Middlesbrough's Newest Hidden Gem, The Prickly Pear Bistro*

26 Oct 2019

Last month, I wrote a post all about the best restaurant in Teesside for a parmo (a restaurant that I've visited a couple of times since then and guess what... the parmos are still unbelievable), but little did I know that the owners had a little secret. After some mysterious posts on Facebook and lots of fantastic foodie photos, the cat is finally out of the bag! Sally and Toby Marshall, the mother and son duo behind The Ship at Redmarshall, have opened the doors to their latest venture, The Prickly Pear Bistro, and I got to go along to the VIP preview to give you guys the scoop.

Before I dive into the details, let me give you a little bit of background to this new spot. The Marshall's have owned The Ship at Redmarshall for around two and a half years now, and The Prickly Pear is their second full restaurant project since. Toby, a highly trained and experienced chef, explained that The Ship's country pub setting wasn't the place for his passion for Asian flavours, with customers opting more for the classics and the extensive parmo menu (guilty!). With The Prickly Pear, he was keen to inject some spice and Asian-inspired dishes, as well as bringing the 35 parmo options along, giving the bistro it's own identity whilst keeping some of that Boro charm and consistency with The Ship.

Hopefully, that's whet your appetite enough to keep reading, so let's have a chat about all the different aspects of this new eaterie.

The venue

When you hear about a new trendy spot with gorgeous food and Insta-friendly decor, you kind of expect the venue to be on a hip-and-happening side street, maybe in an independent quarter of the town, giving it that 'hidden gem' quality. The Prickly Pear has taken this 'hidden gem' status to the next level, as you'll find it in The TAD Centre, Ormesby Road, Middlesbrough. If you're not from Boro, The TAD Centre is a building that offers rental space for corporate meetings, networking events and other business-y bits.

With such an unassuming exterior, you wouldn't know The Prickly Pear was there unless you knew it was there, but it's actually a pretty perfect spot. It's very easy to get to and surrounded by residential areas. There's a free car park just outside and it's the restaurant is literally just inside the doors, so it's a safe walk in. It's also on the ground floor and the decor has been carefully arranged so that there's room for wheelchair access, which makes it a spot that's ideal and accessible for everyone!
Source: The Prickly Pear Bistro

The decor

Speaking of decor, it's one of the elements of the bistro that immediately jumps out at you when you first walk into the room. Nestled behind an original piece of oceanscape glass artwork, you turn the corner and are immediately transported into a Mediterranean garden. It's almost hard to believe that the area was totally bare before and only housed a couple of vending machines!

My eyes were immediately drawn to the large watercolour pear artwork above the bar area, which mimicked the logo as designed by Jess Brown of Ink Bear. It filled the space between the floor and the high ceiling beautifully! Even though this is a true sight to behold, by doing a 180, you're met with a stunning living wall feature, which hangs above a comfy sofa seating area. This wall piece, along with the hanging plants that trailed down the recycled wood pergolas and the succulents on each table, was provided by Bee in the Bouquet, and each piece of greenery totally added to the sunshine vibes that the bistro aims to achieve.

Despite all of the plants and eco-conscious wooden structures, The Prickly Pear Bistro has remained true to Middlesbrough's roots by embracing the industrial side of the town, so you can expect to see exposed pipe work and copper lighting placed harmoniously in this Spanish courtyard-esque spot.

The food

Arguably, one of the most important factors in where you're going to eat is how good the food is, am I right? Of course, I've already mentioned that The Prickly Pear features elements of The Ship at Redmarshall's menu, like the massive choice of parmos (if you want me recommendation, try the Meze) and classics, like burgers and roasts on a Sunday, but there are also plenty of options for the adventurous diners among us.

As I said in my little intro, Toby was keen to bring his love for Asian cooking into the bistro, so you can find a whole host of Asian flavour favourites, such as crispy gyozas, dragon noodles and chicken shwarma. They've also hit the trendy food nail on the head with hanging skewers, like cajun chicken and lamb kofta, as well as offering a brunch menu with traditional breakfast dishes, like eggs royal, bacon sarnies and full Englishs. When I say there's something for everyone, I mean it!

With such an array of things to choose from, it's never easy to pick favourites, but I've taken one for the team and whittled down the foods I tried during the preview event to give you two of my top picks.
To start, two words... chicken satay. Oh my goodness me, I've never had chicken satay quite like it. I think of the way that I cook chicken and how I thought it was pretty decent, and then I think about these sticks of spicy peanut joy and the most tender chicken I've ever tried, and I feel like my eyes have been opened. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that these skewers were so juicy and so tender that they practically melted off the stick. I could also really tell that the satay was homemade - it was packed full of flavour and spice that there is just no way that it could bought from a shop. This the starter that you absolutely need to try.

For a main, I would usually say a parmo, being a Boro gal through and through, but I actually fell head over heels for The Prickly Pear's parmo burger. Yes, I know, technically still a parmo, but eating it between two buns with a bit of salad is a totally different experience. I got to sample a mini one and it's pretty much all I wanted to eat for the rest of the night. The chicken was delicious with a crisp breadcrumb coating and topped off with a generous helping of bechamel sauce and cheese. It went down a total treat with the purple slaw, garlic and herb mayo, and the rustic fries. It's definitely one to go for if you're a parmo fan!

Sally also told us that the staff at The Prickly Pear are trained in The Ship, so that any shared dishes between the two are kept consistent. I was reassured that if I tried a meze parmo from the bistro, it would taste just as beautiful as one from The Ship. I think that's a great excuse to go back and try one!

The family values

Even though there are tons of things to shout about when it comes to The Prickly Pear, I think my favourite thing about it is that it's a family-run business. There are so many massive, corporate food chains nowadays and I don't think there's anything wrong with eating in them, but independent venues like this totally have my heart, especially if there's a family unit behind them. There's a strength between Toby and Sally that radiates out into the bistro, and it's totally infectious. You can see it in the staff and I could see it in all the people who helped to make the bistro a reality on the preview night.

Each of them has their own role - Toby working with food and managing social media, Sally doing the networking, and even dad, Dave, getting involved with the accounting and finance. It's a complete unit and one that I can guarantee is built to last!
If you haven't been able to tell by all of this waffling, I absolutely recommend you visit The Prickly Pear Bistro. It's Instagrammable, the food is gorgeous, the staff are brilliant and the family behind the concept are just amazing - what's not to like? It's also a great spot to try if you've been to The Ship at Redmarshall, particularly if you live in Boro because it's a bit more accessible than driving out to Stockton.

I know for a fact that I'll be visiting again, possibly to sample their Sunday dinners, the new additions to the parmo menu and more of their Asian-inspired dishes... this is definitely a two-trip kind of plan!

The Prickly Pear Bistro (The TAD Centre, Ormesby Road, Middlesbrough, TS3 7SF) is open Monday - Thursday from 12PM - 11PM, Friday - Saturday from 12PM - 12AM, and Sunday from 12PM - 9PM.

I was invited to the VIP preview of The Prickly Pear Bistro in exchange for a blog post. All views and opinions are my own.

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