Mike and Lindsay have certainly turned the heat up on the Heaton food scene with their restaurant rebel. They offer a continuously evolving tasting menu that is based around their ethos of locally available and top-drawer seasonal produce. I took a swing down there on Saturday 21st January hoping for a food experience to remember.
My Foodie Friend and I arrived just before 8.30pm for our booking at rebel. on Heaton Park Road were warmly welcomed into a full restaurant. It isn’t a huge place but it’s great to see somewhere so full in January when we’re all stretched after Christmas. It had a cosy atmosphere that whispered “fine dining” without scaring the living day-lights out of those of us who feel pretty much at home in the pub with a burger and a pint! There was some rather fabulous art work on the walls which I later found out was by a Mum of one of the Chefs' – it’s worth going to enjoy this as well as the food.
The menu was a nine-course menu (priced at £65) with the option of adding a drinks flight (another £45). We perused the wine menu and decided we’d go with a bottle which was priced at £31 rather than going for the drinks pairing. I just want to make it clear – we’re not cheapskates…we just know what we like! The wine list was not extensive but covered all bases and didn’t overwhelm. The wine was superb and settled us in very nicely to await our first course…
I don’t like to give too much away when reviewing a tasting menu, as part of the fun is awaiting the little surprises delivered to you throughout your dining experience, but highlights for me included the Beignet with pecorino, mustard seeds and onion jam – I could have eaten more of the salty, sweet little bites of joy! This was only the first course, so I was now very excited to see what was coming next. The menu stated Cauliflower Cheese. It wasn’t cauliflower cheese like you’ve tasted before. Caramelised cauliflower puree was served on a delicate onion cracker with Lincolnshire Poacher cheese. I think I took the smallest bites I have ever taken as I just didn’t want the delight to end! I found myself wondering if I could go vegetarian as I was eating my favourite course of the night. Simply titled Artichoke on the menu, in actual fact, the dish consisted of roasted and charred Jerusalem Artichokes, goats curd, dressed in chive oil and a sherry gel. This was topped with artichoke espuma. Spoiler alert: I’ve already booked again as I think this dish has crossed my mind at least once every 30 minutes since I ate it at around 9.15pm on Saturday!
To round the meal off we had the most delicious Chocolate parfait with sea buckthorn sorbet and tiny, buttery shortbread rounds. It was magnificent! Before this, we had Pear. For me, this was a little too sweet but this is not a criticism, merely personal taste. The other one of us proclaimed this as one their favourite dishes of the whole meal. These guys have in my opinion, produced a winning menu. Their talent, hard work and passion for the produce they are working with shines out from the plate and I sincerely hope this restaurant becomes a go-to on the North East food circuit.
There was a small let-down however, which I feel is important to mention. As a customer choosing a restaurant and handing over (quite a lot) of your hard earned cash, you want to feel really special and the service on occasions such as this is as important as the menu. Unfortunately, we felt the service was a little bit lacking. We had left the establishment within and hour and a half. Considering we had nine courses, this was fast. Could service have been slowed down a little bit? Perhaps a small palette cleanser offered as the menu switches from savoury to sweet and diners given the chance for a bit of a breather? Each course was delivered with a full description, we think, but the servers rattled through the dishes so quickly we were not always sure what it was we were enjoying. It was a welcome (and I would say, necessary) touch that we were given more in-depth descriptions of each dish to bring away with us. Every member of the team was polite, welcoming and very helpful, but just lacked a little bit of finesse that you would expect from this level of dining experience. Although it hasn’t stopped me booking again.
Overall, I would give rebel. an 8/10. The food was not to be missed and with just a little bit of work on the service and the knowledge of the ingredients provenance from the front of house staff, this could definitely be higher. It was an enjoyable evening in comfortable surroundings. Attention to detail on things like place settings and beautiful artwork are important and created an environment we really enjoyed being in.