With a new wave of micro-breweries, experimental dining spaces and sustainable pop-ups taking over the streets of Newcastle and its neighbouring shores, there’s never been a better time to visit the Northern city and take in its delights. If you’re in search of the other side of the hustle and bustle, away from the late-night bars and nightclubs, here’s is our guide to the top places to eat, drink and sleep.
Having just opened in industrial hotspot Ouseburn Valley (and imaginatively set in two kickstarter-funded shipping containers), Cook House has been a staple for local foodies and tourists alike since its initial inception on Ouse Street, a short walk from its new home. Now in a much larger, and hipper, location, the eatery focuses on locally sourced produce with seasonal fare taking centre stage. Head chef and founder, Anna Hedworth, now has the capacity to run cookery classes, supper clubs and private events – so there’s a real future for one of the most exciting openings of the past year.
STANDOUT DISH: While the breakfast, brunch and dinner menus change daily (depending on the produce that’s available) there are still dishes to look for and take advantage of when they do make an appearance, amongst these being the Korean BBQ skewers (sticky, sweet, charred morsels of meat that disappear in less time than they take to cook on the roaring flames), and crab on toast with fresh samphire – as zingy and vibrant as any we’ve had on a fine spring afternoon along the English coast.
A great spot (and still less over-populated than its more ostentatious competitors), ROUTE is a real ode to fine wine, focussing on over 70 different options including an impressive selection from organic, bio-dynamic and natural producers. While many are by the bottle, there are still a number of fantastic options that can be drunk ad-hoc, with many reasonably priced and generously served. Besides wine, the focus really falls on the restaurant’s ability to procure fresh seafood – so it’s a feast for lovers of the sea. The oysters, normally gathered on the Holy Island off the coast of Bamburgh, are a definite show-stopper, and partner in perfect unison with the restaurant’s starter-staple of black treacle bread.
STANDOUT DISH: Besides oysters (which we’re aware still remain an acquired taste for some), the smoked cod roe, rosti and fennel, priced at just £5 – is the best bang for your buck across the menu. For those keen to steer clear of seafood, the beef rump, sourced from Mount Grace Farm in the Yorkshire dales, show that the restaurant isn’t just a one-trick pony and can handle meat with as much elegance and expertise as fish.
For those with a car, getting towards the coast (only 20 minutes away from the city centre) offers a fantastic opportunity to get a taste of freshest catch of the day and take in the unobstructed views of the coast. While the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park is still an attraction for many, it’s Riley's Fish Shack, nestled on the King Edward’s Bay, that’s bringing a different sort of crowd – intent on whiling away the hours in front of piles of fresh, locally sourced seafood. The ‘shack’, which is, unsurprisingly, a wooden-decked hut usually filled to the brim with salivating tourists keen to get their pile of steaming crustaceans, is normally a no-go during the summer months, but we’d recommend getting there a little before lunchtime to secure one of the much-desired spots overlooking the shore.
STANDOUT DISH: For those seeking seafood, the standout dishes are too numerous to count. By far the simplest, and most popular option – the lobster, served half or whole, is unmissable and just as delicious on a warm summers afternoon, as it was on a rather chilly spring evening when we turned up to try. There is a continous supply of blankets (and a surprisingly effective fire pit) to keep frozen extremities warm on days that are a less forgiving.
Another enterprise born out of shipping containers (clearly an emerging trend across the city given its locality to the port), By The River Brew Co is a ‘container community’ situated under the Tyne Bridge. Its outstanding on-site micro-brewery, which has 20 keg lines and serves an exhaustive list of both local and national beers – offers weekly tours of the brewery every Saturday morning, which includes tastings of up to four beers. If you’re in search of a slightly less boozy day out, the network of crates is also home to a street food market, with weekly rotating guests, and Träkol, a seasonal-inspired restaurant focussing on primitive, outdoor cooking in refined, elegant surroundings.
TOP TIP: Before filling your belly with all the delicacies of the street food market, make your way across to Bike Yard Bike Shop, housed on the same row, for a ‘cortado’ – a speciality Spanish pick-me-up consisting of espresso cut with a small amount of steamed milk. We’ll bet you it’s smoother and more delicious than any flat white you’ll have tried elsewhere.
Known for being one of the most popular (and therefore oversubscribed) places to stay in Newcastle, Jesmond Dene House Hotel is located a mere 15-minute drive away from the city and offers the ‘country house’ feel that is less obtainable in other parts of the city. As one of the few independent hotels in the area, there’s an air of individuality amongst the rooms – with the hotel feeling far more boutique-like than its more centrally-located competitors. Rooms are simple, inoffensive and astoundingly well-priced, making it a great option for those after a fuss-free alternative that isn’t bang in the middle of the flurry of the Newcastle streets.
TOP TIP: We recommend spending the extra £3.50 and upgrading from the continental to the full English breakfast – the grilled craster kipper, while not for the faint hearted, is a real speciality of the house and offers unadulterated pleasure when spread on generously buttered, freshly-baked bread.
With its central location making it one of the best-suited hotels for those looking to enjoy all that the centre has to offer, The Vermont Hotel has become a real establishment in recent years, and while its 1930s-style façade and décor looks a little dated in comparison to the plush chains it surrounds, therein lies its utter charm. The beds may feel a little overly-opulent, with ruffled valances and brocade-style throws, but it’s this sense of old fashioned luxury that feels rare and therefore makes the hotel a real treat.
TOP TIP: Take the lift up to the rooftop for a cocktail before getting to grips with the city. The views, from the historic Tyne Bridge across to St James’ Park, are unparalleled.
Main image credit: Damiano Mozzato Eye Em via Getty Images