Good Honest Grub

Where is the last place you’d expect to find a chef with a Michelin-starred background setting up shop? I’d say a Cathedral café is pretty high up the list. But that’s exactly where Dean Eccles is turning out deliciously hearty home cooked grub.

St Nicholas Cathedral stands majestically in the middle of Newcastle, and although I’ve walked past it many a time I have to admit I’d never ventured inside until last week.

ST. Nicholas Cathedral Newcastle

Walking into the main entrance we were greeted by a breathtakingly beautiful interior, which several art students were busily sketching. We headed to the East side of the chapel following the signs for the ‘Dog Leap Café.’ The name comes from the Dog Leap steps, which lead from the nearby Castle Keep down to the quayside.

Cathedral interior

The cafe itself is a big space filled with assorted shabby chic furniture. It’s rustic to be sure, but a lovely light space with no pretence about it. Clearly a man of many talents, Dean also makes beautiful bowls which much of the food is served in and his creations are on display should you wish to take some home with you.

Newcastle cafe

Currently only open on weekdays from 9am till 4pm, they are trialling a Sunday lunch service and thinking about evening and weekends potentially in the future. At the moment there isn’t enough footfall on weekends, not being one of the ‘famous’ cathedrals their visitor numbers are low which is a shame.

Dog Leap Cafe

The lunch menu is made up of sandwiches, main meals and daily specials. A couple of dishes weren’t available as they were in the process of switching to their autumn menu but I fancied the boeuf bourguignon – slow cooked brisket in a rich bacon, mushroom, shallot & red wine gravy with chips (£8.95) from the specials board, the Mr went for Meatballs – Herb meatballs on Moroccan spiced cous cous and harissa spiced tomato sauce, with grilled flat bread (£7.95). They didn’t have any cous cous so rice was offered as an alternative. We ordered a smoked salmon, cream cheese and cucumber sandwich (£4.95) for Little Dude (there’s no kids menu but they will do half portions for kids). Cauliflower cheese wasn’t available as a side so we opted for a green house salad and chips (£2.95 each).

Specials board

While we waited I had a wander round the cathedral and also discovered the beautiful courtyard entrance to the café, which would be a lovely place to enjoy lunch al fresco in the summer.

boeuf bourguignon

My beouf bourgignon arrived and it was clear that they weren’t scrimping on portion sizes! The brisket in my dish was slow cooked to perfection, with deliciously rich red wine gravy and big chunks of sautéed mushroom and bacon. It was a hearty, wholesome and delicious dish, well worth the money especially when accompanied by chips. Said chips weren’t hand cut but had been expertly fried (twice I think) which makes all the difference. The salad was great with a mix of leaves, finely grated carrot and a lovely light dressing. Such a simple thing but a lot of places get it wrong!

Moroccan meatballs

Mr TLC had a bowl of meatballs which had been dowsed in Moroccan spices and were all the better for it. The tender specimens were enveloped in a flavoursome tomato sauce and the accompanying flatbread was great for dunking. Cous cous would’ve been ideal but rice was also a decent carb. Side note – when we were in Morocco nowhere served cous cous with tagines or stews, it was always bread. So perhaps it’s just our perception that Moroccans eat cous cous with everything?


LD pulled apart his salmon sarnie – he’s all about deconstructed food these days. The salmon was plentiful and good quality and the bread was fresh, what more can you ask for? It came with crisps and coleslaw and at £4.95 is an affordable lunch option. Apparently the sandwiches are so popular that they’re expanding the options on the menu.

Smoked salmon sandwich

We didn’t stay to sample desserts but they have some tempting sounding treats on offer. Dog Leap café is a great little place to enjoy some well cooked good, honest grub in unusual and majestic surroundings. Head Chef Dean has worked on Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island and was once Yorkshire Chef of the Year, so he certainly knows his onions. Best of luck to him and the team, we wish them all the best.

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We were provided with a complimentary meal for the purposes of this review, however the opinions expressed in this article are honest and true to experience. 

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