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What they’re eating in Newcastle

From mackerel flatbreads on the beach to a local pottery studio that serves sumptuous shakshuka, Newcastle’s food scene is thriving.

Published 29 Nov 2019, 17:00 GMT
Housed in shipping containers overlooking the River Tyne, Träkol is a new hipster favourite.
Housed in shipping containers overlooking the River Tyne, Träkol is a new hipster favourite.
Photograph by The River Brew Co.

It might be known as a party town, but beyond the sticky-floored nightclubs that pepper the so-called Diamond Strip, Newcastle’s food and drink scene is flourishing. Young entrepreneurs have breathed new life into this post-industrial city, with a flurry of culinary start-ups including artisanal butchers, inventive restaurants and small-batch coffee roasters. Disused spaces — from an art deco exhibition centre to a shipping container in an old boatyard — are being transformed into exciting bars and restaurants, all of which put Northumberland’s larder to delicious use. And while the lauded brown ale is still a favourite, it now sits alongside saison and hoppy IPA, with producers such as Wylam Brewery – which recently moved into the 1920s Palace of Arts — and Anarchy Brew Co at the heart of a thriving craft beer scene.

The Ouseburn Valley area is hipster central, with galleries, arts spaces and, more importantly, a fantastic choice of pubs. The Cluny is the place for great live music; The Ship Inn is a cosy spot with a vegan food menu; The Cumberland Arms often hosts impromptu singalongs helmed by local folk musicians; and The Free Trade Inn has views across the River Tyne.

Meanwhile, the neighbouring regenerated Quayside area is home to a great selection of restaurants, including the Michelin-starred House of Tides, and numerous buzzy bars. On top of this, Newcastle remains one of the UK’s friendliest cities — and if you want a crash course in Geordie hospitality, here’s our pick of the best dishes to try.

Aged sirloin with bone marrow and chips at Träkol

Housed in shipping containers overlooking the River Tyne, Träkol is a new hipster favourite that ticks all of 2019’s buzzword boxes: open-fire cooking, using rare heritage-breed British meat that’s aged on-site in Himalayan salt. But it’s by no means style over substance. The aged sirloin, served with smoked bone marrow and the fattest, crispiest golden chips, is the stuff of a carnivore’s dreams: the meat charred and heady with smoke on the outside, blushing and tender in the middle, with bone marrow adding an intense depth of flavour. Wash it down with a beer — the sister tap room next door, By The River Brew Co, is a micro-brewery that makes small-batch specials on-site as well as offering a regularly changing roster of craft beers from other independent producers.

Roast chicken with aioli at Cook House

Food writer Anna Hedworth started her restaurant Cook House in a tiny shipping container in the Ouseburn Valley and, since moving to a bigger site nearby earlier this year, she’s cemented her reputation as one of the city’s most talented chefs. Among the seasonally changing menu of modern, Scandi-inspired plates — all of which showcase local produce — her roast chicken salad is the stuff of legend. It’s served alongside just-charred roasted seasonal veg with silky aioli and a crunchy sourdough crumb. Bright jars of house-made pickles line the shelves and can be bought to take home or eaten alongside charcuterie. Anna also hosts regular workshops with fellow foodie producer Block & Bottle, a butchery and craft beer shop across the river in Gateshead. 

Route turns out masterful small plates at the hand of former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist John Calton.
Photograph by Route

Pork with salt baked turnip, cockles and sea spinach at Route

For pared-back, modern bistro dining, head to Route, which turns out masterful small plates at the hand of former MasterChef: The Professionals finalist John Calton. British ingredients, from oysters to day-boat mackerel, are the stars of his simple-yet-tasty dishes, while the wine list includes both natural and skin-contact varieties. From the regularly changing menu, the pork from Mount Grace farm in North Yorkshire is a standout. Served with fudgy salt-baked turnip, cockles, seaweed and sea spinach, it balances the nostalgic flavours of a Sunday roast with a sea-salt tang.

Mackerel flatbreads at Riley’s Fish Shack

If you want to enjoy some of the UK’s finest seafood cookery, make the short drive from the city centre to Tynemouth. There, on King Edward’s Bay, you’ll find Riley’s Fish Shacka little hut with deckchairs outside and a near-constant queue for the handful of seats inside. From a roaring wood-fired oven, the young team at Riley’s turn out immaculately cooked fish with zingy sides to be eaten from a takeaway box while you enjoy views of the North Sea. The daily catch dictates what’s on offer, but if there’s local mackerel scrawled on the blackboard, order the mackerel wrap. It’s served with crispy roast potatoes, a bright, chilli-spiked green salsa, chopped salad and fluffy, charred house-made flatbreads.

Sunday lunch at Peace & Loaf

During the week, you can sample a modern tasting menu at Peace & Loaf, a buzzy restaurant in the leafy suburb of Jesmond. But come Sunday, it’s all about the roast. Surely the best in the city, it combines chef and founder Dave Coulson’s top-quality ingredients with comforting, traditional flavours that epitomise his ‘fine dining without the fuss’ philosophy. Think crisp-skinned roast belly of pork, burnished gold roast potatoes and carefully cooked seasonal vegetables, brought together with a flavour-packed gravy. Parachute-like yorkshire puddings say much about Coulson’s generosity and attachment to his northern roots; this may be fancy food, but you’re not going home hungry. At three courses for £25, it’s fantastic value too.

Pizza margherita at Cal’s Own

A quiet street in a city suburb isn’t the first place you’d expect to find pizza to rival anything in Naples, but Cal’s Own — set up by young restaurateur Calvin Kitchin — is turning out just that from an imported Stefano Ferrara wood-fired oven. What’s more, it’s got the Italian seal of approval, having received a coveted Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certification. Go classic with the margherita, topped with a sweet san marzano tomato sauce, milky mozzarella and peppery olive oil, all sourced straight from Campania, on a chewy sourdough base that’s satisfyingly mottled from the oven.

Esti’s shakshuka at Kiln

Part Middle Eastern-inspired all-day cafe, part pottery studio, part shop, Kiln is the ultimate laid- back brunch spot in the Ouseburn Valley. More than just a place to eat, it’s at the centre of the creative community in Newcastle, with arts events, exhibitions and a much-loved weekly quiz night. The menu includes dishes such as whipped feta and peaches on thick toast, polenta and eggs with bacon from local butcher Block & Bottle, and lamb and aubergine kofta. However, the standout dish is founder Esti’s shakshuka. A rich, harissa-laced stew of ripe peppers, tomatoes and harissa with sunny-yolked eggs, feta and sourdough, it’s guaranteed to blow away any cobwebs from the night before. Everything is served on hand-thrown pottery made on-site, much of which is also available to buy.

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