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How to incorporate healthy Indian food into your diet

On a bit of a health kick? Forget fad diets and embrace the delicious and nutritious power of healthy Indian food, instead.  Indian cuisine is renowned for its spectrum of vibrant flavours, aromatic spices, and diverse array of dishes. Whilst many people may indeed associate Indian food with rich, indulgent curries and decadent sweets, the truth is that this fascinating culinary tradition offers a plethora of healthy options that can be easily integrated into your day-to-day diet.  In today’s blog post, we’re going to make a case for the power of healthy Indian food. Together, we’ll explore the cornerstones of a nourishing, flavour-rich Indian cuisine, and suggest delicious ways to incorporate it into your daily meal plans. 

Tap into the power of spices

One of the distinguishing features of Indian cuisine is its masterful use of spices. Many of these spices not only add depth and complexity to the flavours of dishes but also bring a host of fantastic health benefits, making them an essential component of healthy Indian food.  Turmeric, for instance, contains curcumin, known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Cumin aids digestion, while coriander is rich in dietary fibre and can help lower cholesterol levels. Fans of sweet, earthy flavours will also be pleased to learn that cinnamon is one of the most nourishing spices out there. Packed with antioxidants, and boasting a wealth of antibacterial and antifungal properties, cinnamon has the power to reduce inflammation, manage type-2 diabetes and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  To incorporate these spices into your everyday diet you can have a go at experimenting with homemade spice blends. Try adding turmeric to soups, stews, and even smoothies. The likes of cumin, coriander and cinnamon can all be sprinkled over roasted vegetables or used as a seasoning for lean proteins. Be creative, and don’t be afraid to find out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to flavour.  Close-up photograph of cinnamon sticks.

Explore lean proteins

For those looking to make healthier choices with their diet, Indian cuisine offers a variety of protein-rich options that go beyond the stereotype of heavy meat-based curries.  Lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes are staple ingredients in a great many Indian dishes. They are not only excellent sources of protein but also provide essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibre, encouraging us to think beyond the usual health-kick protein staples such as chicken and salmon.  Consider incorporating lentils into soups, stews, or salads, or try your hand at a delicious Indian daal (lentil curry). Chickpeas can be marinated in spices and roasted for a crunchy snack or used as a base for a nutritious and satisfying curry.  A bowl of Indian daal curry topped with coriander.

Prioritise plant-based options

Whilst many of the stalwarts of Indian cuisine in British culture include the likes of rich lamb curries and sizzling platters of tandoori meats, vegetarianism is deeply rooted in Indian culture, and many traditional dishes are inherently plant-based.  By taking the emphasis off meat and dairy in your diet, you can draw inspiration from the Indian diet and embrace a vast array of vegetables, fruits, and legumes to create colourful and nutrient-packed meals. Vegetable-based curries, such as bhindi masala (okra curry) or baingan bharta (roasted aubergine curry), are not only delicious but also offer a medley of vitamins and minerals.  To find out more about the significance of plant-based food in Indian - and specifically, Punjabi - cuisine, click here. 

Why not try some of these delicious dishes?

If you’d like to try whipping up some delicious, healthy Indian food at home, or are wondering what to opt for next time you dine with us, try some of the following flavourful, nutritious dishes…
  • Bhindi Masala 
Cooked with plenty of delicious Indian spices and herbs and containing tender pieces of okra, Bhindi Masala is a staple Indian dish that is incredibly aromatic, very nourishing, and full of flavour. Try it for yourself at home with our exclusive Sachins’ recipe, available here. 
  • Dal, dal and more dal!
We absolutely love dals here at Sachins, and are forever flying the flag for the nutritiously abundant power of this humble dish, which is a key cornerstone of Indian cuisine. For a big hit of nourishing protein, we recommend taking your pick from traditional dal dishes such as dal makhani, channa dal or tarka dal, all of which utilise different types of legumes and spices to create their unique flavour profile. Here at Sachins, our delicious Channa Dal is incredibly light and healthy, and is a real crowd-pleaser, so why not try it next time you dine with us?
  • Salmon tikka 
For a healthy and quick midweek meal, why not try marinating some protein-rich salmon fillets in an aromatic tikka spice blend and popping them in the grill? This is a super-simple go-to meal that mimics the flavoursome dishes achieved in Indian cuisine with the use of a tandoor oven. For a true tandoori experience, choose our Salmon Tikka 3 Ways next time you dine with us here at Sachins, and enjoy mouthwatering salmon marinated in three different South Indian spice-blends, and barbecued in the tandoor. 

Healthy Indian food at Sachins 

Here at Sachins, we believe that the aromatic spices and vibrant ingredients that form the pillars of healthy Indian food can truly elevate your culinary experience and contribute to a healthier, more balanced lifestyle. Opt to dine with us here at our iconic Forth Banks restaurant, located in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, and we can advise you on the best healthy dishes to select for optimum nourishment (and flavour!).  Keen to sample the tantalising flavours of Indian cuisine? Book your table with us here.
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Give Sachins’ plant-based Bhindi Masala a whirl

Image showing a pan filled with curried okra, or Bhindi Masala
A popular dish in many Indian homes, Sachins’ Bhindi Masala is a simple and easy-to-cook dish that is healthy, nutritious and wholesome. Cooked with a handful of accessible Indian spices and herbs, this stalwart dish is aromatic and full of flavour, containing tender pieces of okra that are mildly spiced. It’s a firm favourite here at Sachins, so we thought we’d share our recipe with you, so you can have a go at whipping it up for yourself at home!

What is bhindi?

Bhindi is the Hindi term for okra, and if you haven’t encountered this delicious vegetable before, you’re in for a treat! Also known as ‘lady’s fingers’, okra is thought to have grown first in Eritrea and the Sudanese highlands before being introduced to India by the Bantu tribe who migrated to the subcontinent from Egypt around 2000 BC. Its vast popularity in contemporary India can be explained, in part, by the fact that this veggie can be grown all year round with ease. We’re pleased to report that this delicious and diverse vegetable also offers an abundance of health benefits, and is packed full of nutrients such as iron, potassium, magnesium, copper and manganese.

Why cook Bhindi Masala?

Bhindi Masala is a great option for those looking to add more plant-based dishes to their recipe repertoire. This simple and flavorful North Indian dish is packed full of okra, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, and garam masala, along with a handful of other delicious spices that give this incredibly popular dish its characteristic depth and zing. If you’re looking for a curry that is 100% plant-based, gluten-free and rich in healthy plant fibre, this is the one for you. Image showing a bowl of the North Indian dish known as Bhindi Masala on a marble worktop.

Sachins’ Bhindi Masala

Over the years, our brilliant chefs have perfected their recipe for this fantastic dish here in our iconic Punjabi restaurant. We’re not ones to gate-keep great food, so we’re eager to share it all with you here. Try it out for yourself at home, and thank us later! Ingredients 400 - 500g of okra (bhindi) Vegetable oil One large white onion Turmeric Chilli powder Garam masala Whole cumin seeds Amchur powder (mango powder) Garlic/ginger paste Cooking instructions 1. Wash and dry the okra thoroughly 2. Cut into equal-sized pieces 3. Marinate and thoroughly coat all of your cut okra with the following spices; half a teaspoon of turmeric, a quarter of a teaspoon of chilli powder and half a teaspoon of garam masala 4. Finely chop the onion and cook in a tablespoon of vegetable oil 5. When the onion is caramelised, add a tablespoon of garlic/ginger paste. Keep stirring to avoid the onion sticking to the bottom of the pan 6. Add some salt to taste and a pinch of cumin seeds 7. Now add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, a quarter teaspoon of chilli powder and a quarter teaspoon of garam masala and stir to combine 8. You may need to add a splash of water at this point 9. Add the okra to the pan and cook until softened 10. Once the okra is cooked, you can add a teaspoon of amchur powder 11. Add some chopped coriander and serve alongside your choice of sundries Keen to sample Newcastle’s finest Punjabi cuisine? Book your table at Sachins here.
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A quick guide to vegan Indian food

Image showing a Punjabi curry presented in a dish alongside a variety of Indian spices and aromatics.
It’s time to take a delicious dive into the vibrant and diverse world of vegan Indian food. In this blog post, we'll be delving into the heart of the plant-based culinary traditions that take centre stage in traditional North Indian and Punjabi cuisine, uncovering the tantalising array of vegan delights that grace the tables of households and restaurants across the region. Our quick guide will explore the flavour profiles of traditional vegan Indian food, and consider the key ingredients that form the backbone of North Indian and Punjabi vegan fare. So, whether you're a seasoned vegan or a curious foodie, join us as we celebrate the mouth-watering combination of flavours and ingredients that define vegan Indian cooking.

The significance of plant-based food in India

Did you know that India is commonly regarded as having the highest rates of vegetarianism in the world? In fact, Northern India in particular ranks as arguably the most plant-based region, with an estimated 75% of people following a vegetarian diet. Whilst a large number of traditional plant-based Indian dishes tend to employ animal products such as butter, cream, and honey, veganism nonetheless has its place in India’s culinary repertoire, with around 9% of the contemporary Indian population embracing a vegan diet. Over here in the UK, popular Indian vegetarian dishes are easily transformed into vegan-friendly fare in Indian restaurants, meaning that there are always plenty of options for those who stick to a vegan diet.

More than just a dietary choice

In the tapestry of traditional Indian cuisine, the significance of plant-based food extends far beyond a dietary choice. In fact, adherence to a plant-based diet - in various iterations - is deeply rooted in the cultural, religious and spiritual fabric of the nation. For example, veganism seamlessly aligns with the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence, which is a core tenet of many Indian philosophies. This essential principle in traditional Indian philosophy not only reflects respect for all living beings but also underscores the sustainability and health benefits associated with a plant-based lifestyle. From fragrant lentil daals to spiced vegetable curries and unleavened breads, vegan offerings are integral to the kaleidoscope of flavours that define the Indian landscape. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the popular plant-based dishes and sundries in North India and the Punjab that are putting vegan Indian food firmly on the culinary map.

Aloo Masala

This stalwart spiced potato dish delights the palate with an array of typical North Indian flavours, comprising the warmth of cumin, the freshness of coriander and the earthiness of turmeric. Sautéed to perfection, Aloo Masala is a dry curried dish that embodies the heart of North Indian cuisine. Here at Sachins, our Aloo Masala is an incredibly popular choice amongst vegans, veggies and meat-eaters alike, featuring irresistible pieces of flavoursome potato fried with a tantalising blend of tomatoes, green peppers and aromatics. Closeup image of fried potatoes with spices and coriander, aloo masala style.

Roti

Rice may act as the staple carbohydrate in South India, but the humble roti (or chapati bread) is the undisputed staple of North India and the Punjab! This unleavened bread is prepared with whole wheat flour and is cooked on a tawa or griddle. It’s an integral part of everyday meals and contains no animal products, making it a fantastic choice for vegans. Close-up image of a fresh roti bread.

Daal

A guide to vegan Indian food simply would not be complete without mentioning Daal, a culinary cornerstone of North Indian and Punjabi cuisine. This popular lentil dish is a major part of the Indian diet and is an integral component of day-to-day meals in your average Indian household. Daal features the likes of cumin, mustard seeds, garlic and turmeric. Simply put, this dish captures the essence of North Indian and Punjabi cooking — wholesome, nutritious, and bursting with fragrant, earthy flavours. Image showing the traditional Indian lentil dish known as daal

Bhindi Masala

Okra, known as bhindi in North Indian and Punjabi cuisine, holds a paramount role in the region's culinary landscape, and its significance in Indian cuisine in general comes as little surprise when you consider the fact that India produces approximately 6 million tonnes of okra each year, much of which is exported across the globe! The most popular use of okra in North Indian and Punjabi cuisine is in the dry, curried dish known as Bhindi Masala. This cherished regional dish embodies a delectable flavour profile, transforming the humble okra with spices such as cumin and garam masala, creating a savoury and aromatic flavour profile. Image showing a dish of the traditional Punjabi curry known as Bhindi Masala

Vegan dining at Sachins

Here at Sachins, we are passionate about showcasing the finest flavours of North India and the Punjabi region, celebrating traditional dishes with an emphasis on vibrant flavours and keystone ingredients. As part of this commitment, we are proud to offer a range of delicious vegan dishes to our diners. Not only do these dishes hold true to the prevalence of plant-based cuisine in the North Indian region, but they also ensure our menu remains inclusive of a range of dietary requirements and choices. This means that everyone can dine at Sachins and enjoy an abundance of exciting flavours. Keen to sample the delicious flavours of vegan Indian food? Book your table at Sachins now!
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Sachins in the top 10% of restaurants worldwide

Photograph of naan bread and an assortment of Punjabi curry dishes displayed on a table in Sachins restaurant
It’s official: Sachins has been ranked in the top 10% of dining spots worldwide by TripAdvisor. Sachins is delighted to have been awarded TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Award 2023. This is a tremendous accolade for our long-standing Forth Banks restaurant and one that we couldn’t have secured without the support of our customers.

Exterior of Newcastle Upon Tyne Punjabi/Indian restaurant Sachins.

What is the Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards?

The annual Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Awards is designed to spotlight the most beloved restaurants around the world, according to ratings and reviews submitted by diners over the course of the previous year.

We couldn’t have done it without our diners!

To have secured a spot in TripAdvisor’s top 10% of restaurants worldwide is a testament to our dedicated team, our commitment to providing an excellent dining experience for all, and to the unending support that we receive from our loyal patrons who have taken the time to leave a TripAdvisor review. Following news of the award, Sachins owner and Head Chef Bob Arora says "I am absolutely thrilled to have received the Travellers' Choice 2023 award…This recognition by our loyal diners is a testimony to our commitment to food excellence and we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our valued patrons for their continuous support and kind reviews."

A year of milestones

This fantastic accolade comes shortly after our Punjabi restaurant celebrated it’s 40th anniversary operating in the vibrant Newcastle food scene. To receive the 2023 Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best award four decades after Sachins first opened its doors is incredibly exciting and we are looking forward to seeing what 2024 has in store for us. Find out why we are the number one Punjabi restaurant in Newcastle Upon Tyne and book your table today. 
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Sachins celebrates 40th anniversary

This year, Sachins’ celebrates its 40th anniversary as one of Newcastle Upon Tyne’s most-loved and iconic Indian dining spots. Located on the city’s historic Forth Banks, we have become one of Newcastle’s most revered restaurants over the past four decades, offering authentic cuisine to diners looking for a taste of Punjab in a stylish setting. Initially, a regular diner at the restaurant, owner, Head Chef and well-known personality Kulmeet (Bob) Arora has been managing Sachins for over 20 years. Bob Arora said, “We are delighted to celebrate our 40th anniversary and continue the legacy. The past four decades have been a journey, and we are proud to continue cultivating a loyal customer base that shares our love for authentic Punjabi cuisine.” Bob’s commitment to delivering a personal and memorable experience for all diners is at the heart of the restaurant’s success. The authenticity of the food and outstanding service continues to be top of Sachins’ priority list, ensuring that the restaurant remains the go-to choice for those diners looking for something unique.   Bob continued, “Getting to know our customers is important and is one of the job’s perks. We have made many friends over the years and have had the pleasure of serving many famous people. “We want all our guests to enjoy the Punjabi experience as fully as possible, so we make all our spices in-house and use traditional cooking methods to give our customers a true Punjabi experience”. Never one to rest on his laurels,  Bob gave an insight into what is new and up-and-coming at the now 40-year-old establishment. Bob said, “Following on from the successful introduction of our Heat and Eat Menu, which gave diners the opportunity to experience Sachins at home, we have recently launched our Gourmet Meal for 2 which brings the small plates trend to Sachins and allows customers to taste foods they might not ordinarily opt for. “We look forward to welcoming the next generation of diners and introducing them to the world of Punjabi cuisine.”
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Meet the owner behind iconic restaurant Sachins

Chicken Biriyani
Iconic restaurant Sachins is Newcastle's favourite spot for first-class Punjabi food, but who is the face behind this beloved establishment? Well, that’s what we’re discovering today. Head Chef and Owner, Bob Arora, has been heading up operations at Sachins for over 23 years now. Today, we’re sitting down with Bob and taking the time to get to know him a little better. Bob cooking in kitchen Was food a big part of your upbringing? Can you share any early memories of food from your childhood? My parents had a paper shop and they used to finish late on a Friday (that was back in the day when the Pools used to be really popular!), so when I was young I used to make a meal for us all to eat in the evening. It very often may have been something from the freezer… but I always made sure to prepare something as they were exhausted after a very long day, and a wholesome meal was always an essential part of the day in our family. You have previously shared recipes passed on to you from both your mother and your father. Did they teach you how to cook when you were young? I grew up watching both of them cook in the kitchen, day in and day out. The recipes of theirs that I have shared here and here are exactly what they’ve both cooked on many occasions. Real staple meals in our family make me think of home. What inspired you to become the owner of  Sachins? How did it all come about? I had been eating at Sachins with my family almost every month or so for a very long time. I loved cooking, and I’d always say that I would buy it one day. 23 years ago I eventually did. If you had to use a handful of words to describe your journey as the Owner and Head Chef of Sachins, what would they be? Very rewarding and very hard work! What have been some of the major challenges in owning and running Newcastle's favourite Punjabi restaurant? Having to learn Punjabi was a big challenge, but it felt very important to do so. My family have only ever spoken to my brother and me in English, and all of my previous businesses and jobs involved working with English-speaking people, so I never had to speak Punjabi. I’m so pleased that I pushed myself to learn this incredible language, it really enriches my experience as the owner of a Punjabi restaurant. The other big challenge was learning to cook in a commercial kitchen. Having a full restaurant and being under pressure to prepare individual dishes to a consistently high standard means you have to be very focused. I like to think I have this off to a fine art now, but it wasn’t always so simple! Can you share some of your favourite memories of Sachins over the last twenty years? Meeting the Top Gear presenters was a big moment for me, and meeting and cooking for the incredible Raymond Blanc was another massive highlight. In general, being able to speak to the CEOs of companies and on the other hand simply speaking to a family who has sat down at a table in Sachins for the very first time - these are all equally wonderful experiences. Meeting so many interesting and lovely people makes every day different and interesting. Bob Arora, Head Chef of Sachins and former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson As Head Chef you spend plenty of time cooking up a storm in the kitchen at Sachins, are you the Head Chef in your own home too? Cooking duties are shared equally in our home, and when I come home I’m usually lucky and I have a meal cooked for me, what a blessing! This sets me up for a busy night at work which is brilliant. Do you have any goals for Sachins for the upcoming year? I’m committed to continuously improving and keeping Sachins at the forefront of people’s minds. When you aren’t working, how do you like to spend your time? I love playing squash, test-driving cars and eating out. Would you like to meet Bob and try Newcastle's beloved Punjabi restaurant Sachins for yourself? Book your table with us here.    
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A plant-based taste of the Punjab

