What’s Cooking, At The Union Rooms...
Scotch eggs made with smoked haddock kedgeree and slow-braised lamb shank pot pie are just two of the treats in store for diners at Tyneside’s newest venue.
The historic The Union Rooms – formerly JD Wetherspoons - at Westgate Road, is set to unveil the results of a multi-million-pound facelift on 22 November.
Under new owners, Cyclone Leisure, the Grade II-listed building will feature a refurbished bar area while putting a stronger emphasis on food.
And, with less than a month to go, an eight-strong team of chefs is working around the clock to create a menu that will do the venue justice.
The handpicked team is led by head chef Dean Lathbury, whose career has encompassed some of Tyneside’s best loved restaurants and who is moving to The Union Rooms from its sister venue, Gosforth’s San Lorenzo.
Brought up in Germany where his father served in the RAF, he travelled extensively throughout the Mediterranean before returning to his parents’ North East roots at the age of 16.
A stint at a Michelin-starred venue in France’s Loire Valley was then followed by years perfecting his craft in restaurants and hotels, latterly San Lorenzo, and he will draw on that experience at The Union Rooms.
“Although there will be a pizza oven, so customers can watch pizzas being made and cooked from scratch, the menu will largely feature some very modern British dishes.
“I really enjoy bringing different flavours and textures to classic dishes,” he said, “such as truffle infused ricotta with asparagus and Parma ham, for example, or risotto with lightly curried cauliflower.
“And it is that sort of creativity; that enhances classic dishes rather than reinvents them, that I intend to bring to The Union Rooms.”
Dating back to 1877, The Union Rooms started life as a gentleman’s club called The Union Club and counted 19th Century industrialist and engineer Lord Armstrong among its members.
Now, with the opening date in sight, Dean is concentrating on sourcing authentic ingredients and perfecting the dishes that will grace the new menu.
“When I was younger I also lived in Gibraltar for three years,” he said, “and that introduced me to seafood – which is still my first love.
“Here in the North East we have access to the finest and freshest, so expect to see it on our menu – and we are currently trialling a range of vegan dishes we’ve created.
“I don’t believe the current interest in veganism is a flash in the pan – it’s here to stay as people become more aware of environmental issues and start to look at their daily diet."
Dean has reassuring words, too, for San Lorenzo Gosforth’s customer base. “I wouldn’t be leaving if I didn’t think the kitchen was in exceedingly good hands,” he said.
For more information about The Union Rooms, which will open on 22 November, call 0191 2615718.