The QT

Friday 14 June 2024

Restaurant Hjem right at home at Fenwick

At the end of May, Northumberland’s first Michelin Star recipient, Restaurant Hjem took up temporary residency in Fenwick Newcastle. Sam Wonfor reports back from a treat of a taster evening
Restaurant Hjem founders Alex Nietosvuori and Ally Thompson-Nietosvuori in their pop-up dining room at Fenwick Newcastle

I’ve had the happy privilege of eating at Restaurant Hjem in Wall, Northumberland on a number of occasions in recent years, and every time has been an absolute delight.

So when I found out they were setting up shop within five minutes of my home in Newcastle, it would have been nothing short of rude not to pop along for the preview evening last week.

During Hjem’s nine-week tenancy on the first floor at Fenwick Newcastle, diners will be offered an a la carte menu alongside a tasting one.

On the night before the first official guests were booked in, we were treated to a five-course tasting menu with wine pairing.

As a vegan (it took me five paragraphs) I’ve sometimes been left wanting at fine dining restaurants – even turned away – but never at Hjem whose Michelin starred chef, Alex Nietosvuori has always gone out of his way to serve up plant-based delights which make sure I can make all the same noises as my carnivore companions.

And so it was again.

While my fellow diners were treated to ‘snacks’ – I renamed them casual canapes – including tarte flambee, rosti with N25 Caviar, chicken liver parfait and Doddington cheese gougere on arrival, I was welcomed with a generous and delightful selection of vegan amuse bouches, which I now regret to say I wolfed down before committing to memory or notebook.

I know there was a perfectly balanced pea-pod involved.

These were paired with a lovely glass of Vouvray Brut, which is a sparkling white wine from the Loire Valley and a fantastic way to start any meal, as it turns out .

After that we were shown to our tables, and while the other diners were served Rockerfeller oysters alongside a beautiful beetroot carpaccio salad with thinly sliced pear and a sprinkling of goat’s cheese and walnuts, I was treated to the latter without the cheese and a glass of Savignin Ouille.

Thereafter the fantastic dishes kept coming, each perfectly matched with a companion glass or two of wine, carefully picked and delightfully introduced by Hjem’s resident sommelier, Martin Waugh.

Martin, along with restaurant manager Ally Thompson-Nietosvuori, will be spending lots of time in the city over the next couple of months as thousands of food lovers get to get a taste of Hjem on their doorstep. Meanwhile Hjem’s head chef, Marek Dziedzic will be at Fenwick for the duration and Alex will split his time between the Northumberland and Newcastle kitchens.

But back to the table.

My main course was a delicious aubergine creation served on a bed of dreamy, creamy mushrooms which was so good that it made me temporarily but completely forget how much I can’t stand aubergines.

Other diners were served a mixture of Salmon sashimi with hot sauce and lemon creme fraiche; Duck Frites with brown butter hollandaise; and an incredible looking Waffle sandwich with vanilla ice cream and miso caramel.*

*Note to Alex: remember you promised to rustle me up a vegan version when we return for our 20th wedding anniversary in August.

For dessert, I was presented with a rich chocolate mousse with a portion of fresh raspberries, which was matched with my favourite wine of the night – a 2018 Marsala Superiore desert wine that was sweet enough to end any meal on a high, if slightly tiddly, note.

Restaurant Hjem at Fenwick will run until August 4, Mon-Thurs and Sun 11.30am to 5pm; Fri and Sat 11.30am to 7pm; For bookings, visit the website.


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