Table of spices, fruit and vegetables
Traditional day-to-day Punjabi dishes are predominantly vegetarian, consisting mainly of  Daals, Roti and various types of Saabji made from a range of vegetables. Therefore, when it comes to Punjabi dishes, many of the ingredients used are typically vegan or plant-based such as cauliflower, potatoes, and lentils, all of which are enhanced with our rich blend of vibrant spices.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Punjabi dishes all contain meat or dairy and are therefore not suitable for vegans. Although chicken, lamb and king prawns make for a delicious Jalfrezi or Rogan Josh, there are a range of plant-based ingredients to substitute the meatier options.  Bowl of lentil daal

Hearty and Warming Vegan Daals

Dal, when translated from the ancient Indo-Aryan language, means “to split” and today in Hindi can refer to a range of pulses, from lentils and beans to peas in split or whole form. Lentils are a key ingredient in creating our signature Daals at Sachins, and we use a mix of yellow and black split lentils to create most of our Daal dishes.  A firm vegan favourite for over 39 years is our signature Sachins Daal which blends yellow and black split lentils with onions, tomatoes, ginger and fresh coriander to create a dish with warmth and heaps of flavour. The lentils are simmered in the thick and fragrant sauce to bring out each of the vibrant flavours and create a dish that is just as smooth without the cream and butter! Our Channa Daal is another crowd pleaser, as it’s a Punjabi dish that isn’t overcomplicated, using almost all of the same ingredients as a Sachins Daal but sticking with a simple and delicious yellow lentil base.  Plate of Punjabi spices

Traditional Punjabi Spices 

In traditional Punjabi cooking, there are a range of distinct spices used to marinate the vegetables and ensure that every dish is up to standard, even without the addition of meat. A blend of ginger, garlic and chillies can create a spicy warmth to certain Punjabi dishes, and coriander, pepper and mustard seeds can be used to season each curry or Daal and add extra depth to every mouthful.  Lots of dishes originating from Punjab are based around core starchy ingredients such as potatoes and bread, as well as key vegetables such as onions and tomatoes, so it’s important to enhance these with deep and bold flavours. Our vegan Brinjal dish is an example of this, as our traditional Punjabi spice mix is used to enhance the onion and tomato base, as well as marinate our fresh selection of baby aubergines.  The perfect blend of spices is central to the Punjabi cuisine, and meatless dishes can be just as delicious if you fancy a change from your usual Murgh Korma, or you're looking to cut down on meat altogether. Bowl of Aloo Gohbi

Delicious Dry Vegan Curries

Along with the variety of Daals, there are a range of dry vegan Punjabi dishes that are packed with masala spices and chunky vegetable pieces.  A crowd favourite is our Aloo Gohbi which consists of spiced cauliflower and potatoes lovingly combined with onions and tomatoes, two key ingredients when it comes to Punjabi cooking.  Another dry dish available to eat in or takeaway is our Bhindi which uses Okra, or more commonly known as ‘ladies' fingers’, as a base ingredient. Okra is a reliable vegetable when it comes to southern cooking as it continues to grow throughout the long southeastern summer, so can be harvested and used in Punjabi cooking almost year-round.  To create a punchy and bold Bhindi, fresh Okra is cooked with onions and tomatoes and then seasoned with Punjabi spices such as garlic, ginger, chillies, and turmeric. We have a vast range of dishes to suit everyone's individual tastes. With dishes varying in spice levels but always packed full of flavour, those following plant-based diets will be spoilt for choice whether eating in or opting for our Heat & Eat menu. Feeling inspired by the wide variety of vegan options available here at Sachins? Book a table with us today and sample some of our signature dishes.
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Spice up your Valentine’s Day at Sachins

Valentines Day Curry
They say that food truly is the language of love, and here at Sachins we really couldn’t agree more. There’s nothing like a delicious Valentine’s Day meal shared between lovers to really turn up the heat. It’s no secret that a lovingly cooked meal is often the way to the heart. For almost forty years now, the team here at Sachins have been providing warm ambience and heartbreakingly good food to couples from far and wide, presenting the perfect opportunity for lovers to relax in one another’s company and enjoy that all-important quality time. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, we thought we’d delve into the true power that food wields over the heart. More specifically, we’d like to take a look at the love-boosting potential of some of our favourite herbs and spices in mythology and folklore.

Botanical romance throughout the ages

In times of yore, plants were the activating agents of spells, potions and natural remedies. Put simply, the world of plants was regarded as a cure-all apothecary, with a remedy for each and every physical or emotional complaint. Many aromatics have been elevated to magical status throughout history, with hopeless romantics, discouraged lovers and lustful admirers hoping to ignite the flames of love with the aid of trusty herbs and spices. Here at Sachins, we love the idea of injecting a little of this whimsy and folklore into the kitchen and truly making magic happen with the food that we serve up on Valentine's Day.

Flying the flag for love with cinnamon

Here at Sachins, we love to employ the warming flavour of cinnamon in many of our dishes. This wonderful spice adds a depth to gravies, sauces and marinades that are second to none. Cinnamon has long been associated with passion, strength and zestful abandonment as a result of its spicy, warming qualities. Throughout history, it has commonly been used as an aphrodisiac due to its ability to increase blood flow, warm the body and boost levels of testosterone. In folklore, this beloved spice is believed to raise the vibrations of protection, lust and love, whilst its soothing scent promotes feelings of safety, comfort and tranquillity. Cinnamon on Valentine's Day

The lust-boosting potential of chillies

When it comes to fanning the flames of fiery, impassioned love, chillies have (somewhat unsurprisingly!) traditionally been employed for centuries and are believed to hold the power to inflame the heart of your beloved. Of course, our spice store wouldn’t be complete without chillies! A traditional spell cited in Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs proffers that two large, dried chillies tied together with a red or pink ribbon and placed beneath the pillows of your marriage bed can aid in continuing fidelity between you and your spouse. Perhaps worth a try next time you fear a wandering eye? Chillies to spice up your Valentine's Day

Turning up the heat with ginger

We love ginger in the Sachins' kitchen. This delightful herb is widely regarded as one of the most warming aromatics out there, and its spicy, earthy qualities maximise the flavour profiles of so many of our dishes For centuries, this fantastic herb has also been used to strengthen natural remedies and boost the potential of magical potions, too. With its ability to heat the body and improve circulation, it’s considered a powerful aphrodisiac and has been deployed in many romantic remedies to increase feelings of passion, lust and desire. Ginger on Valentine's Day

Encouraging faithfulness with coriander

Here at Sachins, we love cooking with coriander in all of its forms. Fresh coriander, coriander seeds and coriander powder are all employed in our kitchen to elevate the flavours of our food. But what about the role of coriander in magic and folklore? Coriander has historical ties to the Ancient Greeks, the Renaissance and the Spanish Conquistadors, and has been used in love potions for thousands of years. Traditionally, the spiritual power of this herb is thought to invite peace, love and reconciliation. The seeds of the plant have been used throughout history to encourage faithfulness and continuing happiness for couples, as well as being invested with the power to attract new love for those seeking a partner. Magic practitioners throughout the ages have deployed coriander to boost love and passion. Herbal compendiums cite the sowing of coriander seeds into mattresses to promote fidelity in marriage, and bunches of fresh coriander have traditionally been kept in the home to promote protection and general well-being. Coriander on Valentine's Day Why not bring a little magic to your Valentine’s Day and book a table with us here at Sachins? We’re sure our first-class food will help you to turn up the heat. Call us on 0191 261 9035.
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A closer look at Sachins’ signature Punjabi dishes

Sachins dishes
Here at Sachins, we’re not just your average curry house. We like to think that the quality of our food and our flair for creative touches helps to set us apart from the crowd when it comes to quality Punjabi dishes. We’re truly proud to stand out from the legions of other Punjabi restaurants serving up hearty classics across the region. It has to be said that our signature dishes certainly go a long way towards earning Sachins its status as Newcastle upon Tyne’s most iconic and well-loved Punjabi restaurant.

Don’t just go with what you know!

We know, we know. It can be all too easy to play it safe and opt for your usual go-to curry when you’re eating out, whether that’s a korma, a madras, a bhuna, or anything in between. Straying from your comfort zone does, however, have its rewards. Here at Sachins, we’d urge you not to simply ‘go with what you know’, but to sample some of our more unique, characterful dishes instead. So, in the spirit of trying new things, we’d like to take some timeout today to unpack a few of our signature Sachins dishes, to show you what the fuss really is all about when it comes to our most iconic fare.

Kick your meal off with our signature Sachins Tandoori

This dish has been a stalwart Sachins favourite for almost forty years! Our signature Sachins Tandoori is the perfect option to get things started and is recommended as the perfect portion size for two people to share before your main dishes. Order our Tandoori and you’ll be astounded by the fantastic variety of our five different delights, comprising tender meats, charred veggies and succulent prawns. Everything in this dish is lovingly marinated in our signature spice blend before being cooked to perfection in the tandoor oven and served up to you on a sizzling hot plate. If you’re looking to ditch the failsafe onion bhajis and switch things up a bit, this is the starter for you. Trust us, it’s a knockout. [caption id="attachment_25700" align="alignnone" width="875"] Sachins Tandoori with chutney and raita on the side[/caption]

Indulge in our Angel of the North

Tried, tested and tried again, our Angel of the North never fails to delight friends old and new. Packed out with juicy king prawns, our Angel of the North is a bespoke Sachins dish that can’t be found anywhere else other than between the hallowed walls of our iconic Forth Banks restaurant. Our fresh and meaty king prawns are lovingly marinated in our signature blend of aromatic spices, before being cooked to perfection in a rustic onion and tomato-based sauce. This stalwart dish is complemented by fresh spinach, coriander and ginger. The finishing touch? An edible silver leaf, of course. It’s no secret that our Angel of the North is one of the most tantalising dishes offered on our carefully curated menu, and we’d urge you to try it out next time you’re feeling adventurous. king prawns in curry sauce with coriander garnish

Raise the game with our ultra-spicy The Dish Formerly Known as Jalfrezi

This is Jalfrezi, but not as you know it. We’ve taken this well-known curry dish, originally hailing from Bengal, and given it the tried and true Sachins edge. This searing hot dish is composed of soft strips of juicy chicken cooked to tender perfection in an incredibly spicy sauce lovingly crafted from green chillies and lashings of fresh coriander. The Dish Formerly Known as Jalfrezi plays upon bold, fresh flavours and is most certainly not for the faint-hearted. If you’re looking to raise the game and take your meal up a notch, this one's for you. spicy green jalfrezi curry

Delight your taste buds with our creamy Nilgiri Gosht

A South Indian staple and a Sachins speciality, it’s time to introduce our signature Nilgiri Gosht. This dish is so well-loved that Portofolio North featured Head Chef Bob’s very own signature Nilgiri Goshat recipe so that fans of this stalwart special can have a crack at cooking it for themselves at home! It goes without saying that this special Sachins dish is a firm favourite on our carefully tailored menu, and is a surefire for all those who favour aromatic spices and the sublime taste of sweet and creamy fresh coconut. Composed of succulent, diced lamb lovingly and meticulously simmered in a blend of signature South Indian spices, our Nilgiri Gosht makes use of key ingredients such as mustard seeds, fresh curry leaves and fresh coconut. If you’re a fan of melt-in-the-mouth lamb cooked to tender perfection in a medium-spice, fragrant sauce, this one is for you. nilgiri gosht curry

Float away to veggie heaven with our sumptuous Daal Makhani

If you’re looking to spice things up with your plant-based fare, our trademark Daal Makhani is a perfect choice. Did you know that makhani translates as ‘buttery’? Well, now you do. Our Daal Makhani certainly holds true to its name and is loaded up with lashings of creamy butter, making it incredibly velvety and perfectly rich in flavour. This classic North Indian dish is made here at Sachins with black lentils, spices, garlic, ginger, tomato, a touch of cream and, of course, the all-important butter. The lentils are simmered along with their accompaniments overnight, making for a rich, flavourful sauce. It’s truly one of the most beloved lentil dishes heralding from the Punjab region, and Head Chef Bob was delighted to perfect this traditional Punjabi dish and include it in our carefully curated menu. Daal Makhani Feeling inspired to try something different? Book a table with us today and come along to sample our signature dishes.  
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How to eat Indian food the traditional way

Indian woman eats meal with hands
As is true for many different culinary cultures around the world, the dining etiquette that surrounds the way you eat your food is very important in India. Allow your mind to drift to thoughts of delicious Indian food for a moment. Picture the vibrant colours, imagine the sumptuous tastes and the fragrant aromas drifting up from the steaming hot dishes to delight your senses. Pretty tantalising, right? However, part of the true joy of eating Indian food isn’t simply what you eat, but how you eat it, too. In fact, the how is pretty important. Of course, whilst most parts of India follow pretty much the same dining etiquette, you may discover that some practices - just like the food itself - differ between the northern and southern regions, if you travel around the country. If you haven’t partaken in the pleasure of a traditional Indian meal, then you may enjoy learning about the do’s and don’ts of Indian dining etiquette. So, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. That’s right, it’s time to dish up the what’s what when it comes to eating Indian food the traditional way.

Wash your hands

One of the most important things to remember is that you must wash your hands before you eat. This is because there is a limited emphasis on cutlery in Indian cuisine, so it’s essential that your hands are nice and clean as they will be your primary utensils!

An impressive spread

A traditional Indian meal differs from the typical way of eating in Western countries in a number of ways. One of the key differences is the manner in which the food is served. Unlike how we tend to eat in the U.K, there are no ‘courses’ in Indian cuisine. Typically, all of the food is served at once, with lots of different dishes co-mingling with one another atop the table. Individual portions are also not the done thing. Whether you’re dining in a restaurant or in the home of a friend, food will usually be served in dishes to help yourself to, or the host may serve the food for you onto your plate. The standard Indian meal is made up of a number of different components. The spread before you will typically be composed of flatbreads (such as naan, chapati, roti, paratha or kulcha), curries, daal, raita, rice, pickles and some sweets to top it all off.

Lose the cutlery

Now, this one may go against everything you know as a British diner, but trust us, it remains the done thing in many dining contexts in India to ditch the cutlery and use your hands, instead. This is done delicately and neatly, with only the very tips of the fingers used, rather than the whole hand. You may find, however, that particularly in some urban areas of India, spoons are used in homes and restaurants to eat more liquid-based dishes like curries and daals. To conform with traditional etiquette, flatbreads and rice are used to mop up the other dishes on your plate. Flatbreads are the primary tool used to eat with. To use flatbread, tear a small piece using your fingers and create a boat-like shape that you can use to scoop up curry and transfer it into your mouth. The primary function of rice is to salvage remaining gravies. To do this, scoop up little portions of rice with your four fingers, capturing any delicious sauces and morsels of veggies and meats as you go, and push the food into your mouth using your thumb. Eating in this way can feel a little strange at first, and it may take some practice. Learning how to do so properly and with ease is, however, a delicious journey to undertake. stack of fresh naan

Lead with the right hand

When enjoying a meal in India, make sure to always lead with your right hand. Even if you’re left-handed, the social etiquette of what is and what is not polite requires that you must use your right hand to eat with. This is because using your left is considered incredibly unclean and, as such, can cause offence. The left hand is thought to be unclean as it is the hand people generally use for washing themselves, so use your clean left hand to sip on your drink and to pass dishes along to other guests, instead.

Sharing is caring

Dining etiquette in India certainly encourages the sharing of food with others. If you’re dining in a restaurant with friends, it is customary to share your dishes with one another. The polite way to do this is to share only from the serving dishes, not from your plates, as taking food from the plates of others is considered poor manners. empty dinner plates

Finishing every last bite

In India, it is considered good manners to finish everything that is on your plate. Leaving anything uneaten is considered impolite. Of course, you needn’t taste every single dish that is served, but anything you do transfer to your plate needs to be finished. It’s also important not to play with your food and to eat it at a medium pace, too. It is considered rude to eat too quickly and if you eat slowly, hosts may conclude that you are not enjoying the food. Keen to sample the flavours of authentic Punjabi cuisine? Book your table with us here.  
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Five staple Punjabi dishes

Ah, Punjab, the land of abundance. Fertile agricultural lands, vibrant people and a revered food culture make this northern Indian state entirely unique. The culinary practices of this beautiful land are simple and rustic. But don’t let this simplicity of technique fool you, for the dishes of Punjab are known for their exceptionally complex and well-developed flavours, honed and perfected over the course of centuries. Punjabi cuisine is, after all, a veritable symphony of Indian-Mughlai-Persian-Afghani influences, rendering it entirely unique and it’s characteristic flavour profiles the result of a complex convergence of sociopolitical and geopolitical events throughout the course of history. If your mouth is already watering, you’ll be pleased to know that today we’ll be taking a look at five staple dishes of Punjabi cuisine. Sachins dish

1/ Amritsari Fish

Amritsari Fish is a widely celebrated dish from the city of Amritsar, the economic capital of Punjab. This delicious dish is one of the most popular types of street food on offer in Punjab, and is also commonly enjoyed as a delicious appetiser at the beginning of a meal. Amritsari Fish is traditionally made using freshwater fish - typically pond or river fish - that is marinated in a blend of gram (chickpea) flour, carom seeds, asafoetida and fresh chillies, before being fried in hot oil. You can sample this beloved Punjabi dish here at Sachins, where we have taken this traditional Amritsar staple and enlivened it with our characteristic flair and flavours. Our Amritsari Fish consists of fresh, juicy monkfish coated in a delicately spiced gram flour batter before being shallow fried to perfection and served on a bed of crisp salad.

