For visitors travelling on the old roman road towards Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Anthony Gormley’s rusting Angel of the North is the first indication of the city’s blossoming artistic identity. With its industrial past still impacting its creativity, Newcastle has developed into a contemporary cultural hotspot whilst maintaining its strong heritage. A decade of regeneration has inspired a confidence in the city’s dining establishments – we take a look at the top ten restaurants in the heart of Newcastle.
Newcastle is renowned for its beautiful Georgian architecture, but nestled behind the city walls is a restored 13th century Medieval Dominican friary which fittingly houses Blackfriars. With a stonewalled banquet hall and a restaurant occupying the former refectory, it will come as no surprise to learn that the self-proclaimed ‘gutsy’ food served at Blackfriars is decidedly British. Not wishing to adulterate delicious classics, Blackfriars concentrates on preparing spectacularly flavoured traditional dishes leaving you feeling as though you have eaten in the manner and style of a medieval king. Sample the Northumbrian shoulder of lamb navarin with roasted root vegetables or, for something to warm the cockles before braving the Northern elements, opt for the flaky smoked haddock and shellfish chowder.
Artisan @ The Biscuit Factory
As part of Newcastle’s status as the region’s cultural heart, galleries such as The Biscuit Factory have breathed new life into the city’s neglected industrial spaces. Artisan @The Biscuit Factory is a restaurant effortlessly blending the old with the new, serving dishes inspired by hearty, home-cooked meals but with a thread of vibrant creativity. With an unparalleled location in the UK’s largest arts, crafts and design gallery, the award winning head chef of Artisan, Andrew Wilkinson, is surrounded by a cornucopia of ceramics, textiles, paintings and sculpture. He is highly conscious that diners sitting down in Artisan have, prior to their meal, been immersed in the visual arts and thus the food is also aesthetically striking. The menu changes daily depending on the fresh produce available from local suppliers. The recent seasonal showcase of autumnal dishes included the appetising rabbit pithivier, served with smoked bacon, puy lentils and baby leeks.
The Bridge Tavern
The Tyne Bridge brings out a beaming civic pride in residents who are quick to mention that Sydney’s Harbour Bridge was modeled on their humble overpass. Nestled between the stanchions on the north side of the river is The Bridge Tavern, a self-proclaimed ‘brew pub’ specialising in rustic foods and micro-brew beers. Within the Tavern itself, diners can choose to sample ‘sharing planks’ loaded with meats, fish and the popular beef and pork burger sliders, or opt for the ‘bar bait’ of pickled eggs and celery salt, pork fried peanuts and kimchee ketchup to awaken the senses. Choose a light starter before progressing to the hearty character of the mains, promising pulled pork in a soft brioche bun with kimchee slaw and pickles or the flat iron steak with smoked bone marrow butter and triple cooked chips.
COOP Chicken House
Shipbuilding was once an integral part of life on the River Tyne, a specialism that promoted northern England to the position of the UK’s industrial centre. One of Newcastle’s most recently established eateries, COOP Chicken House, takes heed of this historical lesson – if you want to succeed, choose one skill and hone it to a higher standard than that proffered by anyone else. Enjoy the best chicken in the city at COOP Chicken House, with succulent meat charred on the barbeque for just long enough to crisp the skin whilst retaining juicy flavour. The city’s foodies have started to regularly descend upon COOP for evenings spent enjoying communal dining, with deliciously prepared side dishes such as ratatouille, rich and salty halloumi, courgette and pepper skewers and sweet potato fries. For those brave enough to cast aside the simple BBQ or mild chipotle sauces and opt for the ‘Dragon’s Blood Mega Hot Sauce’ respite is on hand in the form of the ever-popular ‘Boozy Coke Float’.
Perhaps two of the most iconic symbols of the North East’s cultural regeneration are the Sage Gateshead and the Baltic Gallery, positioned on the south side of the Tyne. Atop the old flour mill in which the Baltic resides is SIX, a superb restaurant serving delicious cuisine against the beguiling panoramic backdrop of Newcastle. Diners at SIX will be pleased to discover the ideal vantage point in which to sit back, relax and observe the city at large, whilst enjoying champagne, cocktails and afternoon tea. Stay until the evening and partake of the a la carte menu, offering Lindisfarne oysters with cucumber and pickled shallots, roast grouse with creamed cabbage and bacon, beetroot and roasting juices and slow cooked belly of pork with pumpkin puree, pearl barley and sage. SIX has a daily specials offer of two courses for £16.50 and three courses for £18.00.
Jesmond is a quintessentially British suburb with alternating rows of terraces, townhouses and mock-Tudor facades. No one would assume therefore, that hidden within one of the red-bricked buildings is a genuinely authentic taste of East Asia. The menu at Sohe may be limited to around 12 main courses, but those dozen dishes are an expertly curated showcase of Asian cuisine. Vietnamese and Balinese curries offer something lighter against the rich, indulgent Indonesian lamb rump redang, whilst the juxtaposition of Korean beef rib-eye bulgogi with whole roasted Cambodian black bream leaves diners with the pleasant predicament of being spoilt for choice.
The Broad Chare
The Broad Chare is a classic pub bistro restaurant fortunate enough to be adjacent to one of Newcastle’s top cultural venues. The Live Theatre is a fertile creative environment in which some of the UK’s leading new writers are developing their craft. With deep roots in working-class storytelling, Live Theatre makes the ideal partner for the Broad Chare, which promises its patrons ‘proper Beer’ and ‘proper Food’. Fully committed to securing the success of the arts of the Live Theatre, a proportion of the Broad Chare’s turnover is invested back directly into the theatre. The restaurant embraces its quayside location, offering perfectly prepared North Sea hake with salty bacon and autumn mushrooms as well as the delectable North Sea brill, with aromatic samphire and brown shrimps. For those looking for something a little heartier, choose the ever-popular ham shank and Pease pudding.
A classic, modern bistro offering top-notch dishes in the heart of downtown Newcastle, Cafe 21 is the new place to see and be seen in. The selection of dishes is both unusual and tempting, whilst the professional and unfussy staff support diners in every way imaginable. There is an admirable choice of locally sourced produce on offer, including roast Northumbrian venison with beetroots and fresh spring vegetables, as well as Lindisfarne oysters with spicy pork sausages. Leave room after the characteristically hearty northern fare to partake of the delicate flavour promised in the raspberry soufflé with rose petal ice cream.
Newcastle is blessed with such a multitude of small, independent restaurants that it takes something truly exceptional to stand out from the crowd. Quay Ingredient is a small but perfectly formed coffee house by the river, overlooked by the arches of the Tyne Bridge. Early morning wanderers and amblers can take shelter from the perpetual North Sea winds and find sanctuary with one of Quay Ingredient’s exemplary breakfasts. Relax over perfectly boiled eggs and toast soldiers or indulge in a comforting selection of freshly baked mixed Danish pastries. Those looking for something filling to kick-start a day’s exploration can opt for the scrambled eggs with white truffle oil served atop a toasted brioche. Staying for lunch reveals a world of generously sized sandwiches ranging from garlic and chili tiger prawn to pulled beef with bourbon BBQ sauce.
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