A busy schedule as a new mum over 40 means it’s been harder than usual to have family meals out. Yet when we did get around the table recently at The Imperial Restaurant, in Low Fell, Gateshead, it was brilliant and resulted in us sharing stories and building on our bonds.
Now for anyone who isn’t up to speed with my blog, family dinners usually revolve around Skype – given that the in-laws live 4,000 miles away – and there’s the time difference to contend with too.
But with two family birthdays in one week, Pesar Khaleh from London came to stay with us and celebrate – and anyone who knows anything about Persian culture will know that good hospitality comes before anything else!
Preparing a feast with a toddler attached to my leg might have been the traditional thing to do (after all home-cooked Persian food is the best in the world), but it wasn’t what I had planned when Pesar Khaleh came to stay.
Prawn crackers and crispy duck, pancakes and plum sauce
So when a friend suggested The Imperial Restaurant in Durham Road, Low Fell, was fully equipped to cater for families like us with young children, I was eager to try something different for lunch.
Now like Persian cuisine, The Imperial offers a dish to suit every palate: There’s an A La Carte Menu, hot pots, noodle dishes, European dishes, vegetarian dishes and even bird’s nest dishes (what – Ed?!) to name a few.
And just like Persian food, oriental food is colourful with a focus on healthy eating and uses plenty of ‘superfood’ ingredients – ideal for older mums and dads like us.
Once inside the restaurant (which is upstairs), we were warmly welcomed by manager, Steve, and shown to our table where we were handed our extensive menus.
A basket of prawn crackers (shrimp chips) were already waiting on the table for us (a nice touch) and this took me back to my chubby childhood when the only restaurants we’d eat out at were Chinese. I loved prawn crackers and I think I’ve developed some sort of nostalgic attachment to them even now.
I couldn’t wait for little C to try them as he sat in his highchair. He was curious, had a little sniff, a nibble and that was it, love at first bite. He carried on crunching them as we ordered our food and waited for our first courses to arrive. The prawn crackers were obviously delicious.
I was still feeling nostalgic, so I opted for the chicken and sweetcorn soup, £3, H and Pesar Khaleh ordered a quarter portion of duck between them, £8.20. Clearly the waitress hadn’t served such meat-eaters before and while usually a quarter portion would be plentiful for two, Pesar Khaleh also opted for some seafood soup too, £4.30 – just in case!
The service was fast and really friendly front of house as our starters arrived, courtesy of our lovely waitress, Steph.
Our main meals. King prawns, centenary duck and chicken with ginger and spring onions
The soup was a larger portion than I expected and it was piping hot. It was exactly how I remembered it with the right mix of veg and chicken. Once it had cooled, little C gave it a go, but it was clear he preferred to wolf down prawn crackers. The crispy duck was great, but H said it was the tart plum sauce that definitely made the dish. Pesar Khaleh’s seafood soup meanwhile was both colourful and flavoursome.
Throughout our meal, the waiting staff kept dropping by to watch little C eat his prawn crackers with some fascination, talking to him sweetly as they passed by. The restaurant itself was packed with families enjoying a meal out together and there were lots of children, just like little C tucking in.
As our waitress cleared away our starter plates, she also washed down the high chair before our main courses arrived.
H had gone for Duck Centenary, £11. I opted for a dish on the healthy side – Chicken with Ginger and Spring Onions, £8, and Pesar Khaleh ordered King Prawns in Citrus Cointreau Sauce, £11.10.
Everyone in our party enjoyed the casual atmosphere and quick turnaround in receiving their meals. Each dish was presented to a high standard when it arrived and all were delicious with a small bowl of fried rice.
Pesar Khaleh said his king prawn dish was tart, tangy and delicious and the prawns were of a good size, while my chicken with spring onions and ginger was the perfect pick-me-up. The ginger wasn’t overpowering and the aroma of the dish was one word – amazing! H enjoyed his Centenary duck and said it was full of flavour.
At the end of the meal, while Pesar Khaleh had some Chinese tea, little C was starting to become grumpy (it being nearly half an hour after his normal nap-time). So maman got the job of polishing off his ice-cream as Baba H produced the prawn crackers again. We’d hidden them when the main courses had arrived to ensure he ate something. We had a happy baby again!
As we were about to head for the door, manager Steve was waiting for us with a large bag of prawn crackers just for little C. I suspect he had made their day, by being smiley, cute and appreciating their great food.
I’d certainly recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants to eat out with their baby because the staff are helpful, friendly, polite and just make delicious food. Thanks to kitchen staff, Micky, Andy, Peter and Alan. We’ll definitely be back!
Little C gets his bag of ‘take-home’ prawn crackers from manager, Steve