2/ Daal Makhani

Daal Makhani, also known as Black Daal, is an authentic recipe hailing from Punjab that has now become widely popular the world over. In the land of Punjab, makhani literally translates as “buttery”, and if there is one thing that this dish is first and foremost, it is most certainly buttery! Here at Sachins, we craft this delicious, protein-rich staple from whole black lentils that are simmered overnight and tempered with garlic, ginger, tomato, butter and a little cream. The resulting dish is an exceptionally creamy, melt-in-your-mouth indulgence that delights the senses and leaves you feeling nourished and satisfied. Daal Makhani

3/ Paneer Tikka

Paneer Tikka is a beloved dish of the Punjab region of Northern India, and is a must-have when compiling the menu for any kind of celebration, wedding or function in Punjab. In Punjabi cuisine, Tikka refers to meat, fish or vegetables that are marinated in a special blend of spices before being cooked in a tandoor oven. Here at Sachins, we craft our Panchrattan Paneer Tikka from pieces of homemade curd cheese that have been tossed in creamy yoghurt and marinated in our unique Sachins spice blend before being cooked to perfection in the tandoor. Paneer Tikka Sachins dish

4/ Murgh Makhani

Our roster of five staple Punjabi dishes would simply be incomplete without the inclusion of the world-famous Murgh Makhani, more commonly known as Butter Chicken. Butter Chicken is one of the most delicious dishes hailing from Punjab, and is beloved across the globe, having successfully gained popularity at the international level. This sumptuous chicken dish is prepared from a thick, buttery gravy and is traditionally served with roti or rice. Here at Sachins, our Murgh Makhani holds fast to the unique flavour profile that has earned this dish global acclaim, and is loved by many for its mellow, velvety sauce. Lovingly prepared from a base of butter, tomatoes and a unique blend of fine spices in which our tender chicken is attentively marinated, this staple dish is mildly sweet and incredibly creamy, making it perfect for even the most delicate of palates!

5/ Kulcha

Kulcha is an incredibly special type of unleavened flatbread hailing from Northern India, and is often described as a local variation of the famous Indian naan bread. Widely known and loved for its characteristic spicy flavours and crispy texture, Kulcha can be found in the form of numerous variants, such as Aloo Kulcha, Masala Kulcha, Paneer Kulcha and many more. Here at Sachins, we offer a delicious Aloo Kulcha flatbread. Our unleavened dough is filled with a mouthwatering mix of spices, potatoes and onions before being baked in the tandoor. The finished bread is pillowy soft in the middle, with a characteristic crunch around the edges. Is your mouth watering for a taste of authentic Punjabi flavours? Book your table with us today here.
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Bob’s top tips for 24 hours in Newcastle upon Tyne

Newcastle Upon Tyne Quayside
Newcastle upon Tyne is one of the most vibrant cities in the UK, heralded as a veritable hotbed of iconic architecture, first-class food and oodles of culture. But if you only had 24 hours to spare, how best should you spend them? Well, that’s exactly what we’re here to talk about today. We’ve been chatting with Sachins’ owner and head chef, Bob Arora, and have put together an exclusive hotlist of Bob’s favourite ways to spend a day in the Toon. Keep reading to find out more!

The accommodation

First things first, where are you going to stay for your whirlwind city break? Bob’s top recommendations are the Hotel du Vin, the Malmaison or the Crowne Plaza. All of these gorgeous hotels provide lashings of luxury and comfort whilst being ideally located to explore the city centre at your convenience. We’d be hard pushed to choose a favourite personally, although the Malmaison does boast those incredible views of the River Tyne… If you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, Leonardo Hotel (formerly Jury's Inn) is a great option and is located just a 5-minute walk from Newcastle Central Station. Newcastle Upon Tyne Quayside

The entertainment

There’s plenty to do and see around the Toon, so this was a difficult one to narrow down. For a touch of fun and games, there’s plenty on offer. Bob recommends the much-loved Lane 7 for bowling and Ghetto Golf if you’re looking to practise your swing. There’s also Team Sport Go Karting located on Scotswood Road just outside of the city centre. Looking for something a little more off-the-wall? Bob’s got you covered with this next suggestion: “If you’re looking for a real laugh” he says, “I have to suggest Hatchet Harry’s Axe Throwing”. A particularly good choice if you’re keen to let off some steam, and yes, it really is as simple as it sounds, axes will be thrown! axe throwing in newcastle upon tyne However, for something a touch more laid back and lowkey, you might like to head to Newcastle’s most iconic cinema, the Tyneside, which comes highly recommended from Bob if you’re looking to catch a flick. The Tyneside Cinema is proud to be the region’s leading cinema and has been dearly loved by locals for over 80 years. Originally established as a Newsreel Theatre in 1937, a trip to the Tyneside provides not only a solid bit of cinematic entertainment but a healthy dose of the city's history, too.

The drinks

Now, a visit to the wonderful city of Newcastle upon Tyne certainly wouldn’t be complete without a tipple, would it? If you’re looking to do a spot of bar-hopping, the Toon is the place for you, hands down. After all, the city's iconic nightlife is somewhat legendary across the country. So, where would Bob head for booze? For head chef Bob, it’s all about quality venues such as Revolución de Cuba or Tiger Hornsby, where you can grab a first-rate cocktail and relax in an opulent, vibrant environment. Or, for a spot of classic Geordie nightlife, Bob suggests heading to Flares, which boasts a colourful, energetic crowd and classic disco tunes to boot! newcastle upon tyne bars

The scran

If there’s one thing that Newcastle certainly isn’t short of, it’s culinary hotspots. When it comes down to it, though, Bob’s favourite place to grab a knockout lunch “just has to be Peace & Loaf”, he says. This iconic Jesmond eatery - which holds fast to its promise of ‘fine dining without the fuss’ - proudly boasts two AA Rosettes, along with a mention in the Michelin guide. Bob is, of course, a veritable foodie, and so with its reputation for excellence it’s no surprise that Peace & Loaf wins gold in his mind. Of course, no trip to Newcastle upon Tyne would be complete without a visit to the city's best-loved Punjabi restaurant, a title that Sachins is incredibly proud to hold. What better way to round off a long day of sightseeing than with an expertly spiced, lovingly prepared curry, complete with all of the trimmings and cooked to perfection in Bob’s very own kitchen? Sachins food in Newcastle upon tyne We may be a little biased, but we think that hundreds of locals would agree: Sachins is the place to be. Looking for the perfect dining spot for your upcoming trip to Newcastle upon Tyne? Make a reservation with us today, we promise you won’t be disappointed.
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Tracing the history of the beloved nan bread

close up of plate of naan bread
Nan, or Naan, bread is now an integral part of Indian cuisine, perfect for mopping up the delicious leftover sauce. But where did the unique flatbread come from? Thought to be named after the Persian word for bread, naan breads can be leavened or unleavened and are often flavoured with herbs and spices such as coriander and chilli. They are usually brushed with butter or ghee and served hot as an accompaniment to curries and other Indian cuisines. Food for Kings Although it is believed that the dish could have been a staple in India centuries earlier, the first recorded mention of naan bread is around 1300 AD from Amir Kashrau (1253-1325 AD). Amir Kashrau was an Indo-Persian poet, scholar, and musician who lived in Delhi and who wrote of nan bread being cooked in the Imperial Court there. Later records suggest that in the sixteenth century it was cooked in the royal kitchens of the Mughal Emperors, who ate the bread as part of their breakfast along with keema or kebab. Due to the specialised way naan bread is cooked and the rarity of the ingredients during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, naan bread is likely to have remained a delicacy only eaten by the upper classes of Indian society throughout this time. The bread is traditionally cooked in a tandoor, a large clay oven shaped like an urn that has been used in Asian cooking for thousands of years. The tandoor gives the naan bread its distinct charred sections and crispy edges. Close up of peshwari naan bread Global Renown In the eighteenth-century naan bread begins to be mentioned throughout all classes of Indian society, as it became a staple for everyone regardless of their class. Towards the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Western world was introduced to naan bread when it was mentioned in the travel journals of an English historian and clergyman, William Tooke – the first time the name appears in English. Indian restaurants were opened in England as early as 1810 when Sake Dean Mahomed opened Hindoostande Diner after retiring from the British East India Company. The popularity of Indian dishes such as naan bread has grown steadily in the two hundred years since. Standing the Test of Time Although delicious in its own right, the milder flavour of the bread is the perfect companion to other stronger-flavoured dishes. Nan bread is not made to be sliced or cut, it is best torn by hand and used to soak up curries and sauces. At Sachins we serve plain naan alongside nan breads flavoured with aromatics such as garlic, chilli and coriander. We also serve stuffed nan bread, with variations such as Peshawari Nan, stuffed with fruit and nuts, and Keema Nan, stuffed with minced lamb and coriander.  Book a table today and try the food of kings for yourself. 
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A brief history of Indian food in the UK

A collection of indian food on a table -- tomato based curries, rice, vegetables...
The UK is a real melting pot when it comes to food culture. Ultimately, however, no cuisine has stolen the heart of foodies across the nation quite like that of the Indian subcontinent. Let’s face it, you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who isn’t partial to a good curry here in the UK. But where did it all begin? Well, Britain’s love affair with Indian food is one that spans several centuries, with a complex and multi-faceted history that has gradually brought us to where we are today. We thought it would be interesting to chart a brief history of Indian food in the UK, in order to better understand how it became one of the nation’s most loved cuisines.

Early beginnings

The history of Indian food in the United Kingdom can be traced back as early as the Crusades when the very first eastern spices were brought back to the British Isles in the rucksacks of soldiers returning from religious conflicts overseas. These spices made their way into British kitchens, resulting in some of the earliest incarnations of Indian food in the UK, although these dishes would be far from what we would recognise today as a curry! Ever since the 17th century, England’s presence in India was becoming increasingly robust as the British Empire gradually acquired direct rule of the subcontinent in the early 19th century as the British Raj. Through this period of sustained involvement in India, stories of Indian culture - and in particular the food - began to make their way back to the British Isles through immigrants and long-term residents, capturing the imaginations of the British people back home. The first British cookbook to contain an Indian recipe was The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, authored by Hannah Glasse. The first edition of this publication, made available in 1747, contained three recipes of Indian pilau. In subsequent editions, recipes for rabbit curry and Indian pickle were included too. Indian woman collecting red chillies

The gradual popularisation of the Indian restaurant

In the early 19th century, the very first restaurant to serve exclusively Indian food was opened in Mayfair, London. Sake Dean Mahomed, an ex trainee surgeon who had served in the East India Company’s army, opened The Hindostanee Coffee House in 1810, exposing a great number to their very first experience of traditional Indian food, which seemed a world apart from the oftentimes bland British dishes that people were typically familiar with. Although interest in Indian food and Indian culture was strong at this point - particularly among those returning to England from the subcontinent - the ‘eating out’ culture in Britain was very different to what we are familiar with today. At this time, the upper classes tended to have their own residential cooks, meaning they were much more likely to entertain at home rather than gathering in restaurants. It would be a long time until Indian restaurants were to become a staple feature of British highstreets. By the early 20th century, the number of South Asian individuals calling Britain home - estimated at around 70,000 - made the increasing popularity of Indian food inevitable. Around this time, a handful of Indian restaurants began to spring up in London, with the likes of Salut-e-Hind in Holborn and the Shafi in Gerrard street catering for the middle class. In 1926, the first high-end Indian restaurant opened in the capital city. The doors of Veeraswamy were opened by founder Edward Palmer, whose great-grandfather - a General in the East India Company - married a Mughal princess. Veeraswamy went on to attract an impressive roster of clients, including the Prince of Wales, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. spices and aromatics

The democratisation of the curry

It was in the 1970s that Indian food truly took off, enchanting the palates of the British public en masse. Mass migration of South Asian factory workers in the mid-20th century created an increased demand for Indian eateries, and in the 70s these establishments began to adapt their menus for a white, working-class clientele. By around 1982, approximately 3,500 Indian restaurants were up and running in Britain, and ‘going for a curry’ had officially become your common-or-garden night out. Today, you may be surprised to learn that there are in fact more Indian restaurants in Greater London than there are in Delhi and Mumbai combined. Additionally, along with the absorption of Indian food into the public imagination, the UK has also merged and adapted this cuisine in order to create dishes that are, for all intents and purposes, quintessentially British. Take, for example, the ever-popular Chicken Tikka Masala. This dish is actually not Indian at all, and was invented through a process of improvisation right here in the UK. All of these fascinating events and moments in history have culminated over time to form a love for Indian food that is now widespread in the UK. Here at Sachins, we are delighted to contribute to this ever-evolving culinary dialogue, serving up traditional Punjabi dishes with a contemporary twist to devoted diners in the North East of England. We are proud to be one of the most iconic and celebrated Indian restaurants in Newcastle upon Tyne. If you are looking to sample authentic Punjabi flavours in a vibrant and inviting setting, book a table at Sachins today.
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Why choose Sachins for the best curry in Newcastle?

Tyne Bridge Newcastle at night
Here at Sachins, we have been holding down the fort as Newcastle’s most loved Indian restaurant for over 39 years. From sizzling tandoori to creamy, exquisitely spiced curry, Sachins is the spot for authentic Punjabi food in all of its glory.  Located on the historic Forth Banks in the centre of the vibrant city of Newcastle upon Tyne, Sachins has been wowing diners with the best curry in Newcastle for almost four decades. Since Head Chef Kulmeet (Bob) Arora took the restaurant over in 2000, Sachins has continued to go from strength to strength and has become a veritable institution like no other. But, what exactly makes Sachins the number one choice for scintillating Punjabi food in Newcastle? Sachins restaurant exterior

Incredible food

Here at Sachins, we are proud to serve up the finest Punjabi food that Newcastle upon Tyne has to offer. We believe that, first and foremost, it is the incredible quality of our dishes that keep diners coming back time and time again, hungry for more. You see, we’re truly committed to offering visitors a true taste of Punjab, right here in the heart of this bustling Northern city.  From sumptuous tandoori dishes and beautiful biryanis, all the way to mouthwatering curries and delectable desserts, our food holds fast to the spirit of Punjabi cuisine and is most certainly worth shouting about.  Our incredible kitchen team, with Bob at the helm, have perfected the art of taking the finest ingredients and bringing them to life with a Sachins twist. Utilising traditional methods of cooking and a signature blend of authentic, freshly crushed spices, the food that we create here at Sachins is truly memorable.  If you’re looking for the best curry in Newcastle, Sachins is certainly the place to be. Lamb Kashmiri dish

The perfect location

Looking to enjoy fantastic food in an incredibly central location? Sachins is the place for you. Not only do we serve up the finest Punjabi food that Newcastle has to offer, we are also ideally located smack bang in the centre of the city, conveniently placed near to some of the city's key transport links, favourite hotels and most loved and frequented cultural hotspots.  Whether you’re arriving at Newcastle Central Station or staying overnight at the likes of the Crowne Plaza, The County Hotel, Jurys Inn, Hampton by Hilton or Royal Station Hotel, Sachins is ideally placed for all those travelling in and out of the vibrant city of Newcastle upon Tyne. So, why not make your visit even more memorable by dining with us? Millennium Bridge Newcastle dusk What’s more, our iconic Punjabi restaurant is also ideally located for all those who are heading out for a night of culture and entertainment. If you’re heading to the likes of the Utilita Arena or Boiler Shop to catch a stellar show, Sachins is just a few minutes walk away. Alternatively, if you’re spending the night at the Sage or the Theatre Royal, you can enjoy a slightly longer walk from Sachins to the venue, taking in the wonderful architectural sights of the city, or simply hop in a cab and be there within moments.  Not heading out anywhere in particular, but looking to make a night of it nonetheless? No worries. Our beloved Forth Banks restaurant is perfectly situated for an evening's stroll along the River Tyne, so that you can dine in style before meandering down to the waterfront to take in the beautiful scenery and perhaps even enjoy a spot of bar hopping.  Looking for a memorable dining experience at one of Newcastle’s most iconic restaurants? Book a table with us today.
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What constitutes authentic Punjabi food?

spices and aromatics
Punjabi cuisine may be the most popular culinary strand of Indian food consumed in the UK, but how many of us really know how to define Punjabi food?  You’ve likely heard the word ‘Punjabi’ many times, but perhaps have never really been sure what it means in relation to the vastly broad spectrum of Indian food, and what makes it unique. No need to worry, however. We’re here to walk you through just what constitutes authentic Punjabi food. 

What are we talking about when we refer to ‘Punjab’? 

Punjab – often dubbed India’s ‘loudest state’ – is nestled away in the North West corner of the Indian subcontinent.  The name ‘Punjab’ – meaning ‘land of five rivers’, or ‘five waters’ – is a compound of two Persian words, panj (“five”) and āb (“waters”). Five tributaries of the Indus River – the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas – pass through the region, thus affording it its name.  Due to its plentiful water supply and excellent soil drainage, Punjab is an incredibly fertile farmland region where a vast range of crops grow bountifully.  The history of the region is vast and diverse, something which must be considered in order to understand the nature of the eclectic palette of Punjabi food. One of the earliest known cultures of South Asia, the Indus Valley Civilisation, found its home in the Punjab region. Since then, Punjab – particularly the central region of Punjab known as the Majha region – has been the site of numerous invasions and migrations, with the region continuously contested time and time again. Today, following the 1947 partition, the entire Punjab region sits abreast of both Pakistan and India. Sachins curries in dishes

How do we define Punjabi food? 

