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Natural barn winner; table FOR 2.

Byline: GEOFF LAWS

THE Barn restaurant has come a long way since the owner first set up camp in Newcastle city centre. After a couple of staging posts, they have come to rest in Jesmond.

Now, some people get stodgier and grumpier as they get older. You know the sort. They're always banging on about how the youth of today need a spell in the Army to toughen them up and children should be kept out of sight until they have mortgages of their own to worry about.

Barn has matured in an altogether different way. The humour lives on in the cow motif wallpaper, cowhide wall hangings and Friesian upholstery. The grown-upness sits in the menu, service and ambience. They've got it so right that you'd have to be an obsessive nit-picker to have a snowball's chance of finding fault.

Starters of Vietnamese spring rolls with pork and prawn and Bang bang chicken salad with peanut dressing got things rolling. Shards of juicy chicken breast, speckled with toasted sesame seeds and peanuts, were threaded between angel hair noodles. Rings of chilli fire livened things up and the gentle sauce calmed them down again. A world of flavours in one bowl.

The spring rolls arrived, pointing proudly upwards to the wooden owl tucked away in the rafters. (See what I mean about humour?) The crunchy wraps were stuffed with spiced, minced meat and a dipping sauce added deliciously to the finger-licking. A salad of soft vegetables and beansprouts complemented everything and I was one happy cowpoke.

The trail continued in similar vein with main courses. My rump of lamb with Merguez sausage, slow roast tomatoes, asparagus and garlic jus was top notch. Generous amounts of pink-centred meat jostled with spicy sausage for star billing. Supporting vegetables played their parts, with the sweet tomato creating a stir among the savoury asparagus and wilted spinach. The clean bowl spoke volumes.

My pardner was tucking into Tempura of black bream with lime, soy, chilli salt and fries and, while she concentrated on the fish, the fries did some wandering of their own. Clouds of lightly seasoned batter encased succulent fish. The choice of citrus, soy or spice created limitless dipping variations. Another bowl of that delicious noodle salad and another star rating.

Desserts rounded things up on a high note. Hazelnut, caramel and dark chocolate tart with vanilla mascarpone and raspberry coulis for Annie Oakley ticked every box possible and a few she made up. Sweetly rich with cocoa solids and crunchy with toasted nuts, the cream added to the murmurs of delight from her side of the table.

My roast peach with jasmine rice pudding and honey ice cream was great. The golden peach sat beside a brulAed disc of fragrant, sweet rice and a scoop of the bees' best worked into cream.

We moseyed off into the night planning a return trip for all those dishes we had to pass by this time. We'll be back!

Address: Barn Under A Wandering Star, Old Jesmond Road, Jesmond, Newcastle

Tel: (0191) 230-3338

Open: Mon-Sat 5pm Early Bird menuuntil dinner menu 6.30pm-9.45pm

Where is it? Just off the Cradlewell bypass, next to the gym.

First impressions: Lots of confident character. A broad seam of humour running alongside sophistication.

Welcome: Easy going and efficient. All you could ask for.

Style, design and furnishings: A unique image that has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Comfortable seating, good lighting and softish, ballady music coax the look towards sophistication, but the tongue-in-cheek elements hold firm to the humour.

Cuisine: Global.

Wine: The only weak spot of the evening was a limp bottle of Gamay, Coteaux de Lyonnais, 2005. An attractive ruby glint, but with nothing in the bowl and a flabby bouquet it barely passed muster.

Service: Very good, relaxed style. Lots of young people managing balancing acts with stacks of this and timbales of that to deliver.

Value: pounds 75.40p for three very good courses with wine and two double espressos, which delivered the desired caffeine jump-leads.

Parking: Bays outside are free and there is some street parking. The coast buses stop right outside.

Disabled facilities: Not accessible.

CAPTION(S):

WACKY: Barn Under A Wandering Star is off Jesmond's Cradlewell bypass. Above right, Vietnamese spring roll of crab, prawn and pork. Top, the smart interior.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 3, 2006
Words:723
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