Spring has Sprung!

It might not yet be warm enough to swap my boots for sandals but there’s certainly a spring in my step at the moment as I embrace the lighter evenings and brighter weather. I’m going to blame the changing of the seasons on the fact I haven’t blogged for a fortnight as I’ve hardly been at home. Instead I’ve been out and about enjoying NewcastleGateshead in Spring time and I’ve had some visitors to show it off to as well!

I was delighted to welcome my Mum, Dad, Niece Emily and Nephew Jack to stay with me and my boyfriend a couple of weeks ago. Emily and Jack are two now and at a really adventurous age so we took them to explore some of the local parks, Leazes and Jesmond Dene

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Leazes Park is the oldest in the city centre, dating back to 1873 and although it’s right in the heart of Geordieland, it’s really quite peaceful. We went to feed the ducks, but the greedy pigeons stole most of our bread. We also enjoyed a kick about on the grass in the shadows of St James’ Park.

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I thought Jesmond Dene would make the perfect next stop because it’s home to the fantastic Pet’s Corner, where you can say hello to some lovely animals including sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and a range of exotic birds in the newly built aviary. There’s also a great park with slides and climbing frame and much to my parent’s relief, a lovely coffee shop which gave us the chance to warm up after our morning adventure! Having said that, I think Jack and Emily were more interested in splashing about in the puddles, whereas I decided to show them what they were missing by having a go on the swing!

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I was sad to say goodbye to my beloved family but as I waved them off back to Rochdale I reminded myself that next time they visit it will probably be summer and there’ll be even more things we can see and do around Geordieland!

I was also cheered up by the arrival of my next visitor the weekend after, one of my best friends, Gemma, made the trip up the A1 to enjoy the legendary Geordie nightlife!

Before glamming up and heading out on the town for a night of dancing at Hoochie Coochie, we had a few cheeky day time drinks at the Boiler Shop Steamer. The Boiler Shop is a monthly event that offers life music, pop up bars and a mouthwatering range of street food in a really unique venue, Stephenson Works. I reckon it’s one of the jewels in Newcastle’s crown and worthy of a full blog post to tell you more, so for now, here’s a pic of my and mate enjoying a pint of Wylam Brewery‘s finest!

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Are you looking forward to enjoying time out and about in NewcastleGateshead this Spring? To make the most of your time I recommend you download the Official NewcastleGateshead City Guide iPhone app from @altweet_pet so you don’t miss out on what’s going on. And don’t forget to come and visit my blog again soon to find out what else I’ve been up to.

Fat Buddah Review

If you follow me on Twitter (@rachmotormouth) then you probably already know that I work at Metro Radio and my office is on the middle of a roundabout in Newcastle city centre. Working in the heart of Geordieland has many benefits… I can see the wonderful Tyne Bridge from my window, nip out for some retail therapy on my lunch break and best of all, the city’s finest bars and restaurants are all on my doorstep!

Metro Radio shares the Swan House roundabout (named after the region’s famous scientist Joseph Swan) with a fantastic Asian Bar and Kitchen called Fat Buddah and it was the perfect place for my and my boyfriend to grab something to eat before heading off to the Metro Radio Arena to see Miranda last week.
20140319_181953We were greeted by the restaurant’s namesake, his huge golden cheeky face makes me smile every time I walk past, isn’t he fab? The interior at Fat Buddah is also very impressive, it’s modern and stylish and you soon forget the rush hour traffic outside. Although, knowing what the building looked like before it became a restaurant, it is a bit of a shame that it’s beautiful domed ceiling can now only be appreciated if you’re able to get a table upstairs which I think is only open at weekends.

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Instead we were offered a cosy curved booth and it didn’t take us long to choose our starter, crispy lamb and pancakes to share. This arrived with all the trimmings you usually get with shredded crispy duck but was a very tasty (and less fatty) alternative that made a nice change. We washed it down with bottles of Singha and Tiger, two of the many Asian lagers available.

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20140319_191816For our main courses were were absolutely spoilt for choice and almost ordered a selection of Asian Tapas so we could try lots of different things like ‘freshly pan fried chicken scallion dumplings’ and ‘deep fried angry soft shell crab’, sound intriguing don’t they? In the end we opted for individual dishes from the main menu, which is divided in to sections by country so if you prefer a certain style of food you can jump straight to your favourites. I went for ‘Pork ‘Kakuni’, from China which the menu described as ‘slow braised Pork Belly that literally melts in the mouth with Sweet Potato & Asian Pak Choi’. To be fair that was pretty accurate! My other half chose ‘Deep-Fried Monkfish Tail - Served with homemade Wasabi Pepper Sauce on sizzling plate’, the menu had a little red ‘s’ next to this dish so we were expecting it to be quite spicy, it wasn’t, not even for my delicate taste buds, but it was mega tasty and very moorish, especially with the sticky coconut rice he’d ordered to go with it!

