Aveika, the contemporary and stylish bar situated slap-bang in the middle of Newcastle Quayside, is not really what I’d describe as “my scene”, but when I heard they were serving up decent Japanese cuisine, my attention was roused. The venue is owned by the Gainford Group, who you might be aware also own the nearby glitzy footballer-heavy Livello, as well as The Vermont Hotel and most recently, the Vermont Apartments, sat beside Aveika itself.
Now I absolutely love Japanese food especially, so I was pretty excited to make a visit, especially after Aveika had been the place where a friend and I spent many a lunchtime while on a pretty gruelling jury service stint. It really was the highlight of our day. That said, we’d only had sushi on each visit, so I was keen to see if their main menu had as much to offer.
We visited on a Thursday evening a few weeks back and I was taken aback at how busy the place was. Decor has clearly been modelled on the likes of posh eateries like Nobu and Hakkasan, with dark walls, coloured lighting and luxurious furnishings, and an open kitchen where you can see the chefs work their magic.
There are huge windows looking out onto Sandhill (the curve of the Quayside, basically) and fresh flowers on the tables, along with quality linen napkins and an air of sophistication throughout the venue.
I’d heard a lot about the Aveika cocktails, and having only visited during jury service previously, I was yet to try them. I can’t say I wasn’t tempted, of course, but I don’t think showing up half-cut in the Crown Court would be a good idea for anyone! Can you imagine?!
After a long glance over the lengthy (and rather new!) cocktail menu, I went for the Cloud Atlas (£7.95), a concoction of Tanqueray, French Violet and Marasca Cherry liqueur, topped with a cloud of candy floss. It was very sweet, even without the candy floss, but pleasant regardless and a welcome introduction to our Aveika dining experience.
Admittedly, £7.95 IS a little on the pricey side for a cocktail, but Aveika are putting their hat into the ring as serious cocktail aficionados, so the premise is that you get what you pay for. My boyfriend wasn’t feeling the cocktails on this particular occasion (mad man!) so opted for a good old pint of Peroni.
Having sampled several delights from the sushi menu already, I wanted to see if they ‘still had it’ just over a year later, so we opted for the Spicy Scallop Gunkan (£4 for 2 pieces) which was my personal favourite, Salmon Sashimi (£4), Katsu Prawns (£6.95) and the Garlic Squid (£4.95).
The katsu prawns were really good, served in a light panko breadcrumb crust alongside a sweet plum sauce. The squid, not so great, as it was rather chewy/spongey, and as I expected, the sushi was the star of the show.
That Scallop Gunkan, man. I could eat that until the very end of my days. So delicious, especially if you’re a big spice fan like me. There’s plenty of scallop piled into a nori roll and sushi rice, and there’s really little need for anything else. I was more than tempted to order the Salmon Gunkan, too, but as we had main courses on the way, I resisted.
The salmon sashimi was also really good, and I’ll forever love sashimi, but we did have to wait a while to catch our waiter’s attention to ask for some soy sauce, which in my view should just be placed on the tables to be used at leisure. It doesn’t even need to spoil aesthetic, either, just get some nice little Japanese-inspired serving jugs and say no more.
Main courses arrived shortly after, with my boyfriend opting for the Mini Sliders (£16.95 – or pay a £9.95 supplement for Wagyu!) and a side of Fried Garlic & Coriander Udon noodles. Funny story about the side, actually, as when asking our waiter what he’d recommend as a starter, he was told that he “didn’t know because I’d never order what you’d ordered” which I thought was hilarious/ridiculous. In my view, if you’re selling a Nobu/Hakkasan vibe then the service needs to be SHIT HOT, and that includes knowing the menu well enough to be able to make a confident recommendation, regardless of personal preference.
The sliders themselves though, were pretty decent. Featuring 3 types of robata-grilled meat served in mini brioche buns and piled high with pickles and well-flavoured accompaniments. It also came with tempura sweet potato, which was a revelation, and one that I couldn’t help but nick from his plate at any opportunity. Oops.
The noodles were also very tasty, packed with plenty of garlic, soy and a pinch of coriander to give some much-welcome zest. I know this because I also ordered them, and they were particularly decent alongside my main course of Blackened Cod (£19.95).
The cod was cooked exceptionally well, with a crispy skin and succulent flakes. It was served on a bed of well-seasoned and al dente Asian vegetables, packed with flavour, and as I say, went really well with those udon noodles.
The portion size of the cod is pretty big, so again, you get what you pay for, and I was really impressed with the layers upon layers of flavour throughout the dish. It was anything but boring.
Instead of opting for a dessert (standard, but I couldn’t have anyway!) I decided to sample one of the Aveika ‘Signature’ cocktails, the Raspberry Bloom (£7.95), a medley of Bloom Gin (one of my favourites!), fresh raspberries and hibiscus syrup.
This was certainly my favourite out of the two, as I’m a huge fan of basically anything hibiscus, but also because it was definitely more refreshing than sweet, which I believe a cocktail really should be.
We’d dined in Aveika for just over an hour and in that time the restaurant had gotten really quite busy indeed, so we made our exit. I’ve learned one thing for sure, that they certainly know their fish, with the exception of the squid of course, and their sushi really is still worth the hype.
I can’t say I’d be making an appearance at one of their infamous Bank Holiday Brunches, but I’ll certainly be back for more delicious sushi and cocktails, and that’s a big enough compliment in itself when St.Sushi was previously my go-to sushi joint.
Service could be improved, if I’m brutally honest, because to me Aveika is promoting a very particular ‘experience’ and I don’t think it quite lived up to that on our visit. Staff were polite, don’t get me wrong, but there was quite a lengthy wait for drinks especially, so I think a bit of prioritisation is in order.
Other than that, however, we had a really lovely evening, and I’d certainly put the Scran on the Tyne seal of approval on their A’la Carte menu, particularly the sushi.
If these sorts of prices aren’t your bag, however, keep your eyes peeled for Aveika offers during NE1 Restaurant Week, because they boast quite the deal!
Aveika is located at 10-15 Sandhill, Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 3AF.
Big thanks to Megan Dryden at Aveika for inviting us to sample the Japanese delights and cocktails. The food and drink was complimentary for the purpose of this review, however all views are true to genuine experience and opinion. Photos are my own.
Apologies if the pics seem a bit on the red side – the lighting in there wasn’t fit for food photography and I didn’t want to edit them to an unrecognisable state!