It’s out with the old and in with the new at The Briar Dene in Whitley Bay.
The Venue: Even before the fire this pub was in desperate need of a refurb and the outside is very attractive, however that might just be the best thing about the new look Briar Dene.
Inside the decor is modern, bright and clean, and very spacious with big tables catering to larger groups.
The sectioned layout could be put to better use as visiting on a leisurely Sunday afternoon with children running riot and families setting up shop, it’s pandemonium and doesn’t really have the ambiance we had in mind.
The Food: To start, the rather adventurous Spiced Buckwheat Pancakes at £6 are a surprising hit. Opt for this if you like your starters light and packed with flavour.
Next up Lobster Spaghetti, how fancy. At £7.95 for the starter, or £15 as a main, it’s a bit underwhelming. Chilli, garlic and lemon do compliment the lobster but overcooking results in your jaw getting a good workout.
For mains a standard well seasoned Breaded Whitby Scampi and ‘fat’ chips served up in a gastro style tray and basket. Note for £10.50 they aren’t overflowing and if you were looking for that accompanying ‘house salad’ it’s merely a leafy garnish.
With so many pubs and restaurants competing for Sunday’s best roast, the Briar Dene’s attempt to woo customers is half hearted with a very limited choice of chicken or beef. For £11.95 there’s better out there than the sparrow-like portion of Lemon Thyme Roasted Chicken, but on the bright side it’s sure to leave plenty of room for dessert.
The modestly sized Clotted Cream and Strawberry Cheesecake is as tempting as it sounds, but overpriced at £5.95, although the pomp and circumstance it is surrounded with will try to convince you otherwise.
And if you can part with £6.50 for the Summertime Sunday, you’ll essentially get a trifle, dressed up in much the same way as the cheesecake.
The Service: With a 40 minute wait it’s slow, but once the ball gets rolling the mains and desserts aren’t far behind. There is no shortage of staff, but a few smiles and overall attentiveness would go a long way.
The Bill: Small on portions, big on price – and not in the Michelin Star sense – a Chicken Superfood Salad starter will set you back a not so super £11 and with three scoops of ice cream at £4.95 the prices aren’t family friendly either. A ‘no frills’ hot chocolate, though perfectly foamy, will make you gulp at £3.75, that’s more expensive than even Starbucks or Costa!
The grand total, and it is grand, for three courses for two people including a soft drink per person came in at £56.70. Add to that £17.50 to £26 for a bottle of wine, glasses start from £3.10 (125ml) up to £6.80 (250ml).
The Final Digest: The food is average and vegetarians will struggle. In our opinion the Briar Dene is surely better suited to being a Gastro Pub, it hasn’t quite hit the mark on rebranding itself as a seafood restaurant making for an altogether disjointed menu. Beef Sirloin, Steak Burger, Crispy Duck, Chicken Dinner, and Sausage & Mash at a seafood restaurant..... confused? So are we.
* Dog owners beware, your furry friends are no longer welcome.
* Plenty of Parking and tables (in and outdoors) and we didn’t need to book ahead.
* Great for summer, but how inviting will it be come the North East winter?
The Briar Dene is open Monday to Saturday 11am to 11.30pm (serving food until 9.30pm); Sunday, with a limited menu, open noon to 10pm (serving food until 8pm).
Contact: The Briar Dene, 71 The Links, Whitley Bay, NE26 1UE, call (0191) 252 0926. Alternatively visit www.sjf.co.uk/our-pubs/briar-dene
If you would like your pub/restaurant reviewed or want to suggest somewhere you’d like to see reviewed email The News Guardian Foodies via email@example.com