Informally known as ‘the bread basket of India’, the fertile Punjab region produces vast quantities of crops such as wheat, millet, barley, maize, potatoes, sugarcane, maise, lentils, plus a huge variety of fruits and vegetables. The incredible fertility of the land, paired with the region’s diverse socio-political history of endlessly shifting migrations and invasions, has given birth to a rich culinary tradition. Typically, Punjabi cuisine is known for its distinctively rich and buttery flavours. This richness, along with a range of traditional spices and aromatics, forms the characteristic basis for the extensive vegetarian and meat dishes originating from the region.  Here at Sachins, we work hard to produce authentic Punjabi flavours by holding fast to these cornerstones of Punjabi cuisine. Our signature spice blend employs the use of a variety of freshly crushed, traditional Punjabi spices and aromatics in order to achieve that authentic Punjabi kick. meat cooking over tandoor oven The method of cooking known as ‘tandoori’ is also quintessentially Punjabi. In India, cooking in the tandoor is traditionally associated with Punjab due to the wide embrace of this method across the entire region. In rural Punjab, it is incredibly common to make use of communal tandoor ovens, known as ‘Kath tadoors’ in Punjabi.  Following the 1947 partition, which saw many Punjabis resettle across other areas of India, the use of the tandoor became far more widespread. Having migrated beyond the boundaries of the subcontinent, tandoori is now embraced worldwide as a cornerstone of Indian cuisine. At Sachins, the tandoor is favoured as a key method of cooking, helping us to produce a range of characteristically Punjabi flavours. Here at Sachins, we’re committed to producing delicious, authentic Punjabi food. Fancy trying it for yourself? Book a table with us today.
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Exploring the spices at the heart of Punjabi cuisine

Spices
The history of Punjabi cuisine is vast and diverse, spanning many centuries and impacted by a complex network of intermingling forces. The colourful tale of Punjabi food is truly a saga of heritage, history and culture, and varies vastly even within the parameters of the state. At the heart of it all, however, lies the spices that form the ecstatic foundations of this incredible cuisine. The culinary heritage of Northern India’s Punjab – also known as the Land of Five Rivers, emphasised in the Persian origins of panj meaning five, and ab meaning waters – is incredibly diverse. The spices of Punjabi cuisine are deeply rooted in the region's culture, and also play a paramount role in its economy, too. Here at Sachins, we are incredibly proud to fly the flag for the beautiful flavours and palates of Punjab, so today we thought we would take a quick look at the spices which form the foundation of this colourful cuisine.

Punjabi Garam Masala

Ah, the humble Punjabi garam masala. This signature spice blend forms the foundations of almost all of the recipes hailing from Punjab. It’s nearly impossible to emphasise the centrality of garam masala in not only Punjabi cuisine, but all of the various culinary cultures of the entirety of India. It’s akin to trying to talk about the importance of salt to modern American cuisine. In this sense, its ubiquitous centrality is more or less embedded into the entire social and cultural framework of Punjab as a whole. Part of what makes garam masala so special is the incredibly rich and bold flavour notes that it encompasses. From the heady scent and fragrant flavours of cumin and cardamom, all the way to the grounding earthiness of cinnamon and coriander seeds, Punjab’s garam masala is a flavour profile like no other. Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is an incredibly versatile spice that is found throughout the entire breadth of Punjabi cooking and is most often used whole during the tempering of a dish. The flavour profile of cinnamon is one that is warm, comforting and mildly sweet. With earthy, peppery notes, however, it brings a savoury taste, too. cinnamon is widely used in the preparation of meat dishes and dal, as well as in sweet masala cha and within a variety of Punjabi desserts and sweets, too. It is, of course, also a staple spice within the garam masala blend of Punjab.

Fennel

Fennel seeds – or “saunf” – are another key component of the spice profile of Punjabi cooking. They have a sweet liquorice flavour and are used to inject a mild and subtle hint of aniseed in Punjabi dishes. They are also commonly used in most households across the entirety of India as a mouth freshener and digestive aid after meals. Garlic

Garlic

Garlic – we all know it, and most of us love it. Unsurprisingly, it is widely loved by Punjabis, too, and features often across the vast breadth of Punjab cooking. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it is widely understood that the garlic plant was in fact originally identified and incorporated by the ancient Indians, who were able to domesticate it around six thousand years ago. The flavour of garlic is strong and its scent pungent. It is a warm and earthy spice that sweetens a little as it is cooked.

Cumin

By way of Arabic influence, cumin – or “jeera” – was introduced to the Punjabi spice box and quickly became a staple. Both white jeera and black jeera are used in Punjab and the seeds are used in whole and powdered form. These seeds have an incredibly distinctive flavour and aroma, adding a fragrant earthiness to the dishes they feature in.

Cardamon

Cardamon, belonging to the ginger family, is a stalwart spice in Punjab, and both black cardamom and green cardamom are used in Punjabi cuisine. It has a strong and unique flavour, with an intensely aromatic and resinous fragrance. Green cardamom, the sweeter of the two Cardamoms, is in fact one of the world's most highly prized spices, hence its colloquial title as ‘Queen of Spices’. Black cardamom has a woodier, stronger flavour than its green counterpart and is a staple in the masala cha of many Punjabi homes.

Coriander

Quite like cumin, coriander – known as ‘dhania’ in Northern India – found its way into the kitchens of Punjab through the influence of the Arabs, too. The leaves of the fragrant coriander plant are used for garnishing dishes in Punjab, whilst the seeds and powder are used throughout the process of cooking. In many Punjabi dishes, the powder also helps to thicken the gravy, too. Intrigued by the spice box of Punjab and keen to sample the finest Punjabi dishes that Newcastle has to offer? Make a reservation with Sachins today and get ready to experience the incredible flavours of this wonderful cuisine.
Car Reviews /

BMW 8 SERIES REVIEW

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Car Reviews /

PORSCHE MACAN S REVIEW

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News /

Dine by the Tyne

Bob Arora served centre table at the unbelievable Dine by the Tyne; a sky table raised 100ft in the air by the River Tyne. Local foodies from across the North East got experimental with their dining experience, having Bob serve their delicious meal to them, 100 feet in the air. The breath-taking views of the River Tyne and Newcastle made for a once in a lifetime experience.  [gallery columns="2" size="full" ids="9948,9947,9945,9944"]
News /

Sachins’ 35th birthday

Over 200 regular diners and guests celebrated the 35th birthday for Sachins Punjabi Restaurant on March 10th 2019. Owner Bob Arora treated guests to a drinks reception and sumptuous array of Punjabi canapés whilst musical entertainment was provided throughout the evening. Bob said:  “Sachins has been my passion now for 18 years, yet I was a regular customer long before that.  Some of our loyal clientele have whole generations of families that regularly visit our restaurant.  You see children in prams grow up to bring their own kids into the restaurant and get to know them all as friends, not just customers.”   [gallery size="medium" ids="9923,9924,9926,9927,9928,9929,9930,9931,9938,9934,9935,9936,9937,9922,9933"]    
Car Reviews /

Lexus LS

The original LS was launched 30 years ago and was ground-breaking at the time. The executives at Toyota wanted to launch a brand to take on the Germans; the LS was a direct competitor to the S Class. The LS was Japan's answer to luxury motoring, it was not only bullet proof and extremely reliable, but they showed the competition how to deliver excellent levels of customer service. Lexus took America by storm and they went on to dominate the sales charts outselling home grown manufacturers. It took a bit longer for Lexus to make inroads in the UK; the LFA was a real hero car for the brand. Along with its new styling direction I think Lexus, despite its reliability and innovation, the LS was never really a big sales competition for the S class. At its peak in 2007, Lexus only sold 400 cars and Mercedes managed to shift 2500 S Classes. I think one of the stumbling blocks for sales has been the lack of Diesel engine, with the recent Diesel backlash Lexus may have the advantage with their petrol engines and Hybrid technology. The latest 5th Generation car isn't going to be a massive seller for Lexus either, they are looking to sell 100 cars this year and I'm sure they'll sell those with no problems at all. The 3.5lt V6 engine produces 295bhp and with the two electric motors which add another 60bhp, the car gets to 60mph in 5.4 seconds and it should return careful drivers nearly 40 mpg. There are four trim levels to choose from and even the entry level cars get 20" alloys, triple led headlights, sat nav, 20 way power adjustment, dual zone climate control and 12 speakers. The next trim level is luxury; cars are available in either rear wheel drive or four wheel drive, heated and ventilated seats, 23 speaker Mark Levinson sound system, a climate concierge which uses infra-red technology to monitor each passengers body temperature and it also takes into account the sunshine to keep the interior at the perfect temperature for all occupants. The next trim level is the F sport and this gives the car an even sportier look, the front grill gets an upgrade and gloss black detailing on the side skirts, boot lid and alloys. Four wheel drive models also get rear wheel steering. The range topping model is the appropriately named Premier. This car is only available in four wheel drive and it'll account for 45% of sales. Passengers in the rear have Shiatsu massaging seats and one of the rear seats also has an ottoman feature. The front seat moves forward which allows the rear seat to recline and the lucky passenger has a meter of legroom. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to travel first class or turn left rather than right would appreciate the lengths Lexus have gone to make the car feel luxurious. The car really has a business/first class feel to it. Lexus's safety system keeps the car in between the white lines on the road, if they aren't there for whatever reason the cars radar watches the car in front. The only downside is if the car ahead overtakes the car does the same. A sophisticated passenger advance system can help swerve and brake to avoid a collision. A reversing monitor can also tell the difference between pedestrians and static objects so it will intervene if it thinks you are going to hit someone. Lexus aren't chasing the chauffeur market so don't expect any discounts, the LS should retain at least 53% of their value after three years. On the road the car isn't quite as comfortable as the S Class although the air suspension does a great job of smoothing out pot holes. The car isn't as dynamic to drive as the 7 series and the extra weight from the batteries doesn't help at all. It’s very refined at speed and that's partly down to the noise cancelling technology however at motorway speeds there is a bit of wind noise. To make swift progress you have to plant your foot firmly on the accelerator. I preferred driving the car in sport plus mode which helped give a much sharper throttle response. Japanese craftsmanship has come a long way and the car's interior is beautiful, hand pleated fabric door panels and cut glass inspired door inserts are a £7600 option. The cars leather and switchgear just scream quality and it’s on par with the S Class. The Lexus infotainment system is also very good, my only complaint is the mouse style controller is really hard to use compared to a dial. The massive head up display has all the information the driver needs. Another great feature was the all-round cameras, they really help when parking the car and the quality of the image is very impressive indeed. The boot space isn't the best in its class and it's even beaten by the ageing Jaguar XJ, probably due to the batteries in the boot. The LS is priced from £72,595 - £97,995 and I do think anyone looking for a premium saloon that will be quite a rarity on the road should get along to Lexus and buy one as you won't be disappointed at all.
Car Reviews /

Kia Stinger

The Korean invasion from Kia has been very much under the radar. They came to the UK selling quite boring looking, cheap cars with a great warranty. A break through was in 2006 when they launched the Cee'd; this car was a real wake up call for European manufacturers. It matched its competitors for quality and it beat them all on price and it also has a class leading 7 year warranty, it's no wonder the car sold like hot cakes. I think the other thing the PR department at Kia did well with was getting the car on Top Gear. The car was the reasonably priced car and while the car was thrashed round the track, if my memory serves me correct, it never broke down even when it was driven terribly by its famous drivers. The next breakthrough model was the new Sportage, this car has a very striking design and thankfully it drives as well as its rivals. The previous model was a very uninspiring looking car, when both cars are parked next to each other I'm amazed they managed to sell any of the old ones. The man behind the stunning new Sportage was Peter Schreyer, an ex-Audi' designer who designed the original TT; he worked his magic on the Sportage. This car has helped Kia become a big player and they've had record sales year on year. The latest car to compete with the Germans is the new Stinger; this 4-door coupe is firmly aimed at the A5 sport back and the 4 series grand coupe. Kia has been out poaching another German specialist but this time they've poached BMW's M division chassis expert, Albert Biermann. Thanks to his knowledge the car is very dynamic and it's certainly a match for its rivals. You can choose from three trims, the base is the GT line, GT Line S or the range topping GT S. The engine choices are either a 2lt petrol engine or the 2.2lt Diesel which is an extra £2,000. I was lucky enough to drive the GT S which is fitted with a 3.3lt twin turbo V6 which is a lovely engine. Priced at £40,495 it's certainly not a cheap and cheerful car now. The engine is linked to an 8-speed auto gearbox and the cars are rear wheel drive like some of its rivals. 60mph is reached in 4.7 seconds and its top speed is 168mph. The claimed economy figure of 30mpg is easily achievable especially if you don't have a heavy right foot; the Stinger has the accolade of being the fastest Kia ever. Peter Schreyer has excelled himself again with the design of the Stinger; it's such a beautiful looking car indeed. From any angle the car just looks stunning; the GT S with its bigger alloys and body kit looks sporty even standing still. The Stinger is actually wider, longer, taller and heavier than the 4 series. Its boot is also smaller than its rivals; it has folding rear seats which help if you need to load large or bulky items. The Koreans have the styling sorted and the chassis is now class leading, but they really need to poach a car interior designer; the Stingers interior is no match at for its German competitors. I think they could learn a thing or two from the latest Golf's interior, despite being half the price its interior is very classy and the electric dash just adds to the cars premium feel. One area where the Kia trumps its rivals is with standard equipment, heads up display, heated and cooling seats, heated steering wheel, smart phone connectivity, blind spot mirrors, fully electric seats, autonomous braking, Harmon Kardon speakers and Apple car play are all standard on the GT S. Even the base models have excellent levels of equipment. The Stingers rivals all cost nearly £8,000 more and that's without factoring in all of the expensive extras that are standard on the Stinger but expensive options in its competitors. The car has four drive modes ranging from Eco to Sport Plus, each mode ramps up the throttle response and gearbox response along with the firmness of the dampers and the weight of the steering. The car is quite happy to cruise along at motorway speeds all day long and the Bembo brakes are amazing along twisty country roads. Despite the cars weight penalty it was great fun to drive. It's fast, fun and beautifully composed. As a first attempt at making a big coupe type car Kia have succeeded in making not only a beautiful looking car but it's really a nice car to drive. The car is well built and has stacks of toys and gadgets, I'm sure it'll have the desired effect of showing its rivals that Kia really does mean business and they are no longer just a company who build cheap and cheerful cars with a class leading warranty. Car supplied by Lookers Kia Newcastle
Car Reviews /

BMW X2

I haven't driven a BMW for a while and I relished the chance to drive the new X2. I was surprised to learn Mercedes have beaten BMW to be the Global Premium Brand. This has been BMW's title for quite a while now, but they are fighting back yet an onslaught of new cars. The X range of cars now accounts for one in three worldwide sales so it's a very important new launch. The X2 sits between the X1 and the X3, it's firmly aimed at the Evoque which has been a massive sales success for Land Rover and I'm amazed it's taken BMW so long to launch a worthy competitor. The X2 is longer, sleeker and sportier than the X1 but it is slightly less roomy in comparison. The car will appeal to people who don't mind compromising on space and that are looking for something sporty. Despite the current backlash against Diesel engines there are two diesels and one petrol engine to choose from. I drove the 2lt diesel which is expected to be the best seller in the range. It gets to 62mph in under 8 seconds but its trump card is potentially 60mpg in the right hands. The petrol engines figures are nigh on the same but fuel economy isn't quite as good as the diesels. Once you start the car most of the noise from the engine doesn't make its way into the cabin, at motorway speeds there is very little noise at all. The MINI Countryman and the X2 share the same platform, rest assured they drive totally differently though, partly thanks to the cars having different springs, dampers, roll bars, bushes and different steering racks. With its M Sport makeover and fitted with the beautiful 20" alloys I have to say the car felt quite harsh and choppy on most surfaces. I personally think that's down to our terrible roads and the low profile tyres didn't help at all. The car is very beautiful with creases and styling cues all over the place, the designers’ new name for this is precision with poetry. The badges at the rear quarters just remind me of the CSL which looked a bit like the bat-mobile. They have given the front a new updated look with wider kidney grills which give the car quite a menacing look, especially when you see the car in your rear view mirror. There are four trims to choose from, SE, Sport, M Sport and M Sport X, the M Sport get a makeover from the M division, the car is lowered by 10mm lower and it's given a sporty body kit so it's got loads of kerb appeal, I have to admit to not liking the plastic on the sides of the car or underneath the bumpers. I know the car is aimed at young funky people so I suppose I'm showing my age but it looked a bit cheap if I'm being honest. As with all BMW's the interior is a very nice place to spend time, from the chunky three spoke steering wheel to the really nice mood lighting in the car it really oozes quality. The car I drove had leather interior but the one of the cars in the showroom had a rather funky interior trim, it was a mix of suede and fabric which may not sound very appealing but I personally think it really suited the car. It had very cool yellow stitching and it really reminded me of a 911 GTS with the optional alcantara interior. I really loved the dash with its normal dials rather than the electric dashes most companies are going for at the moment. All the switches and buttons have a real quality feel as does the dash. There was plenty of storage space for all the clutter I need on a daily basis. The reverse camera is handy as the rear window is quite small so reversing isn't that easy. Another thing I noticed while driving in the dark, when I reversed the car into the restaurant car park the passenger side mirror dips and the mood lighting on the dash makes it really hard to see the mirror due to the reflection from the very nice mood lighting. I hope that makes sense but if you do buy one you'll know what I mean! The X2 is priced from £33,000 to £38,000 for the X Sport. Beware, as with all German cars the option list is not only extensive but it also has some very expensive bits like head up display, wireless phone charging, Wi-Fi and hands free parking. After driving this car for a few days I can honestly say it's a very stylish, practical and very economical car indeed. I can't wait to drive the new Z4, 8 series and M5 and at some point they'll be launching the new X7 so I'm sure they'll be regaining the Global Premium Brand Crown again very soon. Car supplied by Lloyd BMW Bob Arora
Car Reviews /