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We left Fat Buddah feeling very satisfied, the service and the food had both been spot on and we went on to enjoy a night of belly laughs at the Metro Radio Arena watching Miranda, it really was ‘such fun’!

Netball Superleague at Sport Central

If you’re a regular reader of Life in Geordieland you’ll know that I’m always keen to discover new and interesting things to do in NewcastleGateshead so last Monday I made a return visit to Sport Central to support the North East’s only netball Superleague Team.

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I was last at Sport Central on Northumbria University’s city centre campus back in November to watch the Newcastle Eagles basketball team in action and although the crowd for the Team Northumbria v Yorkshire Jets netball game was much smaller, the girls certainly offered just as much energy and passion on the court!

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As it was St Patrick’s Day, there was also extra entertainment from the Hannon Murphy Irish Dancers who made sure the exciting atmosphere was maintained while the teams had a much needed break.

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The second half was quite tense with Team Northumbria briefly taking the lead only to be pulled back by the Jets. Then somehow, they seemed to find some extra strength in the last few minutes and the end result was a rather dramatic draw.

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Team Northumbria’s next home game is on the 28th March and it’s being filmed by Sky Sports, go and cheer on the girls and you might even end up on the telly! With tickets available from just £2 you’d be hard pushed to find a more affordable spectator sport that the whole family can enjoy together so why not give it a try?

Thanks to Northumbria Uni for use of the action shots

Spoil your Mam in NewcastleGateshead

With Mother’s Day just round the corner, March 30th to be precise, I thought I would share with you some great gift ideas that you can find right here in Geordieland. Whether you call her Mam, Mum, Mother (or something else entirely), she’s sure to love being spoilt with any of these treats.

Note to my own Mum… I know you’re my blogs number one fan but look away now!

Afternoon Tea

Plates piled high with sandwiches, cakes and scones is enough to put a smile on the face of any Mum but it also gives you the chance to have a proper catch up over several cups of tea, quality time together that’s what it’s all about. The NewcastleGateshead website has a handy guide to some of the regions best places for Afternoon Tea… www.newcastlegateshead.com but just to whet your appetite, here’s a pic from my recent visit to The Vermont which is a gorgeous city centre hotel overlooking the Castle Keep.

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National Trust Membership

There are over 300 historical places to visit across the country with National Trust and nine of those are within 25 miles of Newcastle city centre. With an annual membership your Mum will have plenty of opportunity to explore them all, from the stunning 18th Century landscaped gardens at Gibside to the birthplace of George Stephenson, the world famous railway engineer. Pay by direct debit and you’ll get three months free!

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The Mamma Mia Package at Seaham Hall

Seaham Hall is one of the North East’s most luxurious spa hotels and all though it’s about a twenty minute drive from Newcastle I think it’s definitely worth a mention for the impressive facilities including including a crystal light sanarium, a black granite steam room and a 20 metre massage pool. The Mamma Mia experience starts with a welcome drink followed by a Serenity Wellbeing massage or a Skin Specific Facial along with a two course lunch at the hotel’s Ozone restaurant. It’s a bit on the pricey side at £220 for two people but at least you get to share the treat.

Tea on the Tyne with River Escapes

For something a bit different on Mother’s Day, how about a  three hour cruise along the River Tyne?  The Gateshead Millennium Bridge will open especially for your vessel and you’ll  also see the Tyneside shipyards, the Port of Tyne, the Fish Quay, Tynemouth Castle and Priory and the beautiful sandy beaches of South Shields.

quayside-9Image of the River Tyne from NGI

You might even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the seals and dolphins that sometimes visit the area (yes, really!). This special River Escapes day cruise will be complimented by a live commentary and there’s an afternoon tea buffet included in the ticket price of £17.50pp.

I’m sure if you treat your Mum to any of these wonderful experiences the memories will last much longer than a bunch of flowers! You’ll still need a card though so for Geordie inspired Mother’s Day cards and small, easy to post gifts like mugs, check out this fab online shop… www.shopnewcastlegateshead.com

Ps – I know you won’t have been able to help yourself Mother, so Happy Mother’s Day, love you!

