River Café transformed in first anniversary refurbishment

Chef David Kennedy of River Cafe.
Chef David Kennedy of River Cafe.
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TOP north east chef David Kennedy’s River Café has undergone a £10,000 refurbishment to coincide with its first anniversary.

The restaurant on North Shields Fish Quay opened in September last year to critical acclaim.

But the dining outlet, which is situated above the popular Quay Taphouse, retained the Mediterranean-style décor of the Italian trattoria originally on the site.

Now River Café has been given an ultra-modern make-over reflecting the chic and contemporary décor of David Kennedy’s award-winning flagship Food Social restaurant at the Biscuit Factory commercial art gallery in Newcastle.

The red walls have been repainted a clean, fresh charcoal grey with blue undertones and off-white and smart wood flooring installed in parts.

There are new stylish lights and lamps, the bar area has been updated and the entrance off Bell Street made more welcoming.

The work, which took three weeks to complete but didn’t require the closure of River Café, has also seen dining capacity increased from 34 covers to 40.

The front of house refurbishment is the first phase of a wider revamp planned for the restaurant. Further plans will see the kitchen and rest rooms upgraded.

River Café’s face-lift comes as Mr Kennedy – who made his name a decade ago at his award-winning stand alone Black Door restaurant on Newcastle’s Clayton Street – prepares to open his third dining outlet at the Vallum Farm food hub in the Tyne Valley in Northumberland.

The new venture at East Wallhouses just off the A69 will also see Mr Kennedy moving into the retail market with the opening of a tie-in farm shop promoting many of the local producers championed on the menus at his three restaurants.

River Café specialises in seafood, utilising the fish landed from the very boats diners can watch plying their trade just yards from the restaurant’s door.

On any given day diners can order everything from smoked mackerel to salmon, lobster, cod, lemon sole, wild sea trout, turbot and daily catches presented in a variety of innovative ways by head chef John Wiegmann, that reflect Food Social’s modern British inspired-menu.

River Café has built up a steady local and loyal clientele thanks to its credit crunch menu which runs alongside the a la carte, offering three seasonal and locally sourced courses for just £4.95.

Available Tuesday to Saturday, prices have been kept low without sacrificing quality thanks to the use of readily available, seasonal ingredients.

River Café is run by Mr Kennedy in partnership with Paul Scott, who he first worked with when they were employed by renowned North East chef Terry Laybourne, and Michelle Dickie, formerly the bar manager at the Magnesia Bank in North Shields.

Mr Scott is also partnering Mr Kennedy in the new Vallum outlet.

He said of River Café’s make-over: “When we opened last September we just titillated what was already here. But we have been very busy since opening and our first birthday celebrations seemed a good time to make some key improvements.

“It’s our first anniversary present to us and our customers.

“The changes will make a huge difference; River Café will feel more modern, first impressions will be enhanced and the dining experience heightened.

“We live or die by the quality of the food we serve, but the ambience is also important.

“For the first time River Café will feel as if it is our restaurant rather than someone else’s as we are now putting our own stamp on it and bringing it into line with the rest of the Food Social stable.”

But there is one area where diners will not see any differences.

“The high quality food and the prices will stay the same,” Mr Scott pledged.

“We have shown significant growth since we first opened and we see no reason to tamper with the menus or prices.

“We have made a significant investment in River Café with more to come. It is an indication of our intent to be a major player on the dining out scene in North Tyneside. We aren’t looking at being a pop-up restaurant. We are here to stay.”

David Kennedy’s River Café, 51 Bell Street, Fish Quay, North Shields, NE30 1HF, 0191 296 6168, www.davidkennedysrivercafe.com, Twitter: @DKRiverCafe. Open Tuesday-Thursday 5.30pm-9.30pm, Friday-Saturday 12pm-10pm and Sunday 12pm-5pm.