Today it absolutely poured down in the North East. I went for a picnic, inside, in the middle of Eldon Square and ate food off a tiny, wooden picnic bench.
The above statements, regardless of how ludicrous they sound, are in fact true.
Fresh Element’s (those clever people who run Six at the Baltic) latest venture, Garden Kitchen, situated in the centre of Eldon Garden, stray from the norm when it comes to their ‘Afternoon Tea’ selection. Rather than serve up the chintzy, traditional three tier, scone-based affair that is generally par for the course, Garden Kitchen stick with their wonderful ‘garden’ theme and offer a choice of three ‘picnics’; the Garden Picnic, the vegetarian Allotment Picnic and the slightly more traditional Afternoon Picnic. I considered my options, feeling I should probably give you the classic Afternoon variety, then opted for the Garden Picnic. For reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that you may like to see some variety in this feature and that some of you might have more of a savoury tooth. I also just really wanted some proper scotch eggs.
What arrived was unlike any picnic I remember from my childhood. My memories of being dragged around National Trust beauty spots up and down the country, usually in the drizzle. There are no soggy, flattened ham sandwiches here, no warm yoghurts and no Capri Suns to stab flimsy straws into. Garden Kitchen have done a little better than that. We’re served still-warm and meaty sausage rolls, fresh and peppery scotch eggs (which I felt could have been a bit softer in the yolk region) and a mustard-seedy salad of spiced potatoes. There’s a large bowl of the creamiest buttermilk coleslaw, a quinoa salad and two different kinds of sandwich; tuna and cucumber, and hummus and red pepper. Both fairly standard but pleasant nonetheless. All served on the aforementioned picnic bench.
If we put the fact that the bench is utterly adorable to one side then I reckon this Afternoon Tea would probably be likely to interest your boyfriend/husband and any kids you might have knocking about, more than the usual, slightly stuffy afternoon tea for laydees would. My S.O is less than keen on coming with me to nibble crust-less cucumber sandwiches but he’d be game for a posh sausage roll or two.
Then there are, of course, the cakes. You won’t find a million different kinds of cake with the picnic so if you’re after a more dessert-based tea, try somewhere else. We’re provided a chocolate brownie each, which was a very nice fudgey texture and, although on first sight, disappointingly small, it’s probably just the right size once you’ve scoffed all the savoury stuff, and then a very runny lemon posset. The lemon posset is a fresh, delicate, quintessentially English summer flavour and the citrus-sweet taste cut through all that pastry and meat perfectly.
Overall I was relatively impressed by the GK’s spread. If we’d thrown in some ginger beer, rather than the tea, then Enid Blyton herself couldn’t have packed a better hamper. Even the idea of an indoor picnic on a teeny table is just so CUTE and filled with novelty. It makes the fact that food is nice even better. The combination of afternoon tea and picnics in the rain is surely the very essence of the Great British Summertime. It’s worth bearing in mind that any of these picnics can be packaged up for take away too. So if you’ve lucked out and come on an actual real-life sunny day you could take your lunch the short walk over to Leazes Park and eat it on the grass.
The Garden Picnic is the priciest one on the menu, usually £18.95 for two people, although I was kindly given this visit gratis for SotT review purposes, and I’d suggest you head into town fast if you fancy any of this spread yourself because, like any good venue, they change their menus regularly to keep it fresh and seasonal.
Check out Garden Kitchen for yourself at Eldon Garden (within Eldon Square), Newcastle City Centre, NE1 7RA and check out their website to see menus etc. Word to those partial to an alcoholic beverage, their cocktails are EXCELLENT! We recommend The Bramble, Garden Kitchen Bloody Mary and the Lavender Cosmo, all priced at £6,95 each.