The Grand Hotel in Tynemouth is a pretty special place - it's somewhere we have stayed over on numerous special occasions and I have very special memories of enjoying a stand-out meal when I was out celebrating winning North East Blogger of the year back in 2014. I always CRINGE when I share old posts at how rubbish they seem but here you go if you fancy a peek and would like something to compare the new menu to. We were wowed by the hotel's restaurant then - it was an elegant dining experience with a real sense of occasion about it. They even included English Sparkling Wine on their wine list to add to the experience which gained them lots of brownie points from me as it's hard to come by in the North East.
Times change though and it seems like the restaurant industry as a whole is moving to a less formal and relaxed style of dining. The Grand Hotel is in the process of refurbishing their restaurant which will now be known as The Grand Brasserie and the new menu will launch on Monday 10th October. The Brasserie has a new 'less stuffy' feel to it and the menu offers diners more flexibility. Diners can choose from a hearty mid-week dinner to a very good value tasting menu or a lighter fish dish or salad.
The Brasserie itself is beautiful with unrivalled views out to sea and service is overseen by new manager Ken who is happy to chat, provide recommendations and will look after your table. We were invited along to sample their new taster menu which is a bargain at £31 for 7 courses and will hopefully give you an idea of what to expect from the restaurant's new look.
To start there is a choice of two soups which I assume will change regularly. I went for the tomato and fennel and Steve the Northumbrian broth. Both were lovely and fresh. I couldn't detect any fennel in my soup which to be honest isn't a bad thing as I'm not overly keen.
We were then presented with Grilled Asparagus with potted gorgonzola and smoked paprika mayonnaise - again it was delicious and probably one of our favourite dishes from the evening.
We were dining with a Vegetarian and dietary requirements were handled well we think - as long as you give prior notice it shouldn't be a problem and the chef was able to rustle up a couple of meat-free dishes to replace the meat and fish courses and amend some of the standard dishes on the menu.
The fish course was Sea Bass which had been simply pan-fried with butter, prawns and parsley. For us, all of the dishes were perfectly cooked but I do think I am spoilt having such a good cook at home as all of the dishes on the tasting menu are the types of dishes we would cook at home for dinner on a normal evening anyway - so for us, the sense of occasion you may have when ordering a tasting menu just wasn't there. That's not to say it wasn't nice though as it was and I still think at £31 it's superb value - I would be tempted to order a different option from the menu when I return and try something that I don't eat a lot of anyway - the lobster cream chicken cocotte (£16.50) really caught my eye and I think that's what I'll try next time.
We were treated to Beef Bourguignon for our next course and boy was the serving huge. It was like a main course portion and lacked the finesse you may expect to find on a tasting menu - if you are hungry, this is certainly the menu for you, if you're after delicate, fine dining - maybe not. The beef was tender, packed full of flavour and melted in the mouth and I think it is a genius idea presenting the dish on a slice of brioche which soaked up all of the juices and gravy - we are definitely stealing this idea when we cook our next winter casserole. You can order this dish from the main menu by itself for £14 and I'd recommend - perfect after a bracing walk along the coast on a cold night. The serving was far too big for us though and I wish we'd had the sense to ask to take some of it home as our friend did rather than ploughing through (I know - it's a tough life).
Our beef was served with a huge dollop of creamy mashed potato but also bizarrely with a side salad containing avocado, more toast and cherry tomatoes - certainly not a traditional pairing and it's a dish I think they should just replace with some seasonal veg which seems more fitting.
Onto dessert which is served as a platter of 4 mini tasters - all beautiful and well presented. I loved the apple custard tart and homemade ice cream - a real treat. Then we ended our feast with coffee and homemade chocolates.
The Grand Brasserie is hoping to steer away from it's previous connotations of being a place you would only dine on a special occasion or if you are staying at the hotel. The new menu offers lots of choice to locals who are looking for somewhere that offers the choice of something a little different with superb sea views, home cooking and good service.
I can't help but still feel a little sad that the English Sparkling Wine has disappeared and is no more, that the stunning wall murals that cover the restaurant walls are being removed in January to give the space a cleaner feel and that the menu now seems less refined and elegant than before. I guess times do need to change and restaurants need to give the public what they want.
The tasting menu didn't 'wow' us but as we were one of the first to try it, I'm sure they are still amending the finer details and finding their feet. These things come with time. As an overall experience and a taste of what to expect, we still adored the Grand and would certainly recommend if you're a local to try it for yourself.
The Grand Hotel are still serving their popular Afternoon Tea and Sunday Lunch alongside their new Brasserie menu and you can make a reservation by calling 0191 293 6666