VW Arteon

The last large expensive VW saloon I remember driving was the Phaeton. This huge and expensive car was aimed at stealing sales away from the S Class, it was full of tech and gadgets but it just didn't sell in the numbers VW expected it would. I suppose where I'm coming from is if you mention buying a VW most people instantly think Golf or Polo AKA ‘people's cars’ and not great big expensive luxo barges! In its defence the Phaeton was as good as the S class with excellent engineering. The chairman of VW Ferdinand Piech decided to take on the S Class because Mercedes announced it wanted to introduce the A Class to compete with VW. Mr Piech had a list of parameters he wanted his designers to fulfil, one of the more interesting things he wanted was the car to be able to be driven all day at 300kmp while it was 50c outside and he wanted the cars internal temperature to be 22c. Unfortunately even with all of this engineering and technology, the Phaeton just didn't steal many sales away from Mercedes and it was quietly dropped from the range. VW's latest foray into a new market is with the beautiful looking Arteon, this stunning looking car is firmly aimed at the BMW 4 series and the A5 sport back. This car gives you a glimpse of how all new VW's will look in the future, the Arteon is the new successor to the Passat CC, not only is it longer and slightly wider but it is also very luxurious indeed, though there is a £5k premium over the CC. The car I drove was the R Line version and it was very sporty looking indeed and the car's interior was up there with its competitors. The dash is dominated by a large touchscreen Sat Nav and infotainment system. I loved the new digital dashboard, the car also has apple play and you can have hours of fun safely sending and listening to messages while you're driving. The car is available with a choice of two diesel engines or two petrol engines, at the moment a 2lt petrol engine tops the range. All Arteon's are fwd but the range topping cars have the option of four wheel drive. I drove the excellent 2lt diesel which is expected to be the best selling engine in the range. The 148bhp gets the car to 62mph in 9.1 seconds and its top speed is 137mph, the engines trump card is its excellent economy, most owners should expect to get 60 miles per gallon. My car was fitted with the optional DCC which is priced at £820. If you've opted for the rather nice looking 20" alloys it also helps with the cars ride quality. The car is a great long distance cruiser and motorway miles are handled with ease, my car had the optional panoramic roof which helped make the interior very light and airy. The pillar-less doors not only look great but thankfully due to good cabin sealing there was very little wind noise indeed. Another great feature for long distance drivers is the cruise control; you set the speed and the distance you want to keep between the cars in front of you. The system is so good all you've got to do is steer the car and the braking and accelerating is all done for you. Another great feature has to be the speed limit is displayed on the navigation screen; it's great if you are driving in a new area. The car also features emergency braking at speeds up to 19mph; this is usually the speed at which most accidents occur. The system can be fooled but on a whole it's a great safety feature. Passengers sitting in the rear of the car have slightly less headroom than the people up front. That has to be due to the cars styling and the rear slope. Boot space is ok for most people, with the seats up there is 563ltrs of boot space and with the seats down this jumps up to 1557ltrs. If your hands are full and the car detects the key a simple wave of your foot under the boot opens it. In a nutshell I think Imelda Marcos would get all of her shoes in the car with the seats down after one of her legendary shopping trips! The car is available in two trim choices, either Elegance or R Line. All cars have the active info display, leather upholstery; three zone climate control, LED headlights and GPS aided adaptive cruise control. The base Arteon is priced from £31k and this jumps up to £39k for the range topping 4 motion 2lt Petrol. After driving this car for a couple of days I really didn't want to give the keys back. If you do plenty of motorway driving or you're after a stylish looking car then look no further as this car ticks all the boxes.   Car courtesy of Lookers VW
Car Reviews /

Lexus LC

I was amazed to read Lexus have been around for 28 years, they launched the LS which was aimed squarely at the Mercedes S Class. It wasn't the most beautiful looking car but it was filled with gadgets and they were always the most reliable cars around. Add to this a level of customer service that just didn't exist it was easy to see just why they made a name for themselves. In America, the brand just went from strength to strength; it took a while for them to do as well over here though. As I've mentioned before the reliability of the cars helped them top the all-important JD Powers survey year after year. In recent years Lexus have been accused of building very boring cars, they built what can only be described as a supercar. The LFA is a very, very rare sight but Jeremy Clarkson even said it was the best car he'd ever driven. Coming from him that's a real compliment! Unfortunately, given the price and the limited availability it's not a car you're going to see every day. Toyotas Chief Executive Akido Toyoda is a keen racing driver and even he has been telling the designers just how boring the styling is. At the Detroit motor show he even quoted owners who'd written letters to him saying how much they loved the cars and brand but they just wished they were funkier in terms of styling. Taking the letters and comments to heart, he said he didn't want the words boring and Lexus to occupy the same sentence ever again. This brings me to the car I've recently had the real pleasure in driving. The Lexus LC is a really stunning looking and downright beautiful car. It's not being called a sports car but it is more of a Grand Tourer and I would say it's real competitor is the BMW 6 Series and possibly even the Mercedes SL although the SL has the option to drop its top. Akido must have been proud of the designers as they have created a truly stunning looking car; another area where Lexus normally fail in my book is the interior. They tend to be quite nowhere near as stylish as Audi’s but with this car the designers have really got the brief. The car is full of high quality leather and suede all over the place. From the clock in the middle of the dash to the navigation and infotainment screen it just screams quality. The buttons and stalks have a real quality feel, the designers have upped their game big time and I really hope the rest of the range get beautiful interiors. Lexus continue to use a touch pad style controller for the navigation, it's really fiddly and very hard to use. BMW's iDrive system is much better and easier all day long. The cars speakers are something else, the sound quality was extraordinary. They are supplied by Mark Levinson. The speedometer can be moved around and if you have the Hybrid version you can see how the brakes help charge the battery and it's interesting to drive the car on electric before the engine kicks in. I know it's sad but you know what they say about small things! The car is a 2+2 but the rear seats are OK for small children, I didn't even attempt to try and get into the back of the car. I would personally use the space for carrying bags or shopping. The boot isn't massive but there is enough room for a couple of overnight bags. To help give the car nearly 50/50 weight distribution Lexus have used composite metals, carbon fibre and aluminium. The cars battery has been fitted to the boot and the spare wheel has been ditched all to save weight. Owners have the choice of two engines, a 5lt V8 produces 467bhp and it has a top speed of 168mph and it gets to 62mph in 4.4 seconds. Amazingly for a two tonne car it'll return around 24mpg. Lexus have fitted this car with a 10-speed automatic box. The other engine option is a 3.5lt V6 which also has an electric motor, this produces 354bhp and it has a top speed of 155mph and it gets to 62mph in 4.7 seconds. With the smaller engine and the Hybrid engineering the car returns 31mpg. The Sport+ tops the range and the sunroof is ditched for a Carbon roof, rear wheel steering also makes this car much sharper to drive. Lexus aren't expecting to sell loads of these cars so again it'll be a rare sight on the roads, I think they've got 250 to sell for the year I'm sure my friend Andrew Clark will do his best to find you one if you're in the market for one of these lovely cars. The LC is priced from £77k to £86k and yes, I know that's not cheap, but you are getting a car that gets people stopping and pointing and taking pictures every time you stop at the traffic lights. With this car you're getting not only a beautiful looking car but it it'll be reliable and the customer service is second to none.
Car Reviews /

Range Rover Velar

To say Range Rover can't do any wrong at the moment has to be the understatement of the year! From being a company that just produced one car, they are successfully launching cars in every market segment possible at the moment. They successfully launched the Range Rover Sport and then the equally popular Evoque, both cars have sold exceptionally well and the magic looks set to continue with the new Range Rover Velar. The name Velar was first used on badging of the original 1970's Range Rover so it's quite apt they've bought the name back! I managed to get a glimpse of this car quite a while ago, and it really has the wow factor with its stunning styling and its recessed door handles amongst other things. The car fits between the Evoque and the Sport, I didn't even realise a niche existed but with this car I'm sure they'll have boat-loads of new customers. The designers have given the car a short front but a longer rear overhang, add a sloping roofline and this car really has a presence! I drove the 3litre Diesel which by all accounts will be the best-selling car in the range, this is despite all things diesel being bad news right now. We were actively encouraged by the government to buy them but now they have the same stigma smokers have and people prefer to leave them out in the cold these days than be associated with them!! It's a real shame really because diesels have not only great torque but they also have the added benefit of great economy too. Having driven the 2litre diesel recently, I'd be tempted to order that engine over the more expensive larger one any day. Performance ranges from a top speed of 130mph to 155mph and 0-60mph acceleration ranges from 8.4-seconds to 5.3-seconds, which isn't bad for a car nearly weighing two tonnes. Both V6 petrol and Diesel engines get the benefit of air suspension and this really helps cars fitted the massive 22" alloy wheels. The car is actually based on the same platform as the F-Pace, as with the F-Pace Aluminium has been used extensively to try and make the car not only lighter but more agile too. The very fact it's much more expensive than the Jag hasn't stopped the army of buyers who've ordered the Velar. It looks really smart, especially in the range topping Dynamic Spec and with the all-important black pack, this car just looks the part! When you step inside the Velar you realise this car is a real game changer for all of the cars rivals. The top screen controls the navigation, phone and radio, the screen at the bottom controls the temperature control, along with the heated and cooling seats. The car I drove also had massaging seats the cars suspension settings are also controlled by the bottom screen. The speedo and rev counter are both digital and they really ooze quality! As you'd expect from a car of this calibre, the plastics are decent quality as is the leather, a new more expensive cloth type material from a company called Kavadrat is also available but I'm not sure how many brave buyers have opted for this? It's quite a strange but it has a nice feel to it if that makes any sense at all. The car I drove was fitted with autonomous braking, lane assist, blind spot assist and the excellent matrix led headlights. With all this help it sounds like the car is capable of driving itself! It was also fitted with park assist, which was quite handy as the cars’ rear screen is quite hard to see out of, especially with the thick pillars at the back. The Velar is no way as agile as the Porsche Macan, it feels a bit bulky and awkward even when driven in dynamic mode. Driving the car in this mode does stiffen up the suspension and it also makes the gear changes and throttle response much sharper too. Maybe it's to do with my age, but I much preferred driving the car in Comfort Mode, it just makes the car much more relaxed and a more enjoyable place to be. The car has good headroom in the front and rear but legroom is limited for passengers in the rear. The rear seat can be split in a 40-20-40 configuration and the boot space is a decent 673 litres, that was more than enough space for a few suitcases and weekend bags galore. The Velar is priced from £44K, but once you start ticking the boxes on the spec sheets, most cars will cost well over £70K which is dangerously close to the Sport, which let’s face it, is a bigger more practical car. While I drove this car, loads of people came over and asked questions about it, the consensus was that it is not only very good looking, despite its rather high price, it's going to sell like hot cakes and Land Rover have another cash cow on its hands. Car courtesy of Stratstone Land Rover Sunderland.
Car Reviews /

Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio

Any petrol head will tell you that until you've owned an Alfa you aren't a proper petrol head. Alfa's have never had the best reputation for build quality or reliability but they have made some stunning looking cars that also drive really well. As you may expect, I've owned one Alfa, I bought a 156 when they came out. My car was 3-litre petrol and when you started it, the car just sounded amazing. The car I owned was surprisingly reliable but that didn't stop buttons falling off the seats and trim coming away all over the shop! That said, when you drove the car, it just put a smile on your face; the performance was up there with its German rivals, even if the build quality wasn't. Another thing Alfa has is a very loyal customer base; they are a very passionate bunch who love all things Alfa. The car I've had the real pleasure of driving this month is the new Gulia, when I was given the choice of driving the Diesel or the range topping Quadrifoglio, it was a no brainier for me. The Gulia is rear wheel drive and this is no doubt to take on its German rivals from BMW and Mercedes. The last Alfa that was rear wheel drive was the 75 which ceased production 25 years ago. The Fiat Group, who own Alfa, are investing over £5Billion to make Alfa great again. After driving the Gulia I can say this investment is starting to pay off  and they have also entered the very lucrative SUV market with the Stevlio. I haven't driven that yet, but watch this space! The Quadrifoglio is clearly aimed at the Mercedes AMG, AUDI and its RS model and lastly at the BMW M range. The designers have done a great job and the car really looks the part with carbon fibre all over the place and the impressive 19" alloys really help make the car look extremely sporty indeed. Alfa have used Aluminium in key areas to keep the body weight down and, in doing so, the car has excellent power to weight ratio of 318bhp per tonne. The 2.9litre V6 is turbocharged and it pumps out 503bhp. The engine has been inspired by Ferraris 3.9litre V6 which I'm sure isn't a coincidence at all. The car gets to 60mph in under four seconds and its top speed is 191mph, driven sensibly the car should return most owners 30mpg. All UK Quadrifoglio's come with an 8-speed automatic gearbox and 19" alloys as standard. The car I drove came with the optional ceramic brakes and Sparco seats. These body hugging seats are great and they make you feel like a Formula One driver. They do take up a bit of room for rear passengers and they are priced at £2950 so I can't see many owners opting for them. The Alcantara rimmed steering wheel looked and felt great. My favourite bit was the starter button,  I know I've said it before but simple things and all that. The cars ventilation dials and buttons are very simple and straightforward to use, its SatNav and communication system is also on par with its German rivals. The graphics and screen is a little bit cheap looking for me, but as with all Alfas - it’s all about the engine and the drive. The materials used in the car are good, especially with a good scattering of leather, Alcantara and carbon fibre all over help make the interior feel like quite a special place to be. The rear seats don't fold which doesn't make it very practical at all and with the boot opening being quite small, it doesn't help at all when loading the car with cases, shopping etc. Driving the car in race mode really makes it quite a handful, if you aren't careful. The cars exhaust note sounds really good and throaty indeed, making down changes via the gears and the exhaust pops and crackles like no one’s business. I know this is very childish, but I found myself looking for tunnels just to hear the cars soundtrack of pops and crackles. Beware driving the car in race mode - it turns off the traction control and this can make the car a real handful if you're not careful. After driving the Gulia I can honestly say Alfa are back on track and in the hot seat (pardon the pun) for good times again. The car looks and sounds amazing and it will be quite a rare sight on the roads. Priced at £59k this car really ticks all the boxes for me and I'd have one over its German rivals all day long. Car courtesy of Richard Hardie Alfa Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

Land Rover Discovery

The Discovery was launched in 1998 and it was originally launched with three doors. The five door was launched in 1990 and both cars had five seats as standard and two more jump seats were available as an optional extra. The car's interior was designed by the Conrad group and it was classed as a lifestyle vehicle, many of the designers ideas were deemed a bit too wacky and they weren't incorporated into the final design. The basic structure was basically a Range Rover but the interior featured parts from the Montego & Maestro. Exterior parts came courtesy of the Maestro van, freight rover van and the Morris Marina it wasn't really the best of starts for the car! Initially the Disco was going to take on Japanese rivals, because of its lower pricing it was a success, factor in the cars incredible off-roading ability and Land Rovers were finding new homes all over the world. Fast forward to the fifth generation Discovery and thankfully there isn't a hint of any old Rover car parts anywhere. The latest Disco has the family genes running through it with the familiar headlights and the curvy sexy body shape. The rear end is a real talking point and it's definitely a love or hate design. Personally for me it's a grower, but I do think this car is very colour dependent. In black or grey it looks amazing but in white it's far too much like a van! To help reduce weight the car has been fitted with an aluminium monocoque but it still weighs over two tonnes. The car features air suspension across the range and it just glides along the road, I love hearing the hissing and various noises the car makes when you park up and get out (I know it's really sad). The car has four spec levels; all cars are fitted with Bluetooth, DAB radio, cruise control and autonomous braking. I drove the new 2lt diesel and I'll be honest with you I just presumed it would be slow and unresponsive especially mated to the standard 8 speed auto box. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised as it was really good, it managed to get to 60mph in eight seconds and it's top speed was 121mph but the best bit was the economy and it managed to return about 40mpg even with my heavy right foot! The 3lt V6 diesel obviously sounds great with its sportier engine note, it gets to 60mph slightly quicker at 7.7 seconds and its top speed is only 10mph more than the smaller engine. As you would expect the petrol V6 is the sportiest of the range, you'll pay for this not only at the petrol station but when you come to sell the car as it will depreciate the most. The two diesels should retain nearly 59% after three years. The interior is very classy indeed and nothing like the first generation Disco. The switchgear and materials are excellent, there is a real abundance of storage space in the door pockets and the storage area underneath the arm rest is huge and it can be refrigerated. The panel housing the ventilation controls opens up to reveal storage for phones, keys or even sunglasses. The infotainment system is much more than just sat-nav, if it's used in conjunction with the app it allows you to fold seats down; lock doors and the fuel level can be checked via the app. With all seven seats up the boot has 285 litres of luggage space, with the rearmost seats down it increases to 1137 litres and with all the seats down this increases to a mammoth 2106 litres or nearly as much as a small van. The rear two seats actually accommodate two adults unlike its competitors; they aren't just for teenagers or small children. The Discovery has just been named Tow car of the decade, I'm sure you'll see plenty pulling along horse boxes or caravans this summer! The Discos lack of rear tailgate has led the designers to come up with a clever solution. A one-piece boot opens to reveal an electrically operated flip down ledge that can actually support 300kg. With all of the cars safety technology from air bags all over the place to its autonomous braking and lane departure warning I'm sure this car will achieve a 5 star Ncap rating. Land Rover has introduced a service pack for five years or 50,000 miles, a three year unlimited mileage warranty also gives owners peace of mind. Looking at some of the last shape Discovery's on the forecourt the latest model looks a million times better and with its weight saving use of aluminium it is a much better car to drive as well. I think Land Rover will be onto another sales success with this car and it's great to see another British success story.
Car Reviews /

