San Lorenzo have long been a North East favourite for great pizza, pasta and seafood dishes and with the business rapidly expanding, it was only a matter of time before they branched South of the region into Durham. In picturesque Beamish, in the site formerly known as Pepe’s Ristorante, San Lorenzo opened its doors for the first time this week with a brand new menu, I went along to the Press Launch for a gander and taste of that famous San Lorenzo cuisine….
Bo and I arrived at San Lorenzo to a champagne reception and were seated at a private table at the back of the restaurant, the iconic Italian style wall friezes make a welcome addition to the large, open space. Owner Kat tells us that there are big plans for the restaurant, including further refurbishment which will see them move more towards the uniform style of the Gosforth and Washington sites, which means the tables and chairs that were inherited will soon be replaced with metal ones and there’ll be more iconic Italian wall art.
As we peruse the menu (it’s huge) it’s difficult to make a choice but we were pleased with our Chilli Panko Squid, Rosemary and Sea Salted Flatbread and Pan Fried Shrimp. One thing worth noting about San Lorenzo is that the portions are big, if you’ve ever dined out and left still feeling hungry then rest assured, there’s no danger of that here. Our starters were bigger than average, the Chilli Squid was crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle – exactly as it should be – and served with dipping sauce, the shrimp were easily the biggest and meatiest I’ve had since leaving the U.S, and the flatbread was easily enough for us to have chosen as a sharing starter.
If you live for the main course then you’re in luck, San Lorenzo has a huge menu which is broken down into easy to read sections: Seafood, Meat, Pizza, Pasta, Risotto etc. and you’ll need the extra five minutes you’re offered as choosing just one thing is a hard task. We fought over who should order what and ended up both opting for Fillet Steak, cooked medium rare (a modest £22.95). A silly misunderstanding about how to select sides led to us dramatically overcrowding the table with Creamed Spinach (delicious), Sweet Potato Fries, Seasonal Vegetables, Hand Cut Chunky Fries, as well as the salad, onion rings and Portobello mushroom that are served as standard with each steak order. Oooops!
The fillet steak arrived as a decent portion on its own. So many restaurants are guilty of serving excellent, but tiny cuts of fillet that leave you wanting more but not San Lorenzo. The steak was lean but large and cooked exactly as we asked – something that’s widely overlooked in fine dining. If you want to get the measure of a restaurant, order the steak, if they can cook it exactly as you ask, then you’re on to a winner. The Creamed Spinach is something else, seriously, even if you aren’t a fan of spinach give this a whirl, you won’t be disappointed, even Bo who is a devout spinach hater wolfed down this side plate with enthusiasm. With the craze for sweet potato everything showing no abating it’s nice to see this readily available in so many guises on the San Lorenzo menu, the fries were excellent, crunchy and mildly seasoned on the outside giving way to soft, sweet stickiness in the middle. I can vouch for the appearance of the hand cut chunky fries but not the taste as Bo had a Joey Tribiani moment and wouldn’t share his food, he did however share is opinion, and said they they were “fluffy inside.” High praise indeed from a potato connoisseur.
Despite knowing that we should have stopped there (the portions really are that big), we were wooed by the uniqueness of the dessert menu. With modern variations on dessert classics, as well as a few we’d never seen before, Bo opted for a Nutella and Banana Sweet Calzone which was easily big enough to share and oozed molten lava-like chocolate when first cut, whereas I chose a Passionfruit Panna Cotta topped with lemon sorbet. Again, when you’re checking out Italian restaurants, a good panna cotta is essential, if it isn’t good, then neither is your choice of eatery. This one? Blinking divine. Tangy passionfruit cuts through the creaminess, and the sorbet resets the palate before each mouthful. The Nutella Calzone is made with sweet dough and stuffed chock full of banana pieces and warmed, runny Nutella, it’s a one for chocolate lovers as it’s literally brimming with it.
After dinner we chatted with the restaurant staff who kept the place open well after closing for us with no pressure to leave. It’s one of the strong points San Lorenzo has going for it, the food can be awesome in any restaurant but without the service to match, there just isn’t the audience. Staff at San Lorenzo Beamish are laid back, happy, friendly, one thing you notice is that they’re a team and there’s no awkwardness, no apparent hierarchy and no pressure. No matter who serves you, whether it’s the Manager, or a teenager working to fund their university course, they’re all willing to go the extra mile and whilst they’re very new to their roles and still learning the menu, they’re pretty damn knowledgable. We had a good laugh with our server who whilst fun and friendly, didn’t linger too long.
Just minutes by car from Beamish Museum and with an ample sized car park, San Lorenzo Beamish offers a fresh alternative to The Black Horse, The Stables and other similar style venues in the same area, it’s also friendlier on your wallet too. With pasta and classic stonebaked pizza options starting at £6.95 a traditional carvery served every Sunday, and Lunch and Fizz with unlimited Prosecco at selected times, it’s not just steak and exquisite sides that San Lorenzo offers, it’s the kind of place we’d nip to after school for a quick but satisfying dinner that doesn’t break the bank.
San Lorenzo Beamish is at Station Road, Beamish, DH9 6RN, tables can be booked online or by phoning 0191 370 1009
We were gifted dinner for two in exchange for an honest and impartial review.