his smiling face will likely be the first thing you see when you step through the decorative tree trunks that embower this Heaton hideaway.
Chris Wood is the culinary creative and master of the menus at the helm of the kitchens. It’s his ingenuity that sees everyday ingredients transformed into the one-of-a-kind dishes that are served up on NEST’s artisan plates – each one telling its own story.
A chance meeting at Eshott Hall in 2011 sparked a friendship that has seen the pair work together at various hospitality venues over the last decade.
THE EVENING MENU
‘I always get a sneaky sense of satisfaction when I see the plates coming back into the kitchen and they’re almost always fully cleared,’ smiles Chris. ‘We’re obviously doing something right.’
We’ll say! Talk of Kentucky fried rabbit, savoury apple crumble and chocolate pave have our mouths watering already. But it’s the personal touches on NEST’s tasting menu that we find particularly endearing. Each dish has its own story – further reiterating that this whole venture is a deeply personal one for Jack, Chris and their families.
Take Darcy’s Favourite: king scallop, pork belly, curried carrot, carrot bhaji and coriander. Otherwise known – to Chris’ daughter Darcy, anyway – as her special birthday tea. Or Pat’s Black Forest Gateaux, which is a nod to Chris’ grandma’s secret recipe.
‘It’s always been important to us that people know what they’re eating when they come to NEST,’ says Chris. ‘That the menus aren’t overly fancy and full of ingredients customers aren’t familiar with. That’s why every dish has a special meaning to us. We’ve gone for relatable dishes that, for us, conjure memories of certain occasions or celebrations. Because that’s what food is really about, isn’t it? It’s a way to connect.’
THE WINE FLIGHT
‘We live and breathe this industry,’ explains Jack. ‘But what we do at NEST isn’t born out of professional expectations. The reason we offer a wine flight, for example, is because we genuinely enjoy a glass of wine with our food!’
Not that we’d have guessed – a gargantuan wooden cabinet housing every kind of wine known to man (or to us, at least) is the first thing we spot as we walk in.
Running alongside their tasting menu, NEST’s wine flight serves 75-100ml glasses of specially-chosen varieties throughout the evening to bring out the flavours of their dishes. But don’t think this is simply an opportunity for the lads to flex their oenology muscles – with the flight, Jack and Chris want to give their customers a chance to sample wines they may never have tried before.
‘The wines we’ve chosen aren’t necessarily ones which some expert sommelier has recommended – they’re simply the ones we enjoyed the most at that particular stage in the menu,’ Jack says. ‘We all sometimes get trapped into ordering the same wine, because we know that’s what we like. But when we fancy a change, we don’t know what to order. Instead of committing to buying a full bottle of wine, our customers get the opportunity to try six different wines, all for £44.’
‘And with Jack’s generous pouring, it’s definitely good value!’ Chris laughs.
THE LUNCHTIME OFFERING
While it’s certainly the cream of their crop, it’s not all about the evening tasting menu at NEST. Lunchtimes are also an excuse to indulge in some exquisite – if slightly more laidback – cuisine.
‘Lunchtime is more about social grazing,’ Jack explains. ‘Instead of a set menu, we have deli boards, which include sliced meats, cheese, chutney, olives, that sort of thing. And then there are also add-ons available: fish goujons, chips, squid, small plates that you can have on their own or as sharers. It’s still about indulging though – the idea being that you come in at lunchtime with your friends or family, open up a bottle of wine and chat while you graze.’
‘We think that really fits in with NEST being here, on Chillingham Road,’ Chris continues. ‘We want to appeal to the mix of people here. That’s why we change things up at lunchtimes and on Sundays. We’re all about a Sunday roast – we’ve both got big families who would always get together on Sundays – so we really wanted to bring that sense of a traditional Sunday lunch with a relaxed, weekend vibe to NEST.’
But while the vibe at NEST is always super chilled, the creation of a laidback ambience isn’t quite as easy as Chris and Jack have made it seem. Having undertaken most of the DIY necessary to transform their nook of a NEST from the estate agents it once was themselves, Jack and Chris have also considered each and every element of their restaurant – down to the last decorative detail.
‘Well, the devil’s in the details, isn’t it?’ Jack smiles. ‘We’ve made sure that we’ve thought about every aspect of our customers’ experiences. We’ve invested in our chairs, for example, because the evening menu is served at set times, so we know people will be sitting in them for around three hours. And we’ve invested in our tableware and cutlery because we can’t see the point in cooking top-quality dishes and serving them on cheap plates.’
Despite the unprecedented success NEST has enjoyed in its first six months of opening, it’s clear the Heaton restaurant is just the start for this dynamic duo.
‘We’re always looking towards the bigger picture,’ Chris explains. ‘We’ve had a great start with NEST, but we can’t rest on our laurels here. We can’t stand still.’
The first development on the agenda? A menu refresh.
‘People always ask whether we’re going to change our menus up,’ says Jack. ‘At the moment, it’s a few months before customers can book to dine with us. So, if we changed the menus too often, some customers will miss menus out altogether. In the same breath, many of our customers rebook, so we want to be able to give them something new when they return.
‘We’ve got to find a balance where it’s sensible to switch things up while giving customers a good chance to try any one tasting menu at any given time. But yes, we’ll be aiming to refresh our menus every 6-8 weeks.’