Bentley Continental Supersports

By the time you get to read this review the chances are that the car I'm driving may have already sold out. The reason for this being Bentley are only making 710 Supersports so if you are lucky enough, I would dash to the Silverlink and order your one straight away. The original Supersport was launched in 2009 and all 1800 cars sold very quickly. Buyers have been pestering Bentley to bring another one to the market and thankfully, they have listened. The car I drove was white with some very sexy looking stripes on the bonnet and very impressive looking black alloy wheels. Opting for the X Specification pack gives you two-toned paintwork and tri-toned interior trim options. The Mulliner department are always there to satisfy their clients expectations and owners exacting needs, especially when money is no object. Before you even drive the car it looks extremely sporty indeed, even at standstill. The new look bumpers and carbon fibre splitter at the front and the diffuser at the rear just highlight the cars sporty intentions. A rear spoiler can be fitted to the coupé just to give the car a more sporty look and feel, add to this the smoked lights and you really have one hell of a sporty looking Bentley! I’m sure W.O Bentley would approve of this beauty as would the original Bentley Boys of yesteryear. Starting the car, it just sounds so unbelievable.  Follow this with a blipping the throttle and the engine just sounds amazing. The Supersport costs £43,600 more than the GT Speed you will get change out of £215,000, just! You may think is any car worth an extra £44k over the already quick GT Speed? Well in a nutshell, most definitely YES!  Considering the car weighs over 2.2 tonnes it’s is scarily quick. Bentley have managed to shave 40kg off the Supersports weight by adding carbon ceramic brakes and a titanium exhaust along with 21 inch forged alloy wheels. I can only liken the performance to an Italian sports car as it really has the performance and the comfort that you just don't get in a run-of-the-mill sporty vehicle. Planting your right foot down on the throttle gives you a ferocious performance, 60 mph arrives in 3.5 seconds and it hits 100 mph in an impressive 7.2 seconds. The 0-100 mph time is 1.7 seconds quicker than the previous Supersport and for anyone interested, the cars top speed is 209 mph and it actually returned 18 mpg, even with my lead right foot! Considering just how heavy the car is, its performance is beyond belief and its safety aids just make an average motorist feel like a formula one driver. The chassis has been carried over from the Speed version and it rides 10mm lower than the standard Continental GT. Due to the extra performance of the car it needs stiffer springs and anti-roll bars. It also features a new exhaust system and intakes, larger turbochargers and a revised air cooling system is also required for the extra 79 bhp increase over the previous Supersport. The only thing this car has in common with the rest of the Continental range is the 8-speed gearbox. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one of these stunning vehicles you must downshift the car at speed because the pops and crackles from the four exhaust pipes just make you smile every time, well it did me anyway! The Supersport retains the Continentals four-wheel drive system with 60% of its torque allocated to the rear wheels. But it also adopts the torque vectoring technology previously seen on the Bentley GT3. It can brake individually on the front and rear wheels to assist with hard acceleration coming out of corners with the inside rear wheel to aid its turn.  As with all Bentleys, the car’s interior is exquisite, from the beautiful leather to the carbon fibre on the dash. It just exudes quality especially the thick pile carpet and the beautiful stitching on the seats.  The workmanship just can't be knocked at all. The front seats are the sporty bucket variety and the car has rear seats instead of roll bars! If you are one of the lucky 710 buyers, you are in for a real treat as this motor is worth every penny of the £212,500 asking price and although it’s a fair chunk of cash, I'm sure, in time it will actually appreciate in value. Car supplied by Bentley Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

BMW 5-Series

At first glance the new 5-Series looks just like a mini 7-Series, this isn't a criticism or a bad thing because they are both very smart looking cars. The 5-Series has been around for over 45 years and it has consistently been a massive seller for BMW. This car has been driven for three million miles over four years and the engineers have fine tuned everything and here we have the results of all of this hard work. It's obvious to see why the designers don’t want to design something that's going to upset future buyers but I think they've done a great job with this car. It not only looks like a real executive car but it has a clever balance of sporty touches thanks to the M-Sport tweaks, deeper front and rear bumpers, subtle side skirts and lovely 19" alloys. The new enlarged kidney grills hark back to the early 5-Series and they really help give this car an aggressive look from the front. I drove the 530d with the optional X-drive. The engine produces 261bhp and it gets to 60mph in 5.4 seconds. It’s very quiet, you can barely hear it at tick over but when worked hard, it does have a great sounding growl. Thanks to Syntak technology the engine is encased with soundproof material. The best seller in the range is going to be the 520d which will account for a staggering 80-90% of sales. The new 5-Series is 100kg lighter than the outgoing car, thanks to the use of aluminium panels; it has helped shed loads of weight. Basically this is the Slimming World version! It is also 36mm longer and 6mm wider meaning passengers sitting in the rear now have more leg room than most other rivals. The boot capacity has also been increased by 10 litres to 530 litres. Thanks to this the current car is 11% more economical and 10% quicker than the outgoing model. Factor in the aerodynamic shape and its class leading 0.22cd figure, this car literally glides through the air. Because of the cars aerodynamic shape and the acoustic glass, wind noise is kept to a bare minimum. Potential owners can opt for the Integral Active Steering which is only available with cars fitted with X-drive BMW's 4-wheel drive system. The electronically controlled set up turns the rear wheels in the opposite direction to the front ones to significantly improve manoeuvrability. At high speed the rear wheels point the same way as the front, thankfully! This helps sharpen turn in and boosts stability. All 5-Series get Driving Experience Control which gives the driver access to comfort, sport and eco pro, each tailoring steering and throttle responses to suit conditions. The optional adaptive dampers priced at £985 help tense up or soften depending on which setting you chose. The system constantly monitors your driving style. This option mated to the Professional Infotainment System works to unlock the Adaptive Mode. This works with the satellite navigation system to continually be ready for upcoming hazards like a sharp bend or junctions. The car I drove had 19" alloys and combined with the adaptive dampers, helped give this motor a very comfortable ride, especially in comfort mode. BMW's Autonomous Driving set up gives the car the ability to accelerate, brake and steer up to speeds of 130mph. It works really well but it does require you to keep reminding it that you are awake and paying full attention, although The Hoff had plenty of faith in Kitt, I'm not sure if I could trust a car to drive itself, personally. The car now has a few gadgets that were originally seen on the 7-Series, LED headlights are standard throughout the range, gesture control works to mute or increase / decrease the volume or to answer calls. The car's interior just has a real quality feel about it and it is up there with the competition, all buttons and switches just ooze quality. The dash is dominated by a 10.25" screen which is very user friendly and it works by either using the rotary dial or touch screen. Apple Car Play is an optional extra priced at £235 and I'm surprised it wasn't fitted as standard. BMW have priced the car at £36,025 and the range topping 540i Sport comes in at an eye watering £49,945! After spending a few days in this car I really didn't want to give the keys back. I really can't wait to drive the M5 when it's launched as that is going to be one hell of drivers’ car. Car supplied by Lloyd Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

Volvo XC 90

My first car was a Volvo 340, it wasn't the most obvious choice for a young lad who had just passed his test. It felt like a tank to drive and it was really heavy on petrol. A few things stick in my mind about that car, the car was built like a tank and the seats were very comfortable. Because it was as aerodynamic as a breeze block I remember it being noisy at speed. The other thing that sticks in my mind is the fact that all Volvo's & Saab's used to have daytime running lights. This is the norm now with all manufacturers giving cars quite funky led lights indeed. When the Volvo XC90 was launched over 10 years ago it became a real sales success. It totally surpassed Volvo's sales expectations and waiting lists quickly formed. Owners were able to buy the car and either sell it for a profit or keep it for a year and not lose a penny. This car just pressed all the right buttons for owners, it a nice enough to look at and it was very family focused indeed. As this car is so well loved by current owners this latest Volvo XC 90 had a lot to live up too. Imagine the pressure the designers and engineers were under to get the new car right. Up until about 6 years ago Volvo was owned by Ford, it was the height of the credit crunch. In their wisdom they decided to sell of Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo. A Chinese company called Geely bought Volvo, after considerable investment they will soon see some rewards. The new XC90 now looks very menacing from the front although the rear looks very similar to the current model. Step inside and it's a different matter indeed. The interior just oozes quality, none of the cars competitors can get anywhere close to it at all. The XC90 is the first car to use a new platform called SPAR I believe there is no connection to the convenience stores!! Volvo have fitted the car with new much more efficient engines, a hybrid version is also available. This promises amazing economy but there is a £10,000 premium to pay, that may outweigh the the potential savings to be made. The Diesel engines promise 50mpg plus economy and the hybrid promises over 112mpg. All cars feature 4-wheel drive and they all have 8 speed gearboxes as standard. In the UK we get 7 seats but in some markets the car is only available with 5 seats. The rear two seats are ideal for anyone under 5ft 8" unlike most competitors who can only accommodate children. Just to prove how family friendly this car is, the second row seat can be supplied with a child seat. With the 3rd row seats up there is still enough room for some bags or a buggy. With the seats folded this car has estate car rivalling space. There is also a handy divider that can be flipped up to stop smaller items from sliding around the boot. Being so family friendly this car has loads space for storage dotted around the cabin. The cars standard suspension is very good on our terrible roads, after driving a car with air suspension I would be tempted to opt for that as it makes the ride quality even better especially when the largest alloys are fitted to the car. Anyone using the car off road can also increase the cars ride height by 40mm which may help if the car is struggling off road. Back to the car's interior and the stunning use of leather and metal make this place a real joy to be. Driving for hours in this environment is just so relaxing and it just oozes class. The dashboard only has 8 buttons and everything is controlled by what looks like a tablet. The home screen controls everything from the navigation to the excellent sound system. The XC90 is a big old beast and the driving position is excellent, you sit very high in the car and you have a commanding view of the road ahead. Volvo are not famed for making sporty cars but in it's R Design trim the car looks amazing. It is also available in either Momentum, gives the car leather upholstery, climate control, Bluetooth, Sat Nav, 10 speakers and MP3 player. Inception gives the car larger alloys, memory seats and plusher interior. The R Design adds a sportier look inside and out. Being a Volvo the cars trump card is safety, there are air bags all over this car, anti whip lash headrests, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring. Volvo's trump card has to be its city safe system. The system applies the brakes if it senses someone or something stepping out in front of you. According to Volvo this car is most safety focused Volvo ever! If you are looking for something other than a X5 or a Q7 this car really should be on your shopping list. From its macho new looks to its stunning interior this car had the X Factor in abundance. Car supplied by Mill Volvo
Car Reviews /

Bentley Bentayga

For years and years now, the Range Rover has been the king off roader’s. They are so capable off road but they are also great for driving over long distances. There are plenty of manufacturers wanting to milk the SUV cash cow: Jaguar, Maserati, Lamborghini, Aston Martin and there is even talk of Rolls Royce building one! When Porsche introduced the Cayenne to the world, purists of the brand were in uproar. But the car’s SUVs account for over 70% of all sales. It's no wonder then, that car makers are desperate to get a piece of the action. Jaguars newly launched SUV the F Pace has become the company's fastest ever selling car. That brings me on to the car I've been driving this month, now get ready for this. I've been driving Bentley’s take on the luxury off roader… the Bentayga. The designer’s brief was to build the world’s fastest, most luxurious off roader. As soon as you enter the car, you can't help but be wowed by the interior. When you start the car and plant your foot on the accelerator your neck is pushed back into the headrest thanks to the unbelievable power. It feels like a power boat with the front end rising under acceleration. Starting the car sounds amazing with the engines growling- it just makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Initially Bentley thought they would sell about 3,500 Bentayga’s per year but this has been increased to 5,500 units. Anyone fortunate enough to be invited to the factory will see Bentayga’s all over the place in various colours. Now here is some news that will send a real shockwave through the very heart of Bentley purists’ necks; apart from the company launching an SUV, there is talk of a diesel engine being introduced for the Bentayga. At the moment the car is fitted with a W12 6lt engine which produces 600bhp and it gets to 62mph in 4.1 seconds, with a top speed of 187mph; pretty impressive figures for a 2.4 tonne off roader. The car is priced from £160k but once you start ticking a few options the price quite easily jumps over the £200k mark. One of the cheaper options is the cars over mats which are priced at £370 and believe me, they are very thick pile mats indeed. Music lovers will love the Naim premium audio system priced at £6,300 but the Tourbillon clock priced at £110k may even make a billionaire think twice about ordering one! The cars styling is very brash. The front is pure Bentley but the back looks a bit like an Audi Q7; no surprise then that the Bentayga is based on the same floor plan as the Audi. The car is very colour dependant so if you're lucky enough to buy one, make sure you get a dark colour with big alloy wheels. I drove a car with 22" alloys and the ride was very comfortable indeed and opting for smaller alloys will improve the ride even more. The air suspension works a treat with most pot holes etc handled with ease. Driving the car through winding roads it cornered with little or no body roll at all. The car has three driving modes from comfort, sport or Bentley mode. In Bentley mode the car drives the way the engineers would recommend. Thanks to the double glazing the car is quiet at speed as well beating all of its competitors quite easily. To help with economy, half of the car’s cylinders shut down. Power is split 40/60 with a bias of power going to the rear. Most owners will expect to return 15mpg around town and possibly about 23mpg on a long run. The car also has the ability to tow 3.5 tonnes and though I can't see many owners having a caravan, I'm guessing it will come in handy for towing horse boxes. The car's interior just oozes quality, where robots are used for heavy lifting but every car is still hand made. The cars leather is just so sumptuous and the wood trims are multi lacquered and very highly polished indeed. Depending on how deep your pockets are you can choose from Californian redwood or even Stone. The Bentayga’s dash is dominated by an 8" touch screen, 60GB hard drive infotainment system. The integrated Satav is very good indeed and also incorporates voice control, text to speak and Wi-Fi, along with other connectivity options. The cars switches and buttons are still top notch, I was disappointed with the indicator stalks which looked cheap and in my opinion even the clock on the dash looked cheap despite being a Brietling. Owners can choose from either three seats in the rear or two, with a raised transmission tunnel and both seats are massaging and they recline. Choosing the four seat car you lose out the chance to fold the rear seats. The boot isn't massive and it only holds 431 litres of luggage. The Bentayga's styling makes it like marmite, the car is an amazing off roader with the luxury Bentley owners demand. The Range Rover has real competition for the first time in years and unlike its competitors it's hand-made in the UK. Car courtesy of Bentley Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

Mercedes GLE Coupe SUV

My earliest memory of the iconic three-pointed Mercedes badge has to be my Uncle’s S Class. Prior to buying the Merc he had always been a Jaguar fan and having been a passenger in both the S-Class and the Jag, I remember them as totally different beasts. The Jag with its lashings of wood and plush upholstery, the majestic leaping car on the bonnet and its seats which were better than those in our house. The Mercedes-Benz with its velour interior and build quality akin to a tank, it was definitely built to last. Being used to my Dad’s Ford Cortina, as good a car it was, it just didn’t have the build quality or the heavy doors of the S-Class. But somewhere down the line, Mercedes lost their way and started to use cheaper parts and it showed. The most over engineered car of the time, 190 is still clocking up stratospheric mileage as a taxi in many European cities and Mercedes started to get a bad name for itself for the poor quality of its builds. But it looks like they are turning the corner now, which brings me perfectly to the car I’ve had the pleasure of driving this month – the Mercedes GLE Coupe SUV. Launched with three engine options – the 3.5L diesel, 4.5L V6 and the AMG 6.3 which is powered by a huge 5.5L V8 twin-turbo – it’s a sporty alternative to the Range Rover Sport and a direct competitor to its German cousin the BMW X6. Unless you have an oil field in your back garden the petrol engine versions of this car are going to be costly to run. As you may expect then, the Diesel engine will be the best selling engine in the range. Don’t let the diesel fool you though, with a top speed of 140mph and 0-60 in seven seconds so it's no slouch. You can expect around 35mpg from the Coupe which is only 4mpg off Mercedes’ own number at 39mpg, though that figure should be helped by the nine-speed automatic gearbox all cars are fitted with. From the two trim specs available, even the base AMG line comes with auto dimming and folding mirrors, parking sensors, reverse camera, heated seats, climate control and DAB radio. For those wanting even more of a refined experience can opt for the Designo line which will add heated and cooling massage seats, 360 degree camera and a Harmon Kardon sound system. The GLE has a real presence on the road and thanks to huge wheels, large Mercedes badge and sporty body kit, will certainly turn heads on roads filled with small Euro-boxes. Speaking of Euro-boxes, which are often renowned for their sharp handling, the Coupe is as smooth as silk around corners thanks to the adjustable driving modes and air suspension allowing it to be as responsive as a car half its size. In comfort mode, the car’s steering feels precise but still quite heavy. Put it into sport mode though and the car transforms. Firmer body control and extra grip thanks to the four-wheel drive systems leaves it wanting to be thrown into corners and tight country roads. Inside, Mercedes have ensured the Coupe’s dash and interior are up to the standard with the C Class interior and although it does look a little busy with so many buttons, you can't fault the materials used. Built for comfort and durability, they are plush to booth the eye and the touch, but feel so well put together that they will last a long time as well. On the topic of buttons, although functional, the Coupe’s multimedia system seems to be over complicated to me. I still prefer the iDrive system from BMW which is much easier to use. Unlike the original X6, the GLE is fitted with three rear seats, and while it may be comfortable enough, tall passengers may find headroom to be a little tight. The GLE is a very good car indeed and it's a perfectly accomplished SUV that gives both the Porsche Cayenne and the Range Rover Sport a real run for their money. If you are looking for something new and unusual the GLE may be your go to car. It has bucket loads of kerb appeal and I'm sure it will be built to last a very long time indeed.
Car Reviews /

