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A pioneering Newcastle restaurant is tapping into its growing popularity and giving customers more chances to enjoy its speciality food.

Harissa Mediterranean Kitchen is extending its evening opening hours and launching bespoke dining nights.

From June 11 the social enterprise – which specialises in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired food – will be open until 10.30pm five nights a week.

And the first of what will be a monthly Monday Harissa Food Society night, showcasing different foods and wines in partnership with the restaurant’s mainly North East-based suppliers and producers, will be unveiled on July 16.

General Manager Nick Smith, says: “We have decided to start opening on Tuesday nights and to extend our opening hours until 10.30pm from the current 9pm, five nights a week due to increased demand, which is a great situation for us to be in.

“It’s widely known that the hospitality industry is going through a tough time here in the UK at the moment, but we have become such a popular evening venue that we have been turning customers away during the week and at weekends.

“Now, with our second anniversary approaching in July, we felt the time was right to add an extra dining night, extend our evening opening hours, and launch our special monthly Monday tasting events – a day we have traditionally been closed – to cater for the growing after hours appetite for our food. 

“The public has made it plain that they want to be able to enjoy the Harissa experience later into the evening, and this is a wonderful opportunity for us to meet that demand and also add a real continental dining buzz and nightlife feel to our already acclaimed food offering.”

Nick puts Harissa’s growing popularity down to the venue on Starbeck Avenue, Sandyford, having recently been awarded a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor, and having reached the final of the People’s Favourite Category in the prestigious national Food Made Good Awards 2017, which celebrates those dining establishments and contract caterers who go the extra mile in offering fare that’s lovingly, ethically and sustainably produced.

The new dining hours does mean that Harissa – which is aligned to Newcastle-based social enterprise, Food Nation – will from June 11 no longer be open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday lunchtimes or during the day on a Sunday. It will continue, however, to open 10am-3pm on a Saturday.

Evening opening going forward will be 5pm-10.30pm Tuesday-Saturday.

Nick says: “We really want to focus on our evening offering and monthly Monday Harissa Food Society nights, the first of which will be a showcase of the finest Lebanese wines with Elliott O’Mara from the world renowned Chateau Musar, matched with Mediterranean nibbles and other small dishes from our kitchen team.

“The initial response to the Harissa Food Society idea has been such that we are already working towards holding them twice a month by the end of this year.

“We are also experiencing a huge demand for our private events, which includes wedding and corporate packages, and healthier takeaway offering, for which we have further plans going forward. So, something has to give as we are a small team and we need to remain sustainable.

“We are fully committed to quality and as we are growing and becoming increasingly busier, we will not compromise by stretching ourselves too thin.

“The evening menu and special event nights are now the main focus of the restaurant, as this is the direction the public is increasingly telling us we need to take Harissa.

“We need to go with that momentum and build on that success.”

Harissa is the brainchild of Jamie Sadler, the founder of Byker-based Food Nation, which works to inspire people about good food, nutrition and health. Profits from the restaurant are used to fund Food Nation’s community education programmes and cookery skills classes.

The Harissa menu changes regularly and makes good use of seasonal produce grown, reared and produced in the North East, including fruit and vegetables from Food Nation’s own Wor Lotty allotment in High Heaton, Newcastle.

Always on the menu, however, to eat-in or takeaway are a selection of chargrilled meats, homemade flatbreads, mezze and vegan dishes, along with a range of salads using allotment grown vegetables and herbs.