Located a ten-minute walk fron Newcastle station, Barluga is candlelit eatery that straddles that fine line between upmarket bistro and gastropub.
MT arrived at 8.30pm sharp, when most of the after-work crowd were just getting their coats, leaving a sparkling array of empty glasses and the echoes of the latest office gossip in their wake. The atmosphere is lively, but the noise is not ear-splitting.
Barluga boasts two floors and, after originally taking a seat downstairs, we decided to swap the gentle hubbub of the bar for the quiet dining area upstairs [pictured left]. The menu is classic: everything from soups and scallops to seared duck and rib-eye steak.
MT ordered a bottle of Valpolicella, which took a while to arrive. A slightly harassed waitress had to admit she had temporarily misplaced the key to the cellar. This could suggest that Barluga isn't a wine-lover's haunt, but when it arived, it was pretty good [pictured right].
Alas, MT had failed to plan ahead. We looked at the menu and quelle horreur! Red wine with moules mariniere? For shame. But we ploughed on, and the plump and delicious little bottom feeders managed to survive the onsalught of the mid-bodied, fruity 2011 Bolla. Perfect balance of garlic, cream and white wine. Yum.
MT's guest ordered the French onion soup with Gruyere croutons and was less impressed. 'There's only one crouton,' he gasped, with a small moan of disappointment. 'Just one. I am underwhelmed'
But all was not lost. The main courses: a wild mushroom linguine with chestnut mushrooms and truffle cream; and a roasted butternut squash, feta and beetroot salad with rocket and endive leaves tossed with toasted pine nut and a tahini dressing (quite a mouthful, and that's just when you're trying to order the thing), were both sensational.
The salad was huge, with hearty portions of butternut squash and chunks of feta the size of boulders [pictured left]. Both meals were entirely devoured before MT had the good sense to take any decent pictures. Although MT's guest kindly saved Barluga the need to wash his plate. It was almost sparkling when he'd done with it [pictured right].
Unfortunately for this pair of gastronomes, we had no room for pudding. The cheese board and sticky toffee pudding were very tempting, but despite lingering over the final glass of wine, MT's stomach had still not made enough room for even a forkful more.
All in all, a great spot for a cosy meal for one, two or more right in the centre of Newcastle. Our only tip: sit upstairs if you want to talk business. It's very calm and quiet up there, although the tables are quite small, so try and keep tabletop devices (smartphones, iPads, Surfaces, laptops etc) to a minimum.
Barluga is at 35 Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6EE. Prices range from £30 per head for two courses with a good bottle of wine. To book a table, call 0191 230 2306 or visit the website.