Porsche 911

I remember buying my first Porsche like it was yesterday. Looking at the adverts in Top Marques magazine I spotted this reasonably priced car for sale at the Porsche dealership in Edinburgh. I called the salesman and manage to do a deal over the phone as I didn't have a part exchange. I paid the deposit over the phone and I was so excited I was counting the days until I picked the car up. As most of my Uncles loved Mercedes cars I was the first person to own a Porsche in the family. The night before I was going to pick my car up I couldn't get to sleep with excitement. After tossing and turning I guess I finally managed to get to sleep, the train journey to Edinburgh beckoned. The salesman picked me up from the station and promptly whisked me back to the garage to do my paperwork etc. I remember starting the Boxster like it was only yesterday, the hairs on my neck stood up and I really had a tingle down my spine from the noise of the engine and the meaty growl from the exhaust. Most Porsche fans will say the Boxster is not a proper Porsche but let's not forget this car and the Cayenne have helped the company to become the money making machine it is. This brings me on to car I have had the real pleasure in driving this month, the new turbocharged 911. Once again Porsche purists will be appalled to read about the company going down the turbocharged route, the company's justification for doing so is for greater efficiency and economy. With so many manufacturers going down the hybrid electric route it was only a matter of time before the 911 was made more environmentally friendly. The 911 was originally launched back in 1963 and it has been improved every time but this has to be one of the biggest changes to the car ever. The only non turbo version in the range will be the GT3 which for now will still have a naturally aspirated engine. The car is available in either coupe, cabriolet or a targa which is a half way house between the two and with either two or four wheel drive. I have been given the best selling Coupe S to drive, first impressions are the car is not too dissimilar to the outgoing model from the outside. There are new mirrors, more aerodynamic body styling, new door handles and a more retro looking rear air cover. The main changed are to the engine and the cars dashboard, stepping inside the cabin and you realise the 911 really is a car you can drive everyday. The cars dash is leather trimmed and the scattering of aluminium gives the car a real premium feel. The touchscreen controls all of the cars sat nav, phone the inclusion of Apple Car Play makes it easier to play music or view messages. The driver and passenger have plenty of both head and legroom, the two rear seats can be folded for luggage and cases or they are ideal for two young adults. The front boot is ideal for a couple of weekend bags or a small case, just for the record there is more than enough room for a supermarket shop as well. Being such a sporty car with massive alloys and tyres you would expect the ride to be very firm indeed. The car I drove had pasm fitted as standard and what a difference it makes to the cars ride. I can honestly say the imperfections in the road were handled with ease. The cars electronic stability is excellent and it should keep most drivers out of trouble. Should you be unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash then the front, side and window airbags will protect the cars occupants. Optional safety equipment includes blind spot monitoring, active cruise control and more powerful carbon brakes. Given the choice of the 7 speed manual or the 7 pdk auto box I would go for the optional automatic all day long. It simply is a real joy to use and you physically can't change gears as quick as the box does. The manual also has a very heavy clutch which makes driving in traffic more like a workout for your left leg. I always remember hearing horror stories about 911's losing control on bends but this car is no longer intimidating to drive at all. A normal driver now feels like Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel as it is just so easy to drive. The cars steering is just so precise, you simply move the wheel and the car goes exactly where you want it to. Factor in the amazing road holding and you really have a car to have massive amounts of fun in. The base model Carrera now gets to 62mph in a blistering 4.6 seconds, the Carrera S has so much pulling power you could literally leave it a high gear all day long. The Carrera is supposed to average 38mpg but in the real world most drivers should achieve 30mpg with a mix of town and motorway driving. The 911 comes with leather upholstery, sat nav, digital radio and dual zone climate control as  standard. The list of options is extensive and most owners can spend another £10,000 above the cars list price with consummate ease. The new turbocharged engine makes the car more efficient than ever and the bonus of better economy makes this car an even more practical car to drive daily. Despite the engines being a touch more refined this car is still the class leader and I can honestly say I didn't want to give the keys back!! Car supplied by Porsche Newcastle.
Car Reviews /

Volvo S90

Anyone who has read my car reviews with a good memory may actually remember my first car was a Volvo 340. My silver dream machine was quite old but that didn’t matter- it was my first car and I was proud as punch of it. The electric windows didn't work and it wasn't very economical at all but I do remember the car having great seats and it being built so strongly. Another thing I still remember to this day were the daytime running lights, only Volvo and Saab drivers would have their side lights on no matter how bright it was. With LED running lights this wouldn’t be so unusual now but 25 years ago other drivers would flash you as they didn't realise you had no control over them whatsoever. Let's fast forward to 2016 though and I can tell you I've been very privileged to drive the new S90; this car is aimed at the BMW 5 series, Jaguar XF, Mercedes E Class and the Audi A6. The previous Volvo was a firm favourite for taxi drivers and the police loved the sporty T5. This car was launched over 20 years ago, was always a boxy looking car and it still hasn't lost the box styling but is far more cooler now and totally different to its competitors.     Volvo is currently on a roll with the XC90 still selling like hot cakes, this doesn't surprise me at all because it’s a fantastic car. With that in mind, I had very high expectations for this new S90. It's based on the same chassis as the XC90 so Volvo should have another winner on its hands. The S90 is being launched with 2 diesel engines. The first is the D4 which is a four-cylinder 2lt engine which gets to 62mph in 8.2 seconds and it emits 116g/km of co2. The other engine that is badged D5 and that gets to 62mph in 7.3 seconds this engine only comes with four-wheel drive and emits 127g/km of co2. There are also two petrol engines but they won't be coming to these shores. A hybrid S90 should be interesting as it has 402bhp and it emits a measly 44g/km of co2. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to drive this plug in hybrid but I do think this car could really be the pick of the range. It will be great to see what the designers have up their sleeves with the R Design as this will turn the cars from slightly frumpy to full on sporty. The car has been priced slightly higher than the equivalent 5 series which is a very bold move indeed. The base car is priced at £32,555 with the range topping car costing £45,000. The car has two trim levels. Momentum is the equivalent of BMW's SE. Cars come with leather, dual zone climate control, LED headlights and a 9" infotainment screen which dominates the dash. The top spec is Inscription which adds diamond cut alloys, nappa leather and a bigger display between the instrument dials. The cabin really is beautiful, the use of materials from the soft leather to the real wood it's a great place to spend time. The uncluttered facia design just oozes quality; my personal favourite is the stop start button - instead of pressing the button, you twist the knob to start the car, I know it's a simple thing but it kept me happy. There is plenty of room for the driver and passengers alike. The Bowers &Wilkins speakers were excellent, they pump out 1400 watts from the 19 speakers and I've never heard Drake and Rihanna sound so good in my life. The chassis is very comfortable - the ride is very relaxing but it isn't as agile as the 5 series or the Jaguar XF. The Volvo is a very refined long distance cruiser. Around corners and bends, it isn't quite as fun as either the BMW or the Jaguar. The large alloys spoil the ride quality but they fill the wheel arches - knowing all of this I would opt for the large alloys all day long. Volvo have always been pioneers of safety and technology and their latest innovation is Pilot Assist. This system works at speeds up to 20mph. It's not fully autonomous but you have to keep your hands on the wheel and the car can keep you in the right lane and it watches out for any forthcoming hazards. It is semi-autonomous and it takes the strain out of busy commutes. This car is a real breath of fresh air in this segment and the car's interior is one of the best around right now. Volvos still feel like they are tanks, the doors close with a reassuring clunk and I do think anyone who is in the market for something a bit different should not hesitate to give this great car a chance. Car courtesy of Mill Volvo
Car Reviews /

Range Rover Evoque Convertible

I was very lucky to be invited to the UK launch of the Evoque convertible in Christchurch, which has to be one of the most beautiful places in England. I was there with fellow journalists who all write for lifestyle magazines, so imagine me representing Luxe and rubbing shoulders with the writers for Red magazine, Town & Country etc and you have the gist. We all met the car’s designer and the gentleman who planned the Evoque’s excellent sat-nav and infotainment system. We were also given a talk about Land Rover’s involvement in the America's cup. Sorry guys but I must admit I nearly fell asleep through this section as I have no interest in sailing at all - although I do wish Land Rover good luck trying to bring the cup back to England. The Evoque was launched back in 2012 and it became the fastest selling Range Rover of all time. Victoria Beckham was brought on board to design the interior although I'm not sure what her input was at all.  I was one of the many people who bought into the Evoque. Although it started off bring quite reasonably priced by the time you stared adding in specs the car became very expensive indeed. I went for the 5 door diesel Dynamic HSE, despite wanting the coupe I was advised to buy the 5 door for resale.     As most Evoque owners know it is a lovely looking car but I only kept mine a week as it was way too small. The story does have a happy ending though as I managed to swap the car for a nearly new Sport. I suppose I shouldn't have mentioned that! The convertible Evoque is a totally new niche for Range Rover being a truly premium drop-top SUV During the war most of the Jeeps and Defenders had the roofs chopped off for machine guns and such and were very much workhorses with no luxury at all. Nissan chopped the roof off the Murano a while ago but it wasn't a sales success as it just looked odd. The Evoque convertible is nicely in-between style and function. It looks really good with the roof up or down and Instead of using a metal roof the designers decided to go with a fabric roof. The main benefits being weight saving and the fold away roof so there is a decent amount of boot space. The roof can be folded on the move and it lowers and raises in 20 seconds. Despite the roof being axed the Evoque was still very rigid with no scuttle or rattles in the cabin at all. This may have been due to the extra weight of the under-body reinforcement and the suspension has been strengthened which adds over 300kg over the coupe Evoque. Despite the extra weight it was still great to drive at speed and it savoured corners and winding roads. The boot has 251 litres of room or enough room for a few overnight bags or a trip to the supermarket for a weekly shop. Owners have two trim options and they are either HSE Dynamic or HSE Dynamic Lux, with a fully-spec car costing up to £52,000. Both engine choices are 2lt engines and despite the diesel being economical the petrol engine is the best choice all day long. The petrol engine produces 237bhp and it gets to 62mph in 8.6seconds and its top speed is 130mph. The best-selling engine will be the diesel which produces 171bhp and it gets to 62mph in 10.3 seconds getting to a top speed of 121mph. As with any Range Rover this car excels off road even if most owners will never venture that way. Even if they do it is generally mounting the pavement outside of the school. The car is fitted with sophisticated four wheel drive and it switches to front wheel drive when cruising and also features a 500mm wade capacity. I’m guessing it wouldn't be good for people who sadly suffered in the recent floods this year, but it might be interesting to go through shallow rivers or the like. As with other Evoques the convertible is fitted with hill descent control and all-terrain progress control which would get most owners out of tricky conditions. Once you step inside the car you are greeted with a very nice interior as the leather and piano black trim just ooze quality. The heated seats are a nice touch, with self-parking and the rear sensors essential as the rear window is tiny. I drove the orange coloured car and coupled with the black alloy wheels it really looked very smart. The infotainment system is much better than the previous Evoque's with the dash dominated by a 10.2 inch screen and the use of Google maps making for a much better system overall. It was very easy to pair my phone to the system and everything was very user friendly. I'm sure this Evoque will sell like hot cakes as it has no competition at the moment. You have the practicality of a four-wheel drive car with the option to drop the roof whenever we get our Great British “summer”.
Car Reviews /

Porsche 718 Cayman

Prior to introducing the Boxster and Cayman, Porsche was a company in big trouble. They went on to become sales phenomena, helping put Porsche back into profitability. After owning quite a few Boxsters I remember with excitement ordering a Cayman. It was always called the poor man's 911 but personally thought it was kinder to call it the thinking man's Porsche. I remember watching Top Gear one night with Jeremy Clarkson reviewing the Cayman. Knowing his hatred for Porsches, I watched, eagerly waiting for him to hate the car. It's a well-known fact in the car industry that what Clarkson says can make or break a car. Having ordered my car I was waiting to see what he had to say. I'm sure he liked it but he trotted out the familiar ‘poor man's 911’ line and promptly decided to re-name the car a Coxster. When I started the car up for the first time the noise made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The engine is behind you and with the blaring exhaust, it made for a truly memorable drive home - especially with its exemplary handling. I really couldn't wait to get my hands on the keys and take it for another drive. A trip to the Lakes was on the cards and the weather was great with the perfect car for the day at hand.     As I get to drive different cars most weeks it's interesting when I get some feedback from people. I think the colour of the Cayman- a metallic Miami blue - just made it look really amazing and attracted a fair bit of attention. Normally no one comments on the car but with this machine, loads of people commented on just how beautiful it looked. At first glance, the new Cayman doesn’t seem too different to the model it is replacing. However, I’m informed that only the roof, bootlid and windscreen are the same, with every other panel being changed. The new model has what can only be described as a sweat band running along the back of the car, with Porsche lettering running along underneath the third brake light. A bit of a jigsaw puzzle, the Cayman features front suspension from the 911 Turbo and rear suspension with bits from the GT4 especially when it comes to lateral stiffness. The S also features beefed up brakes from the 911 with four-piston callipers and thicker discs. The 911 has always been the benchmark for two seater sports cars. So the Cayman, with its new smaller turbocharged engine, had a great deal to live up to. It has two engine choices like the previous Cayman. The difference now is both engines are not only smaller but they are both turbocharged as well. You can choose from either a 2.0lt or 2.5lt engine which get to 62mph in 5.1 and 4.6 seconds with top speeds of 170mph and 177mph respectively. In the right hands or feet the car should return around 35mpg but while I had the car, I managed to average around 20mpg. As I've said the engine is mounted behind the driver so not only does that help give the car perfect weight distribution it also gives you two boots. One behind the engine and one at the front. As the engine powers the rear wheels all the front wheels have to do is steer – something they do well. The feedback is brilliant and I for one am a fan of the electric steering. Unlike some I've tried recently Porsche have nailed it with excellent feedback through the steering wheel right into your hands. The cars subtle exterior design tweaks really look great, but inside the car looks just like the 911 and the dash and multi-media system is light years better than the previous car. The system comes with Apple Play so it's much easier to link your iPhone and access music and entertainment via the touchscreen display. The optional Porsche Adaptive Suspension lets you choose from Normal or Sports mode - sport is more at home on a race track as you feel every imperfection in the road and we all know how bad some of our roads are in the UK. Owners will really relish driving this car down some country roads as it really feels planted to the road and there is virtually no body roll at all. Put the car into sport mode using the new dial on the GT steering wheel and the engine really comes to life. From the first popping and rasping exhaust noises, you really want to downshift all the time just to hear the amazing noise from the engine; saying that the new smaller engines just don't have the same amazing soundtrack of the previous six cylinder engines. As with all Porsche cars it's very easy to go mad with the spec sheet. the Cayman comes with air conditioning, part leather upholstery, digital radio, parking sensors and heated seats as standard. For me the car needs large alloy wheels and the excellent PDK gearbox. They are priced from £40k for the base 718 and the S comes in at £49k - but believe me when I say they can become really expensive once you start ticking the options on the spec sheet. If you are looking for a well-engineered two seater coupe the Cayman is still the best car by miles and you can't help smiling after every drive. Car supplied by Porsche Newcastle
Car Reviews /

Porsche 718 Boxster

I was feeling the love recently when I was invited to four separate Porsche garage launches for the 718. I decided to go to our local Porsche garage at the Silverlink and it was really great to see some of the old team - yes I'm talking about you Sid! I've always had a soft spot for the Boxster as it was my introduction to the Porsche family. I remember the deal as if it was yesterday from start to finish. I bought a copy of Top Marques and saw this Boxster for sale in Edinburgh. A week later I was picking it up. When I started the car up for the first time the noise made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The engine is behind you and with the noise from the exhaust, it made for a truly memorable drive home especially with its exemplary handling. After seeing the 718 being launched I really couldn't wait to get my hands on the keys and take it for a drive. A trip to York was on the cards and the weather was great so I had the perfect car for the day.     As I’m lucky enough to get to drive different cars most weeks, it's interesting when I get some feedback from people. I think the colour of the car and its red roof just made it look really amazing indeed. Normally no one even comments on the car, but the 718 was getting a few enviable looks, with people commenting on just how beautiful the car looked. The Boxster has always been the benchmark for two seater sports cars so the 718 has a great deal to live up to. It has two engine choices like the previous Boxster. The difference now is that both engines are not only smaller but are both turbocharged. You can choose from either a 2.0lt engine or a 2.5lt engine getting to 62mph in 5.1 and 4.6 seconds and top speeds of 170mph and 177mph respectively. In the right hands the car should return around 35mpg and not surprisingly, whilst I had the car I managed to average around 20mpg! As I've said, the engine is mounted behind the driver so not only does that help give the car perfect weight distribution it also gives you two boots – one behind the engine and one at the front. As the engine powers the rear wheels all the front wheels have to do is the steering. The feedback from the handling is brilliant and I for one am a fan of the electric steering. Unlike some I've tried recently, Porsche has nailed it with excellent feedback through the wheel. The cars subtle design tweaks really look great but inside the car looks just like the 911 with the dash and multimedia system lightyears ahead of the previous model. The system comes with Apple Play so it's much easier to link your iPhone and to access music and media via the touchscreen display. The optional Porsche adaptive suspension lets you choose from normal or sport mode. This is more at home on a race track as you feel every imperfection in the road and we all know how bad our roads are here! Owners will really relish driving this car down some country roads as it really feels planted to the road and there is virtually no body roll at all. Put the car into sport mode using the new dial on the GT steering wheel and the engine really comes to life. From the popping and rasping noises from the exhaust, you really want to downshift all the time just to hear the symphonies from the engine. The 718’s roof can be opened and closed on the move, despite being a cloth roof the wind and road noise isn't that bad at all, you can quite easily hold a conversation while driving on the motorway. The rear visibility isn't excellent though and I found myself needing to use the rear parking sensors all of the time. As with all Porsche cars it's very easy to go mad with the spec sheet. The car comes with air conditioning as standard, part leather upholstery, digital radio, parking sensors and heated seats. For me the car needs large alloy wheels and the excellent PDK gearbox. They are priced from £42,000 for the base 718 with the S coming in at £51,000 - but believe me when I say they can become really expensive once you start ticking the options on the spec sheet. If you are looking for a well-engineered two seater convertible the 718 is still the best car by miles and you can't help smiling after every drive. Car supplied by Porsche Newcastle
Car Reviews /

