Feasting By The Fish Quay - The Ship's Cat, North Shields

29 Dec 2019

'Please can we try this place out?' said the message from my best friend when we were organising our post-Christmas festive day out. A quick scroll through the restaurant in question's Facebook page told me all I needed to know - chunky chips, cool decor and the naughtiest looking burgers that I think I'd ever seen, not to mention the quirky-cute name and adorable logo. It was a no brainer. 'Yes,' I said, 'we can go to The Ship's Cat!'

I'm lucky in that my best chum and I absolutely love discovering new independent places to eat, but I'm also lucky that he's from further up North than me and helps me to find those little hidden gems that I wouldn't know about otherwise. He'd spotted The Ship's Cat on Facebook and it didn't take long for him to realise that it was going to be perfect for our Christmas dinner (even though the Christmas menu had ended by the time we visited, but hey, there's nothing wrong with an alternative to the traditional turkey and pigs in blankets).

So what's better than eating at an independent restaurant? Eating at an independent restaurant that's in a totally unexpected and unusual place! With sat-nav at the ready, we headed towards the North Shields Fish Quay to find the spot. After a lot of 'are you sure that this is the right place?' chat from me, we found The Ship's Cat nestled in the industrial estate, right next to the waterfront. The name definitely fits the location!
Usually, when I go out to eat, I'll take a look at the menu beforehand and basically choose the dish I want before I even get there, which pretty much ruins the entire experience. But for The Ship's Cat, I had absolutely no clue about what the menu looked like. Sure, I'd seen some photos of the Christmas offerings, but like I mentioned, the festive menu had ended by the time we visited, so I had no idea about what I wanted to eat.

Food aside, the first thing that struck me when we walked into the restaurant was the beautiful decor. With a name like The Ship's Cat, the owners could have gone all out tacky with the nautical theme, but it was understated and downright stunning. With fresh from Pinterest patterned tiles, deep teal walls, a corrugated iron ceiling and exposed bulb lighting, it was a true feast for the eyes. This was paired up with a solid wood bar, a huge painted portraits and subtle ornamental touches, like portholes, so the whole thing is a recipe for a beautiful setting.

I think it's also worth me pointing out that even though this restaurant is pretty dinky, the owners have made the most of the space in such a brilliant way. With an open ground floor that's complete with secluded booth seating and a space for the spot's regular DJ nights, there's an industrial staircase leading up to a balcony seating area, which is where we managed to tuck ourselves. It was a particularly busy night, so we were lucky to grab a seat, but I was pleased we got up on to the balcony because looking down over the restaurant and seeing it from a different view was a real treat.
Now for the important bit... the food. The regular menu at The Ship's Cat is kind of perfect - it's not so long that it takes you half an hour to read through, only to be stuck between at least five different things, but it's not so short that you don't fancy anything. It's that ideal somewhere-in-the-middle - kind of small, but ever so perfectly formed. With a great selection of 'main events', including burgers, pie, curry, and fish and chips to name just a few, as well as a little pizza menu and a handful of salads, there's something for absolutely everyone.

After being caught in a 'do I get a pizza or a kebab?' debate, I ended up swaying towards the lamb kebab (£13.95). I had no idea what to expect with it and only knew that it was going to be lamb kebabs with flatbread, hummus, red cabbage, pomegranate sauce, harissa yogurt and chilli sauce, so I kind of figured it might some type of wrap situation. I was absolutely floored when a huge monster of a plate arrived with the flatbread busting over the sides of the plate and a mountain of deliciousness riding on top. It blew any wrap situation that I had in mind out of the water!

It was a beautifully colourful dish with pops of red from the pomegranate seeds and red cabbage, gorgeous greens from the leaves, dashes of yellow from the peppers, and warm earthy tones from the hummus and lamb. And I'm pleased to say that it was even more tasty than it looked! Everything worked in total harmony - the meat, the veggies, the flatbread... it was all a match made in heaven. I'm a total sucker for Mediterranean style lamb and these kebabs were cooked like koftas, so every bite was a total flavour sensation. And while I took one look at the massive portion and thought, 'how in the heck am I ever going to finish this?' I'm pleased to say that I demolished the plate.
As for Matthew, he's a burger guy and is quite the critic, so he opted for The Ship's Cat burger with a side of chunky chips (£10.50). Surely, the house dish has got to be one of the best things on the menu? Needless to say, he had only positive things to report back on about the order! For starters, let's talk about those chunky chips. I don't know a single person on the planet that doesn't love a chunky chip and these ones were just phenomenal. They weren't soggy from being fried, but still had that beautifully soft potato inside and a crispy crunch on the outside. It was pretty clear to see that they were homemade too, which is always a lovely touch.

As for the burger, my bestie described it was 'a proper burger'. There was no flimsy patty or wilting lettuce. It was a chubby meat patty that was juicy, but not so juicy that it leaked oil when bitten into, sandwiched between a layer of bacon, gorgeously gooey cheese, salsa, just the right amount of salad and seeded brioche buns. The whole thing together made for a delicious bite every time! He also commented on how scrumptious the side sauce was - team Ship's Cat, please tell us what this was!
The pair of us were beyond chuffed with our choices and while Matthew might say that he had a bit of food envy over my kebab, he definitely enjoyed every last morsel on his plate too. We both came away from the restaurant feeling happier and fuller than an actual ship's cat after breaking into the galley, and had to pretty much roll ourselves back to the car to head home.

I think it's fair to say that The Ship's Cat gets a solid 10 from both of us and it's somewhere that I think you absolutely need to check out if you're in the North Shields area. With gorgeous food, great portion sizes and jaw-dropping decor, it truly is a little hidden gem by the coast.

The Ship's Cat (Union Road, Tanners' Bank, North Shields NE30 1JH) is open Monday - Sunday from 11AM - 11PM. For more information, check out the Facebook page.


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