The French Quarter, Ooh La La

Issue 75

Since 2017, The French Quarter has carved out a fine reputation for itself offering high quality French food without the formalities which so often accompany.

From its basecamp in Newcastle, the bistrot is the baby of Cedric Boc-Ho and his wife Catherine, a Loire Valley/Geordie alliance who have gifted their wealth of knowledge of French cuisine to the good people of Newcastle.

The duo have created a relaxed, convivial venue in the heart of Newcastle (Arch Number Six to be precise) where one can enjoy authentic French food, try new wines and shop from the deli counter. Largely underrepresented within the North East, I am a huge fan of French cooking and couldn’t fathom why it had taken me so long to get round to this reported local gem.

I therefore rounded up my son, Jack, for a pre-Christmas treat. Newcastle’s railway arches have become quirky spaces, popular with the city’s retailers and restauranteurs in recent times. The French Quarter is evidence of this, with its dining area set across two levels. The team have created a stylish space with bare wood, bicycles and splashes of green whilst daily specials and “Wines of the Moment” adorn the walls.

On hand to meet us was man of the moment, Cedric, who explained a little about the regularly changing menus and different ways of ordering. The formule du midi menu is a great entry point and offers an authentic bistrot style lunch with dishes such as moules a la provencale, salade Parisienne and filet mignon de porc.

The a la carte menu meanwhile comprises a sprawling culinary tour de France in small plate, tapas-style form with a variety of charcuterie, meat, fish and vegetarian options to be shared across multiple courses. Cedric – something of an expert – was also happy to suggest wine by the glass – an excellent Loire Sauvingon for me and a glass of Beaujolais for Jack – a fitting drop for the day following international Beajuolais Noveau day. Now there is one I’ll have to pencil in to my desktop calendar.

Under starter’s orders, we kicked off with a sharing trio. Some serious sourdough came served with salted butter and garlic oil, baked camembert was infused with rosemary and garlic, and some toasted croutons were the perfect vehicle for an epic crushed black olive tapenade with garlic, parsley and chilli. Between courses, we ordered another round of wine from the nearby specials board. The French Quarter really has an extensive selection and it certainly pays to try a few out, especially with snifters available for as little as 75ml, not to mention wine flights with three different sample sizes.

Following on, I chose the garlic king prawns with chilli and a parsley butter. Jack meanwhile sought the expertise of super-friendly restaurant manager, Taryna, who recommended a twist on that old favourite duck a l’orange. A sage choice indeed. Both of these were paired with sharing plates of green beans, lightly sauteed with garlic and parsley and a superbly stewed ratatouille featuring a medley of aubergine, courgette, bell pepper and tomato.

Following a suitable digestive break, a café glace provided a caffeinated, afternoon pick-me-up whilst a suitably scorched and sugary crème brulee delivered a table-tapping finale.

Stuck for something to do this Christmas? The French Quarter offers a unique, interesting experience perfect for those frost-bitten afternoons and dark, winter nights.

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