I have a confession to make: I hate the term “Asian fusion”. So many eateries assume that Asian fusion means putting together a 20-odd page menu comprising of as many dishes as they can possibly squeeze on there in an attempt to cover all bases. It doesn’t need to happen but for some reason, that’s all we’ve had presented to us for too long. For this reason, I was expecting to be less than bowled over by Sohe, the latest newcomer on Jesmond’s bustling Osborne Road.
I’m pleased to report however, that this is one place that is doing Asian fusion completely right. Firstly, the venue is phenomenal and reminiscent of the opulent Orient of years gone by. It’s quite evident that no expense has been spared in its renovation (the restaurant is part of the Cairn Hotel and next door to Berlise). It’s decadent, luxurious and surprisingly pretty damn cool. I say surprisingly, because let’s face it, Osborne Road is hardly the Mecca of cool these days, but honestly; Sohe is setting the bar extremely high.
Speaking of bars, I couldn’t have been more impressed with theirs. A beautifully tiled circular bar greets patrons upon entry, stocked with premium spirits and decked out with the best equipment money can buy, including a gorgeous copper coffee-machine serving Vietnamese brews. Their cocktail list is a joy to behold and it took myself and two friends a good 15 minutes to make our selections, settling on a ‘Sohe Iced Tea’ (I figured it would be best to try their signature cocktail for review purposes) a ‘Tuk Tuk’ (similar to an Espresso Martini) and a ‘Singapore Sours’ which was absolutely beautiful, as you can see below. They all went down extremely well, and if it weren’t for the fact we were all driving, there would have been an obscene number of cocktails on our bill. Cocktail prices were pretty standard for Jesmond/City Centre, with our three drinks costing £6.95 each.
After a little sit in the cosy bar area, we were taken through to our table. Again, I cannot stress enough how well decked out this place is. Tables are set with gorgeous glassware and cutlery and it all feels very premium, yet not pretentious. Staff are extremely smart, which I liked (I’m frankly sick of beards and checked shirts) and our table provided a perfect view into the kitchen where we could see Head Chef Martin Moore working culinary magic with his kitchen team. His impressive experience spanning Seaham Hall, Rockcliffe Hall and Yarm’s ‘The Lotus Lounge’ (to name but a few!) has honed his culinary expertise to make him the ideal Head Chef at Sohe, and every team member we spoke to was full of praise for the man at the helm in the kitchen.
Menus were handed to us and I was delighted to see that it’s pretty small actually. It’s clear that Chef Moore has carefully curated a menu featuring the very best dishes of the East and has left anything out that isn’t going to knock the socks off Sohe customers. A smaller menu allows them to focus on doing things extremely well, which is a point a few other Asian fusion restaurants could do with putting into practise. Prices are reasonable too, think £5-£8 for starter dishes and main courses ranging from £12-£20 (or £21.95 for their steak dish). There’s also dim sum and sushi sets which come with 6 or 12 pieces, the latter being a perfect sharing starter for two.
For my starter, I opted for the King Scallops and Pork Belly Char Sui (£7.95), which was served with a carrot and lemongrass puree and gorgeous coconut and mirin foam. The scallops were cooked to perfection and my knife glided through the belly pork with ease. Every element of the dish was well seasoned and for under 8 quid for scallops and belly pork, you really can’t go wrong. My friends went for the Crispy 5-Spice Duck Salad (£6.95 – see featured image on this post!) and the Vegetable Tempura (£5.95), both of which were gorgeous and plentiful. I will certainly be ordering the duck salad on my next visit and from what I’ve been reading on Twitter, it’s receiving quite a few compliments. Throughout our starter we were checked on by our lovely waitress Alex, and iced water with cucumber was brought to the table without even a request. So far, so faultless…
Our main courses were similarly special, I chose the divine Oriental Gressingham Duck Platter (£18.95) which comprised of roast duck breast, a duck and mango filled spring roll, duck wan ton, duck fat potato, pak choi and a rhubarb and ginger puree. I can’t even begin to express how delicious this dish was and once again, the quality, quantity and explosive taste were way above what would be expected for a dish at this price. I shamefully ended up leaving some of the duck because the portion was perhaps a tiny bit on the large side, but it’s always better to have too much than too little so I’m definitely not complaining.
My friend went for the Indonesian Beef Rendang (£12.95) which was highly recommended by friends of ours, and rightly so. The beef was incredibly tender and bursting with flavour, served with Asian mushrooms and steamed rice. I pinched a few forkfuls of this (perhaps why I couldn’t finish my own main course?!) and it was truly excellent and very addictive for a curry fan like myself. My other friend chose the Chicken Teriyaki Don (£10.95), which was a glorious concoction of succulent chicken breast with tangy peppers, broccoli and spring onions, served with Sohe’s rich teriyaki sauce and steamed rice. Again, the dish was full of flavour and quite a large portion considering the reasonable price.
Due to the large nature of both courses, we skipped on dessert, however their menu covers a few dessert classics with an Asian twist and had there been enough room in my stomach, I would have went for the Mango and Coconut Crème Brulee (£6.95) or the Asian Panna Cotta (£7.95). We weren’t rushed from our table even though it was quite a busy Thursday evening, so spent the rest of our time looking the plates of nearby diners as they were brought out from the kitchen. Despite being full, the beautiful presentation of every dish we saw meant that another pick from the menu was extremely tempting.
If I was to be hyper-critical (and this is real nit-picking!) my only criticism would be the music in the venue. The décor suggests that down-tempo vocal house/electronica would be appropriate, however we heard quite a mixture and it wasn’t always in-keeping with the ambience. Other than that, I really can’t fault the place.
I tend to judge how much of a fan I am of a restaurant by the length of time it takes me to book my next visit, and Sohe has set a new record as I’ve already booked a table for this coming weekend. So far, the Whole East Coast Lobster is catching my eye, and for £32.95 I’m hoping as it’s as good as the dishes we tried on this visit. I have every confidence that it will be. From the outstanding team, to the amazing cocktails and delicious food, Sohe is the new jewel on Osborne Road and so far, it’s gained 3 huge fans. I urge you to get booked in and try it for yourself, and if I can offer you one bit of advice: leave the car at home.
Sohe Jesmond, 97-103 Osborne Road, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 2TJ. To book, call 0191 281 1358 or head to their website (www.sohe.co.uk) to book online via OpenTable. You can also follow them on Twitter for details of offers/menu updates etc.
On this occasion, food was complimentary for the purpose of this review, however all drinks were paid for by Scran on the Tyne.