The best thing on the menu is the steak tartare. Frankly, you should travel the world to come to this restaurant to have steak tartare. It is Northumbrian beef, as head chef and owner Terry Laybourne is very hot on locally sourced products - he uses local meat and fish where he can. Speaking of which, Cafe 21 also does some great fish dishes. I like the halibut because it's clean-tasting and light, but I also enjoy the turbot from time to time.
Apart from the fact that the food is good, the service is excellent. There's nothing worse than having a business lunch and waiting for ever for the food to arrive. This is bistro-style - the food comes and then it's swiftly cleared away once you've finished. It's efficient without being rushed. It also helps that this is a discreet environment: there's always enough space in which to have a decent conversation without being overheard.
The guy at the front of house, Nick Shottel, makes sure the experience is one of a kind. Nick is an Essex lad and I can never quite believe I'm in the middle of Newcastle hearing 'Alwight, how ya doing, mate?'. He's been declared an honorary Geordie because he's been in Newcastle so long, but not a shred of his Essex accent has gone.
Trinity Gardens, Quayside, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2HH, 0191 222 0755, www.cafetwentyone.co.uk
Steak tartare £17.50
Braised turbot in Chardonnay £21.00
- Paul Stobart is CEO, UK and Ireland, at Sage.