Fat Buddha bar and restaurant in Newcastle

Newcastle’s Fat Buddha bar and kitchen unveiled a new menu at the end of June. After sampling several of the Asian-influenced dishes, I chatted with Walter Pang, Fat Buddha’s newly appointed Malaysian-born Executive Chef.

Disclosure: Stuart Forster, the author of this article, was invited to sample the new menu at Fat Buddha and retained full editorial control of this post. Fat Buddha did not review or approve this article. 

“I love Newcastle,” said the chef after taking a seat in one of the venue’s circular booths. Walter revealed he’d been impressed by the friendliness of the people in the north-east of England and had bought a house in the region.

Lightly spiced grilled pork belly served on skewers.
Lightly spiced grilled pork belly served on skewers.

An interview with the Malaysian-born chef

“I come from a poor family. My education was not so good,” said Walter, who grew up in Malaysia. He mentioned how his father was unable to see and that his mother washed laundry to support the family. Walter decided to become a cook so that they would not have empty stomachs.

Walter’s talent in the kitchen was soon recognised and resulted in an opportunity to work in Japan with the Hilton Hotels and Resorts. When he told his parents about the offer he’d received his parents initially suggested that he decline: they had negative memories of the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during World War Two.

That made me look at Walter’s face more closely. He’s in his 50s — significantly older than I’d initially estimated. Was that down to his diet? I wondered.

“The food I cook helps people stay healthy and live longer,” suggested Walter with a grin.

Prior to heading to taking up his current appointment in Newcastle Walter worked in Miami and London, working at Nobu.

Chef Walter at Fat Buddha Newcastle.
Chef Walter at Fat Buddha Newcastle.

Fat Buddha in Newcastle

Domed skylights allowed daylight to flood into the high-ceilinged dining room as I chatted with Walter. The bar, at the front of the room, is by a window providing views onto Pilgrim Street.

The revamped Fat Buddha menu has retained several of the dishes that have proved popular, including honey chilli chicken plus sweet and sour chicken.

Something to drink? A rum based cocktail with ice and passion fruit.
Something to drink? A rum based cocktail with ice and passion fruit.

Asian-influenced cuisine

The tapas-style dishes that are also served as starters prove popular to share. They include chicken lollipops served with a spicy chilli mayonnaise, grilled pork belly skewers and tempura king prawns, served with a chilli dipping sauce.

Among the main course options, Walter has introduced a mild katsu chicken curry and lobster tempura, served in a crisp pancake basket with a Thai-style Sriracha flavoured mayo dip. The succulent lobster is served with the option of salt and chilli fries or rice.

Grilled salmon, served on a bed of wok-fried green asparagus, a Sriracha mayo dip and accompanied by rice is a dish to look out for if you enjoy fish.

Fat Buddha Newcastle is located at the 55 Degrees North roundabout, above Antler, the Alpine-themed bar and restaurant that opened in mid-June. £750,000 was invested in refurbishing the site, within the Royal Arcade building, during the first-half of 2018. It’s less than five minutes’ walk from Grey’s Monument.

Lobster tempura with a Sriracha mayo dip.
Lobster tempura with a Sriracha mayo dip.

Further information

See the Fat Buddha Newcastle (Pilgrim Street; tel. 0191 261 1066) website for further information regarding the menu, opening times and how to make an online reservation.

In the mood for a different style of cuisine? This post, Places to eat in Newcastle upon Tyne, suggests several restaurants in Newcastle.

Visit the Newcastle Gateshead website for more ideas about things to do and see in and around Tyneside.

Like the photos illustrating this post? They are by Why Eye Photography, which is available for food and portrait photography commissions.

Stuart Forster, the author of this post, is an award-winning journalist who has had work published in the likes of Food and Travel magazine. He is based in the north-east of England and available to undertake commissions.

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