Thursday, September 06, 2007

Marco Polo, Newcastle

Sunday 2 September

Holt was attending an Ancient Medicine conference in Newcastle, a place that neither of us has ever visited or thought of visiting. But once there, we were charmed. The people were friendly and helpful (true Geordie hospitality), there were bits and bobs of Hadrian's wall everywhere (including Segedunum, now "Wallsend"), and of course, there's the local brown ale. The "new" in Newcastle means the late twelfth century, but there's also a Y2K pedestrian bridge, like an enormous cheese slicer, that tips over to be out of the way of traffic on the Tyne twice a day. The center of town, around the columnar Monument to Earl Grey ("the tea guy") was neo-classicized in the nineteenth century, with broad streets and facades that reminded us of Milan. It was Grey Street we wandered down to find a restaurant for dinner.

We chose Marco Polo, an Italian place, because the menu had some little quirks that showed someone was actually in the kitchen cooking and tasting. We started with fresh mussels in a tomato broth, but with chorizo instead of the usual marinara. After that spicy starter, we went on to red wine and cool-weather dishes: a "saltimbocca" of monkfish in a red wine reduction, with capers, baked lemon, oven-dried tomatoes and the eternal rocket salad; and "stinco di agnello," a roasted (not, as usual, braised, but still very flavorful) lamb shank with potatoes and green beans. We didn't try the brownie with rhubarb ripple ice cream, but we still came away happy to have been there.

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