The Merchant’s Tavern is making waves among city-goers who are flocking to Newcastle Marina to sample the delights. Savour talks to head chef Ronald Robson about his menu.
Ronald Robson has proved to be quite a catch for The Merchant’s Tavern. He’s been instrumental in the transformation of the venue, which has seen new owners take it from a drinkers’ haunt to a trendy dining destination pub.
But it’s his new menu that’s hauling people through the doors.
“Everything we have on the menu is from local suppliers, I’m a huge fan of keeping things local,” said Ronald. “We get our fish from North Shields, meat and poultry from Northumberland, pork from Crane Row Farm in Bishop Auckland, other produce from Vallum Farm and shellfish from the Isle of Skye,” added the 30 year old, who says his style of cooking is simple, honest food.
Originally from Aberdeen, Ronald moved to the North East at the age of 10. “My mum’s Scottish and my dad is from North Shields. His family all worked on the Fish Quay so I have a strong affinity with the place. We use the fishmongers from there to deliver dishes such as lemon sole on the menu. You don’t need to do much to produce when it’s such good quality. The flavour speaks for itself,” said Ronald.
His CV is impressive, having worked in kitchens at The Sage, in Gateshead, The Vermont Hotel, in Newcastle, The Blackbird Pub in Portland he was a pastry chef at Artisan, Newcastle. One of the proudest moments in his career is when he was handpicked by Marco Pierre White himself to work in his Newcastle restaurant.
“It was pretty surreal. I remember after getting the job I was in the kitchen preparing 50 rabbits. Marco just came and sat on the bench and watched me. He was pretty cool and had good craic. He even asked me to join him for a beer in the bar but I refused. I have no idea why,” laughed Ronald.
Working and living in the hotel five to six nights a week took its toll and Ronald said “seeing his wife and kids became more important”.
“When you get older your priorities change. I wanted to see more of Nikita and our four kids, Hadley, Carter, Miles and Lyla,” he said.
It was in October 2015 that a friend of his gave him the heads up about The Merchant’s Tavern being refurbished.
“I loved the idea of working there and helping to turn it into a foodie destination,” said Ronald. And he has.
On the menu is everything from steak tartare served with Marmite, beef powder, beer pickled onions, egg yolk and Nasturtium leaves; locally foraged wild garlic veloute with edible Viola and cider cured salmon with salted cucumber, Shields crab, dill oil, wild fennel and edible flowers.
It’s these flavours that are pulling in the crowds, but Ronald says it’s a team effort.
“We have two foragers and a team of lads in the kitchen who are passionate about what they do – and that’s all you can ask for as a head chef. If they love what they do, they’ll love putting great food in front of people,” said Ronald.
We asked Ronald to give us his top three restaurants he’d love to visit.
1. L’Enclume in Cartmel.
2. The Ledbury, London.
3. The Samling Country House Hotel, in the Lake District
THE LAST SUPPER
Starter … My grandad’s ham soup
Main course is … My mam’s stovies
For dessert … an old-fashioned trifle
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Salt and chilli beef from the Chinese.