On Monday, Paul and I attended the Herb Garden’s Secret Dinner. The theme was Mexican – arriba!
The Herb Garden is a relatively new addition to the Newcastle food scene, making base in the renovated railway arches that once lay empty (Actually I’m pretty sure it was home to an exhaust fitting garage!). Entering passed the giant horse on roller skates, you are greeted by a chic industrially decorated restaurant. Highly polished concrete floors are coupled with rough wood tables and bar top and the lining of the arches has remained. The wine glasses and linen at each place setting pulls it back together as a restaurant rather than a bar diner.
Our host for the evening plied us with Tequila Sunrise shots and chatted to us, knowledgebly about the menu for the evening. Despite being dressed as a Mexican wrestler you got a real sense of pride and passion for the food, especially when talking about the smoked salmon that the chef has been lovingly tending to.
Making our way to the top deck private dining room, you could see the staff had put a lot of effort in to the ambience, from the autumnal table piece to the goucho skeleton lingering in the corner, the Mexican moustaches and little individual cactus’s for our plate (both of which now live on my desk!)
As part of the Secret Dinner set up, you don’t find out the menu until you sit down to dine so we were excited to see what lay ahead.
Appetisers were as traditional as you’d expect, tortilla chips with a trio of dips. Fresh guacamole, a smokey spicy mayo dip and a fresh, moreish salsa. The salsa was delicious. I’d have been happy with a bowl of that all night!
Starter – Salsita Spiced Hot Home Smoked Salmon Taco with Chipotle Lime Yoghurt
I will readily admit I don’t like salmon but with no other choice then to eat it, that’s what I did and boy am I glad. The smokiness really came through, smoked by the chef herself, and it added depth to the jam packed tacos. Served with more fresh guacamole and the spicy mayo dip, the tacos burst with fresh, clean spicy flavours. No one taste pushed forward, they all complimented each other excellently.
Finger licking good verdict from both of us!
Boy, it wasn’t my night for meal choices was it… I don’t eat red meat, let alone meat on a bone but like the starters, in for a penny in for a pound and again, I was blown away by the quality and flavour.
In agreement with him it’s not a dish that either of us would probably have ordered from a Mexican menu but it was so very, very impressive. I would have liked the spicy rice to have been spicier or the option to really add some heat with an authentic hot sauce perhaps but that’s just my personal preference.
When the chef and our host came to ask if everything was ok, I don’t think I could convey quite how delicious the food was. Heck, if you can convert someone who doesn’t eat salmon or beef to wipe their plate clean… you know you are on to a winner.
Dessert – Bacardi Mojito Sorbet
My favourite part. The Sorbet was just starting to melt which made it drinkable. If you closed your eyes you could imagine you were sitting on beach on holiday sipping mojitos. Perfect. A light and refreshing end to an incredibly good meal.