Man vs Food Grillhouse offers further variety for the foodies of Chillingham Road, which has become a culinary hotspot in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
As the second restaurant in a business originating in South Shields, it has the potential to make or break their reputation. Contrary to arriving quietly onto the scene, its neon lit hardwood exterior has sparked instant competition. Every time I’ve walked past the restaurant, hidden in plain sight on the first floor, it has filled me with curiosity. But an exterior without inner substance is a facade, so I decided to try it out for myself.
The ascent to the restaurant is a moment of intrigue, as a twisting staircase leads upstairs. However, the layout caught me completely off guard. A stubby wooden bar and an open kitchen flank the entrance, but the absence of a host’s podium left me stranded. I received a few idle glances from busy staff, before someone put me out of my misery and showed me to my table.
This is not to sell the service short, as I was treated well for the rest of my visit. Numerous servers checked on me throughout the night, all donning neat uniforms adorning the “100% Original” slogan. A fair warning: you will be asked if you would like more drinks A LOT, so be prepared to shrug this off.
I was given a window seat with an array of menus and unique sauces. The menu had an impressive selection of mains, sides and desserts, but lacked starter options. What it lacked in appetisers, it made up for in style. With vintage and American influence, in addition to extensive allergy information, the food menu was shrewdly formulated.
Separate menus were available for drinks and eating challenges, dubbed “only for the brave”. The inclusion of eating challenges is a cornerstone of the restaurant’s ethos, with mammoth portions for one person and Tshirts for triumphant challengers. I found myself feeling less brave, ordering the beef brisket with sides of sweet potato fries, and jalapeño and cheddar cornbread.
I took this opportunity to survey my surroundings with a cold pint of Brooklyn Lager (although I later discovered that steins were available). The interiors complimented its grillhouse theme, with low lighting and dining booths in the style of paddocks. What did not match their surroundings were the tacky silver mirrors, which appeared to have snuck away from Bijoux for pastures new.
At peak time on a Saturday evening, the clientele for Man vs Food was predominantly families and students. As a result, loud background noise and children milling about must be endured. My overall impression was positive though, and the casual atmosphere quickly put me at ease.
Ten minutes after ordering, a server presented a swiftly delivered main course. Perhaps I have been served meals from planks too often, but seeing my food trapped inside dainty plastic dishes made me weep internally. A branded paper cover was a nice touch, but more rustic dinnerware was expected from a grillhouse.
At Man vs Food, the beef brisket is boasted as cooked “slow and low for 14 hours”; I wondered how much longer mine had cooked under the pass heaters. Placing it in the “Meat Lovers” section of the menu should be a crime. There was no melt in the mouth sensation, only tough, chewy cuts of beef.
The House BBQ sauce was watery, miserly portioned, and furthermore unable to salvage what little flavour the meat possessed. I found myself lamenting not picking another meal, after spotting some delicious looking burgers stacked high at a nearby table.
The side dishes eclipsed the main component completely. Spicy jalapeño and mild cheddar gave the cornbread good contrasting flavours, and I was pleasantly surprised by how moreish it was. The sweet potato fries were well seasoned, providing a curious alternative to potato fries. Whoever was responsible for selecting the side sauces deserves more credit, with each sauce bringing more depth to the meal.
I would recommend the Sticky Fingers Herb Chilli for a take on thai sweet chilli that embellishes the herb flavours. When I asked for the dessert menu, I was informed that the current menu was inaccurate and directed to the specials board. The kitchen had ran out of the vanilla and the mango cheesecake, so I decided on cookie dough pie.
It was served in good time (within ten minutes), with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a zig zag of chocolate sauce. I am not short of compliments for this dessert, its appearance alone setting the bar high. The pie’s crust gave way to a gooey centre, and a perfect contrast was struck between warm dough and cold ice cream. A sweet aroma made the pie even more inviting, with the sweet flavours balanced and not overbearing.
Man vs Food Grillhouse is a safe bet for budget dining, with my main, dessert and drink costing £23.10. All mains can be grouped with two sides for under £15, excluding the steak which starts at 16oz portions with traditional garnishing. The food’s quality was satisfactory, considering the number of dishes on offer.
However, I believe reducing the menu size could help kitchen staff deliver better consistency. This restaurant left me with a mixed experience, with highs and lows leaving me unsure where to rank it. But with only a short residency on Chillingham Road, Man vs Food Grillhouse has time to grow into a prominent venue. If its ownership can continue to create a casual atmosphere and tighten up kitchen operation, it may rival existing budget eateries such as The Fat Hippo and Nancy’s Bordello.
Address: 226 Chillingham Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE6 5LP
Opening Hours: Mon to Sun: 12:00 – 22:00
Limited parking, accessible, caters to families
Tel: 0191 275 9888
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