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Newcastle’s Harissa Mediterranean Kitchen strengthens restaurant team


Mar 4, 2018

Pioneering Harissa Mediterranean Kitchen is turning up the heat on the North East culinary scene with two new key appointments.

New executive head chef Richard Brimacombe and general manager Nick Smith have been brought in to bolster the team as the acclaimed Newcastle restaurant, which specialises in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean inspired food, widens its catering offering.

The move follows a successful 2017, which saw the social enterprise reach the final of the People’s Favourite category in the prestigious national Food Made Good Awards, which celebrate restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, hotels, universities, and contract caterers who go the extra mile in offering fare that’s lovingly, ethically and sustainably produced.

The nomination, as voted for by the public, came just a year after Harissa opened in Starbeck Avenue, Sandyford.

Now the eatery, which is aligned to Newcastle-based social enterprise, Food Nation, is spreading its gastronomic wings with a move into outside catering, including weddings, corporate events and pop-ups, as well as the healthier side of the takeaway market.

And Richard and Nick, who between them enjoy an enviable culinary reputation, have been appointed to grow Harissa’s reputation across the region as a good food destination, as well as lead the still fledgling business into a new era.

Richard, 32, who has worked at the likes of Newcastle’s Tyneside Cinema, and The Duke of Wellington Inn at Newton and The Angel of Corbridge, both in Northumberland’s Tyne Valley, said he was excited to be taking up the reins as executive head chef at a restaurant whose ethos and food he has admired since it opened in summer 2016.

“It’s a privilege to have this opportunity, and I’m very excited to be heading up the kitchen at Harissa, to be developing its food offering, and to have the chance to work with the many local producers who supply the restaurant, including the team at Food Nation’s own Wor Lotty allotment in High Heaton, who provide the seasonal fruit and vegetables. I have huge aspirations for Harissa.”

Richard has already revamped the Harissa menu, which will change seasonally going forward as new and exciting fresh ingredients become available.

Among the changes is mezze sharing plates for two, including beef and lamb kofta, chicken briouat, falafel, hummus, lentil tabbouleh, crudites, marinated olives and house bread, all at £14.50; slow roast lamb shawarma with sumac salad, dukkah, coriander, yoghurt and flatbread (£11); and Northumbrian leg of lamb for four people marinated in harissa, zhoug and amba with batata harra (a Lebanese vegetable dish), roasted turmeric cauliflower, Marrakech slaw, and labneh, (£57.50).

A special early bird menu available 5pm-6pm Wednesday-Saturday has also been introduced at £15 per person for two courses, alongside takeout options also offered on those days until 8.30pm.

Nick, 32, has joined Harissa from the Vallum Farm food hub in the Tyne Valley, where he oversaw business development while also managing the restaurant and wedding services.

He is probably best known, however, for working with Brenikov Training in Jesmond, Newcastle, for seven years, where he helped coach apprentices wanting to get into the hospitality and catering industry, before moving into the business development side of the company.

He was already familiar with Harissa having been a regular diner since it opened. “I am very passionate about good food and service, and had already been attracted by the fresh, healthy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern style menu, as well as the fact that there is more to it with the social enterprise element. It is all that I believe in.

“For me, it is a really exciting time to be joining Harissa with the development of the outside catering arm. Because of my training and business development background I am confident that I can move things on and make a valuable contribution to an initiative that is not just serving up good food, but making a genuine and positive difference to people’s lives and the environment.”

The latter is achieved by cutting down on food miles, reducing waste and, where possible, using eco-friendly products.

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 Harissa are used to fund Food Nation’s community education programmes and cookery skills classes.s

Jamie said: “We are very much looking forward to working with both Richard and Nick. Between them they bring an outstanding range of skills, knowledge and experience, which will help us advance our ambitious vision for enhancing and growing Harissa.

“Both are passionate about the ethos behind Harissa and are integral to us moving forward.”

By Emily