A new Middlesbrough restaurant with a difference, the Fork in the Road, opened its doors to the public for the first time on Christmas Eve. The charity behind it promised that it would be a place of “great food, great ambience and great opportunity.” I tested the water and the food recently with a party of friends and it ticked all those boxes and far more.
The Fork in the Road has been described as being unique in North East, it is a charity-funded, not-for-profit eaterie but run by highly experienced catering professionals mentoring a number of trainees looking for a second chance in life. The trainees include ex-offenders, those in recovery from addiction and the long-term unemployed.
Furthermore the restaurant shares a kitchen and helps subsidise Middlesbrough’s first alcohol free bar upstairs in Bar Zero. Both restaurant and bar are funded by Middlesbrough-based national charity CEO Sleepout and Public Health England.
It was a Saturday night and five of us had booked a table (a couple of days before). When we met up it was straight after a Boro defeat at the Riverside. As three of us are fans, including a long distance traveller but Boro season card holder, Bjarte, from Bergen, Scandinavia, it is fair to say we were in need of a lift.
We took our table early and stayed right through the whole evening but were never under any pressure to vacate our table, in a comfortable spacious corner. In fact the staff could not have been more accommodating and the atmosphere was so relaxed. We had a cheeky singer songwriter amongst us to keep the waitress on her toes but it was all so friendly throughout and it is fair to say the wine flowed. Well, amongst those not driving. I was driving!
Bjarte, being a hearty northerner with a big appetite to satisfy ordered a large steak. He also had an extra potato gratin side dish. He later said it was one of the best steak’s he had ever eaten. So that was high praise coming from a man that has covered so many miles criss crossing Europe.
My friend Louise absolutely loved her luxury burger dish. It did look mouth watering. Mind you, I wasn’t going to be distracted because both Elaine (the singer) and myself were tucking into a delicious, creamy chicken chasseur. Yum.
Sarah works at a local award winning restaurant and so when she declared that her wild mushroom hot pot was gorgeous then… well, put it this way, she knows what she is talking about.
Bjarte had his just desserts with a vanilla ice cream, or vanilla ice baby as he might have styled it. Sarah had lemon tart. Two of us had fantastic chocolate fondants. I think the correct expression would be moreish. I noticed the sticky toffee puddings did not hang around long on their plates.
The Fork in the Road occupies a famous shop space, the former Romer Parrish toyshop. Once the second biggest toyshop in the country behind Hamleys, it is fondly remembered as an emporium of subbuteo, airfix models, lego, hornby train lay outs, action man and barbie dolls. The Linthorpe Road site is opposite the town’s booming Baker Street and Bedford Street regeneration zone, so could not be any better positioned.
During renovation work, old steel beams embossed with the name of Middlesbrough firm Dorman Long, were uncovered. The attractive interior designs now incorporate this icon of Teesside history. Interior architect Sara Jacobs, a former Teesside University student was responsible for those designs. Fahim Farooqui of Total Planning Solutions designed the eye catching external frontage.
The 60-seat restaurant caters for lunches as well as dinners. I have yet to sample the daytime menu. Perhaps that will be my next assignment.
Talking of which since our big Saturday out there have been a few changes, including the menu. That is because The Fork in the Road has a new head chef in Louie Miller, formerly of the award-winning Nags Head at Pickhill, near Thirsk, the Star at Harome, near Helmsley, Aysgarth Falls Hotel and most recently Lockwoods in Ripon, the Good Food Guide’s 2016 Restaurant of the Year. Oh and another significant change is that the Boro have now stopped losing. Fingers firmly crossed, do not jinx the vital game away at Crystal Palace, please, please, please.
I am looking forward to returning again soon and sampling food from the menus of the new chef. The standards were already so high and it was such an enjoyable night out last time that I can’t wait to taste the difference.