Nissan GT-R

My earliest memory of driving a Nissan was buying a locally built Primera. It felt good to buy a car not only that was made locally but it was built as if it were made in Japan. The car was as dull as dishwater but its excellent gearbox and all-round reliability made this car something I really grew to like very much. The car I have driven this month is the Nissan GT-R and having driven this car over six years ago, I can't even begin to explain just how much I was looking forward to driving this beast once again. The very first GT-R came out in 1969; this 2lt mean machine wore the Skyline badge. A coupe version followed in 1971 and a replacement model came out in 1973, limited to just 197 cars. That was the end of the Skyline name until 1990 when Nissan decided to enter racing and the marque was reborn.  This brings me on to the latest most recognised version of the GT-R the latest incarnation of this Japanese supercar has become even better than the excellent car I drove those six long years ago.     In my last review a friend of mine had just bought a GT-R but due to her becoming a grandmother recently she has sold the car. As a treat I decided to take her out for a spin in the GT-R I had and she was tempted to go straight the garage and order one. If she does I want a commission, guys. Nissan have made only subtle changes to the car but it's really a force to be reckoned with. From what I remember the only changes I noticed on the outside of the car were the LED lights incorporated into the front bumper. Any GT-R buffs please excuse my ignorance if I have missed out anything else new, but I didn’t notice it. The car has a drag co-efficiency of 0.27 making the car very sleek. If you haven't seen a GT-R before you can't help but notice the massive tyres and the huge rear exhaust pipes, it could quite easily be a Batmobile. Driving this car you realise just how big and muscular the car actually is, driving around town or along narrow roads can be scary for the inexperienced. Ordering the GT-R in Nismo mode makes this car even more focused and performance tuned but will set you back an eye watering £120,000. The other new version available is the Track Pack GT-R this is an extra £10,000 over the standard car but it is a much more track focused car with firmer springs, lighter Nismo wheels and improved brake cooling. The rear seats have been removed and combined with the new lighter alloys helps save 20kg in weight. If I am being totally honest I personally think the standard GTR is amazing value and I don't think the extra 10k makes the already fantastic car any better at all. Anyone used to a Porsche 911 will find the interior quite an afterthought. It seems as though the designers really knuckled down with the exterior design and the engine but they left the cars’ interior to some young novice. The dash is dominated by a screen which not only has an array of options and data read-outs but has so many buttons it can be quite bewildering. The interior trim and plastics are really very cheap and pretty nasty. I'm sure in my last review I likened the plastic to recycled Bic pens and the screen was like something from Dixons. Fans of the GT-R will no doubt say the car is about the performance and handling. With that in mind it has to be said this car is unbelievable on both counts. The standard model has 523bhp and it gets to 60mph in a mind boggling time of less than three seconds and thanks to the excellent four-wheel drive the car feels glued to the road. Each engine is bench tested at full revs for 10 minutes and the tyres are filled with nitrogen as air is just too unpredictable. The dual clutch gearbox is as good as Porsche’s PDK box. The GT-R’s gearbox can be adjusted from snow mode to R-mode. This changes the shift speed and pattern. In R-mode the engine runs to the limiter. This setting is ideally suited to the track. Parking the GT-R can be quite nerve racking as the slightest touch of the throttle and the car lurches forward. If you perform a three point turn when the car is cold you will hear a great deal of noise from the front differential. Despite driving the car in comfort, I still found the ride very harsh around town or at slow speeds. The standard car has two rear seats which are really only useful for young kids and if a six foot driver sits in the front there is virtually no space in the rear at all. The boot has plenty of room for two sets of golf clubs, so keen golfers will be happy as they have space galore. The car comes with a three year or 60,000 mile warranty and it needs to be serviced every 6000 miles. If you do want to buy this beast it may be advisable to purchase the servicing pack which will save you money over the ownership of the car. The GT-R really has to be the most value for money supercar on the market. It has the power and pace to keep up with Porsche and Ferrari but on tricky roads the car makes you look like a formula one driver. Just as I was about to finish this review I noticed Nissan showcasing the new 2017 GT-R in New York. Once again it's hard to notice the differences on the outside but thankfully the designers have given the interior a real once over. I can't wait to drive it and let you know my thoughts again.
Car Reviews /

Jaguar F Pace

Readers of my reviews may remember my first memory of a Jaguar being my Uncle's XJ with the pouncing Jaguar on the bonnet. Being a young boy at the time being enclosed in a sea of stunning leather, beautiful carpets and lashings of wood made his car more appealing than my parents’ house. Imagine my excitement then, when I could finally buy my own Jag and I didn't do things by half either. Instead of buying an X type I decided to go full hog and swap my Porsche Cayman for a stunning XK Coupe. When my friends or so called friends had found out what I'd done they said I would need a pipe and slippers. Going from the best two-seater sports car to a large four-seat grand tourer was beyond them all. The Jag was such a stunning car it made absolute sense to me. The drive to the garage in the Cayman was brilliant as there were loads of winding and twisting country roads. The drive back home in the Jag wasn't quite as exuberant as the drive in the Cayman. It sounded amazing but it was nowhere near as much fun to drive as the Porsche. Corners just couldn't be taken with the same speed or confidence at all but still I loved the Jag as it was not only stunning to look at, but it was so sumptuous inside.     This brings me on to the car I've been driving this month, the new Jaguar F Pace is Jaguars first SUV. As with most other manufacturers everyone is desperate to get onto making an SUV as they mean big profits for the manufacturer and we all love them - the F Pace has already become Jaguars fastest selling car in history, priced from £35k, the F Pace has been firmly aimed at the Porsche Macan, Mercedes GLC and the BMW X4. The first thing you will notice is just how sporty the car looks, my car was the R Sport and featured wheel arch filling alloy wheels. My white model with black alloy wheels just looked the business. The standard suspension is quite firm and when you add large alloy wheels the ride becomes harder again. If you're more interested in comfort, you would be better off sticking with the standard wheels as when coupled with the optional adaptive suspension, the car becomes very comfortable. You have the choice of either a 2lt diesel, 3lt diesel or a 3lt petrol engine. They average 53mpg, 47mpg and 31mpg respectively, although the most popular engine is likely to be the 2lt diesel. The F Pace is priced from £35k for the Prestige and this rises to £52k for the range topping S. Having driven the 2lt diesel before I know it will be not only slow but a very noisy engine to choose. Luckily I was given the 3lt diesel to drive and it was very quick, economical and not very noisy at all. In this small body the engine felt very quick and quiet with wind and tyre noise kept to a minimum, even at motorway speeds. The car's interior is very plush and it feels very classy. From the rotary gear selector to the two tone leather interior it just smacks of quality. The dash mounted screen controls, the sat nav, all just oozes quality. All buttons and stalks have a real premium feel and the interior is on par with its competitors. There are plenty of cubbie holes for storage and the door bins are a good size, I had plenty of room for my keys and sweets. Passengers in the rear have a decent amount of room although entry into the rear is slightly harder as the rear doors aren't very wide at all. The F Pace beats all of its competitors with the largest boot in its class with either its seats up or down. The range starts with the Prestige which comes with 18’ alloys, 8’ touch screen, sat-nav, heated seats, part leather seats and dual zone climate control. The Portfolio adds 19’ alloys, xenon lights, electric seats, power boot, panoramic roof, keyless entry and updated speakers. The R Sport also gets a sporty body kit. All models come with a system which detects impending head -on collisions and prevents them. The F Pace is a welcome addition to the booming SUV market. I'm not sure how good it will be to drive off road but I'm sure the closest most drivers will get to going off road will be mounting a pavement. Car supplied by Stratstone Jaguar, Newcastle
Car Reviews /

Infiniti Q30

I am quite sure if you were to ask the vast majority of the British public to name five car manufacturers, none of them would even dream of mentioning Infiniti. But ask the very same question in the States and I am sure quite a lot of people would mention them. When you consider the brand was originally launched 25 years ago they really do not have any brand awareness in the UK at all. In a valiant attempt to take on the Germans at their own game, Nissan, Toyota and Honda all launched premium brands. As I have mentioned before, in America they have managed to outsell their competitors by making their cars not only look great but jam pack them with technology, with the trump card being the car’s excellent reliability. Infiniti was originally launched in Europe about eight years ago when they introduced the Q45 which looked very nice. This smart looking car didn't put Infiniti on the map but now they are here with a bang, thanks to clever F1 sponsorship with the Red Bull team. They are also looking to enter a car into the BBTC. They have invested heavily into designing all of the dealerships to look amazing. As soon as you walk into the showroom the place just screams quality. And thankfully, for a change, Infiniti have chosen our very own local super group Vertu to lead the charge in spreading the word about this company. The new Q30 is the car to put Infiniti on the map, and best of all it is being built in Sunderland at the Nissan plant. The staff have been retrained in how to build a premium car that is firmly aimed at the BMW 1 series, Mercedes A Class and the Audi A3.     This car looks very smart indeed and you can't help but think it's a small SUV. Infiniti are launching a Q30 SUV next year called the QX30. In the right colour with the right wheels, this car looks simply amazingly. The cars suspension and engines come courtesy of Mercedes. We therefore have a Japanese car that is built in Sunderland with essential German components. The car's doors have a real reassuring German sounding thunk and the team at Sunderland have really excelled themselves with the build quality. When you step inside the car the soft touch materials really ooze quality. The car's cool interior makes a nice change to its competitors quite boring looking interiors. The Infiniti’s infotainment system is all controlled via an iDrive style controller which if I am being honest, isn’t as good as its competitors versions. Infiniti have used the Mercedes parts bin to the max, it has to be said this is not a bad thing at all. The best-selling car in the range is likely to be the 1.5lt Diesel engine which has been sourced from Renault. The other two engines are supplied by guess who! Yes you're right, they are supplied by Mercedes and it may not surprise you to know the dual clutch gearbox is also courtesy of Mercedes. A manual gearbox is available with smaller engines and larger engines get the option of four wheel drive. The car available in three trim levels. The entry car is the SE, followed by the Premium and the range topping trim, the Sport. In this guise the car gets lower and stiffer suspension and much more aggressive looking bumpers. The car's steering is also weighted to give the driver a much sportier feel. To try and address this noise and refinement issue the engineers at Infiniti have attempted to alter the acoustics by using noise cancelling technology. I can honestly say the 1.5lt diesel I drove was very noisy and maybe the noise cancelling technology wasn't working at all though it was very economical even with my lead right foot. The car has sufficient poke to overtake and the power is delivered in a seamless manner. The car's trump card is its fantastic handling. The suspension keeps the passengers extremely well cushioned from our terrible roads and whenever you feel like driving the car in a sporty manner it really steps up to the plate and it doesn't disappoint at all. At speed the car really suffers from excessive wind and tyre noise and unfortunately not even the boffins at Infiniti have managed to solve these issues. The 1.5lt engine really needs to be worked hard to make any real progress while the 2.0lt petrol engine is slightly sportier. The car is priced from £20,550 with the range topping car costing £27,300. Passengers have plenty of headroom and the boot is also a decent size for most growing families. This car will definitely put Infiniti on the map but it doesn't quite beat the class leading Audi A3. Anyone looking for something slightly more different to the boring German competitors should head on down to our local Infiniti dealership. I am sure Jeff and his great team will look after any potential customers. Anyone who saw me driving the understated blue chrome wrapped car will be devastated to know it's been sold, but you could always get a gold wrapped car which seems to be the latest craze in the Middle East! Car courtesy of Vertu. Infiniti
Car Reviews /

BMW i8

Being such an aspirational purchase for me at the time, I remember buying my first BMW like it was yesterday. We take the brand for granted now but 20 years ago there weren't as many around, so it felt like a real achievement to own one of these amazing cars. Prior to buying my 320i I would normally buy either a Japanese car which despite great reliability, were really dull and boring to drive. My 320i was a high mileage rep mobile, but I still remember how the car felt like new despite its age which stands as a testament to BMW’s exceptional engineering. The car I had the pleasure of driving was the stunning new i8 which looking at, you could easily believe it was a concept car with its very futuristic styling. The car’s look reminds me of the BMW M1 from the front and it reminds me of the Jaguar XJ220 from the side. I am sure you will agree neither were ugly cars. The latest trend for most manufacturers is to have at least one hybrid model in its range. Even Ferrari, McLaren and Porsche have got in on the act with supercars fitted with both electric motors and petrol engines. As you can imagine these cars are not only amazing to drive and filled with technology they are also well and truly out of the range of most people. I wouldn't class the i8 as a cheap car but compared to the cars mentioned above, it’s a relative bargain at £100k - plus you can receive a £5k rebate from the government. The i8 is fitted with a three-cylinder 1.5lt engine and two electric motors. It’s a combination of power which gets the car storming to 62mph in 4.4 secs, and a top speed of 155mph.     Believe it or not, the same engine is also fitted to the MINI - but thankfully in the i8 it has been supercharged to produce 231bhp. The motors and engine combined produce 357bhp with the engine driving the rear wheels and the electric motors driving the front wheels. This explains the cars exceptional road holding and fantastic grip levels. Throw in exceptional feedback from the steering wheel and bring on those country roads. The engineers have also used some amazing sound technology to make the engine sound really sporty – more like a rasping V6 than a 3 cylinder engine. On electric power alone it is possible to drive the car for up to 22 miles. While I had the car I never needed to charge the batteries; all I had to do was to put the car into sport mode and all of the clever technology charged the batteries while I was driving. I managed to achieve 35mpg but this was way off the headline grabbing figure of 135mpg. The car only emits 49g/km which makes this car congestion charge exempt in London, making it a very good car for businesses as its benefit in kind makes it much cheaper to run than equivalent sports cars. As BMW's have always been advertised as being the ultimate driving machine, they have gone to great lengths to make sure the body is very light. They have also gone to extreme lengths to make sure the car has perfect 50/50 weight distribution, with the use of carbon and light composite plastics helping achieve this in the cockpit, and aluminium has been used to save weight elsewhere. The scissor doors do look amazing but entry and exit from the car is quite awkward as the sills are quite high. Once you finally manage to get into the car you need to reach up to close the door. A self-closing door would have been a nice touch but I can only imagine it was either too expensive or too heavy to make it viable. Once inside, the interior is very BMW with the dash angled towards the driver and the speedo and rev counter looking very funky indeed. A static screen allows you to see how economically you’re driving along with information about which motors are being used and so on. The screen also works the SatNav and entertainment features via the iDrive system. Vision from the rear window is really limited and the rear sensors will need to be used quite a lot. One area where this car is let down is its lack of boot space. The rear boot is only capable of taking a couple of soft travel bags. I would personally use the rear seats to hold luggage as they are too small to sit in and access to the rear is quite difficult. After driving this amazing looking futuristic car, I can safely say the future is bright especially with the use of this technology and when it's combined with a petrol engine.   Courtesy of Lloyd BMW.
Car Reviews /

Aston Martin DB11

Aston Martin was founded in 1913 by Lionel Martin and Robert Bamford and they became associated with luxury grand touring cars in the 50s and 60s. As a company they have specialised in producing cars at home on the racetrack as they are on the roads. Often making appearances at long distance races including the world famous Le Mans, they actually got their start in the hill climbing world. The company has had a bit of a chequered financial history; the company was purchased by David Brown in 1947 with Ford taking ownership in 1994. In 2007 Aston was taken over by a consortium of investors led by David Richards who later became chairman in 2007. Aston’s new CEO Andrew Palmer has big plans for the brand. In 2007 the company had its best ever year for sales with 7,000 cars sold. In 103 years Aston have only sold 70,000 cars! In 2020 Mr Palmer wants to sell 140,000 cars which is quite a substantial number of cars for such a short space of time. To get them to this target the company is launching the new Vantage & Vanquish in 2018 and a SUV titled the DBX in 2019. The other car hoping to be a sales phenomenon is the DB11 which is the machine I’ve had the pleasure of driving. This DB11 is replacing the highly successful DB9. It looks stunning and is amazing from every angle with the car’s wing vents being visually stunning and highly useful – jetting air out of the front wheel arches to reduce drag. The rear spoiler takes air pressure from the back of the rear window and pushes it through the edge of the boot to reduce drag even further. The body is 30mm longer than the DB9 and the wheelbase has been extended by 65mm,  achieved by moving the front wheels forward. The car’s suspension has unequal length front wishbones and new multi-link rear with adjustable dampers, steel brakes and aluminium callipers. The car has three ride settings- GT, Sport and Sport Plus. In Sport the dampers are stiffened and steering and throttle response become much sharper indeed. In GT mode the car soaks up good old British potholes with ease and makes for a very comfortable drive, even at speed. To help reduce weight the car has glued and riveted sections which has trimmed 20kg off the slimline DB11.   Aston have used a Bosch electric steering system which works very well and feels equally as responsive. Specially developed 20’ tyres are used to stabilise the car through corners and turns and reduce torque steer, while a new 5.2lt V12 with two turbos has been fitted to the DB11, meaning it pumps out 600bhp and it should be good for 200mph. Aston have fitted an eight-speed gearbox to the DB11 and it gets to 62mph in 3.9 seconds. While I had the car I managed to average 17mpg – well off the Aston Martin quoted figure of 25mpg. The exhaust note is still amazing and it sounds so much better than its turbocharged rivals. At 7,000rpm it just sounds amazing. This is partly due to the exhaust silencer valves which allow the car to be started quietly if needed. Stepping inside the car and as you would expect from a hand-made vehicle it's just totally stunning inside. The new dash and facia help bring Aston up to date and there are a few scatterings of metal especially around the air vents. I hate to say this but I really think the dash looks cheap and no way near as special as previous Aston's. The speedo and other dials are digital and not analogue like previous DBs and I just don't think they have the quality of say a Range Rover.  I didn't realise Mercedes own a small stake in Aston but the giveaway for me was the single stork which has always annoyed me about Mercs. A central screen dominates the dash and thankfully the sat-nav and the radio are all controlled via the touchscreen. Previous Astons had a beautifully designed key which was inserted into an  emotional control unit better known as a key slot on the dashboard. Potential owners now have a keyless go with a starter button all of which isn't as fancy but it's much more practical. The rear seats are ok for youngsters, but I think any adults sitting in the rear would not be comfortable. As you may expect the boot isn't massive but you should be able to get a set of golf clubs but not much else. This car is a stunning car and it drives really well, priced from £155,000 it isn't exactly a steal but its only competitor is the Continental GT which is heavier and not quite as nice to drive. Astons MD is going to personally sign off the first 1,000 cars to make sure they meet his very high standards. If you are lucky enough to be able to buy one you will be very happy indeed. Car courtesy of Aston Martin Newcastle