Happy Birthday Earl Grey

As I stood at the foot of Grey’s Monument last Saturday, watching the bargain hunters spilling in and out of the surrounding shops and enjoying the cheerful sounds of the young buskers, it felt like any normal day. However, I  was about to see Newcastle city centre in a whole new light…

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Thanks to the Newcastle Association of City Guides  I was given the opportunity to climb the 164 steps hidden inside Grey’s Monument and experience a birds eye view of the city centre from the top. It was something I’d always wanted to do as I’d occasionally seen people milling around up there but could never quite fathom how they’d gained access. It wasn’t until the friendly and helpful guides, Marianne and Michael, led me to a tiny, inconspicious door that I realised how it was possible to enjoy the view that’s normally reserved for the pigeons!

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Nowadays, Grey’s Monument is only open to visitors a few times a year and there’s a charge of £3 per person (or £1 for 5-15 yr olds) but there are several days this month when you grab your chance as it’s open on the 15th, 22nd and 29th. The lovely people at the tourist information centre can take your booking and answer any questions you have, just pop in to see them on Market Street or call 0191 277 8000.

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After making my descent back down the windy staircase I felt very lucky, albeit a bit windswept, it really made me appreciate the beauty of some of Geordieland’s magnificent buildings and landmarks, including Emerson Chambers and St James’ Park, both of which can be seen in the image above.

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I was in much need of a warm brew after my mini adventure up the 130ft monument and of course it simply had to be a cup of Earl Grey, so I headed for nearby teahouse, Quilliam Brothers.

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Housed in Claremont Buildings, another fine example of architecture in Newcastle, Quilliam Brothers offers around 60 different varieties of tea and a mighty fine breakfast menu. It was my first visit here (as I’m usually coffee drinker if truth be told) but I’ll definitely be back as the food was yummy, reasonably priced and I found out they have regular free film screenings too!

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To end this week’s blog post I thought I would share a few interesting facts about Charles Grey who was born 250 years ago today. If you know of any more about the birthday boy, feel free to comment below.

Things you might not have known about Charles Grey…

He was the 2nd Earl Grey and probably the most well known member of the family whose home was Howick Hall in nearby Northumberland.

He was Prime Minister of the UK from 1830 till 1834 and introduced the Great Reform Bill in 1832.

The famous statue was designed by Newcastle architect Benjamin Green and sculpted by E. H. Baily, who went on to create the statue for Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

Grey’s Monument was erected in 1838, seven years before Earl Grey passed away (I wonder what he thought of it?)

The Town Moor in Newcastle and Northumberland Square in North Shields were two possible alternatives for the location of the Monument.

Earl Grey’s statue was struck by lightning in 1941 and his head fell into the street below!

The Grey family failed to register a trade mark for the famous tea that was created at Howick Hall; as a result, they have never received a penny for it.

Traverse – The Travel Bloggers Conference

One of the things I love most about being a blogger in Geordieland is helping people discover the best of what this fabulous region has to offer. I’ve often thought that maybe because I didn’t grow up in NewcastleGateshead, I somehow have a deeper appreciation for what’s around me than those who have lived here their whole lives. In fact, just the other day I pointed out the beautiful stained glass windows above a mobile phone shop on Northumberland Street to a Geordie friend who must have walked past them thousands of times without a second glance.

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As well as inspiring locals to be tourists in their own towns I also get great satisfaction from welcoming visitors from further afield, so imagine my excitement when I discovered that this years travel bloggers conference, Traverse, was to be held in my beloved Geordieland!

traverse-newcastle-logoOn the 22nd February, travel bloggers from across the globe descended on the Sage Gateshead to hear seminars from experts in video, photography, journalism, marketing, SEO and of course, blogging! I knew the attendees would be super savvy when it came to checking out what the area had to offer so I felt a little nervous about their arrival and just hoped they’d love it here as much as I do!

I needn’t have worried, even before Traverse got underway, Twitter started to go crazy with positive opinions and stunning photos which I was able to keep up with using the various hashtags that had been created for the weekend, #TyneisNow, #Traverse14 and #GoNewcastle. I felt so proud as I read the hundreds of tweets throughout the weekend and quite smug about the fact that I get to call this place my home!

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On the day of the conference, the quayside was illuminated by a beautiful, bright (even if not so hot) sun and the whole area was a hive of activity, there were even people bungee jumping over the Tyne! I had a great day meeting lots of lovely bloggers and hearing about their plans for the weekend, if they didn’t have any before they spoke to me, they certainly did by the time I finished bending their ears!

I even persuaded a few people to share their thoughts on camera and as I listened to the well travelled bloggers talk about the impression Geordieland had made on them it confirmed my belief that this little corner of England has as much to offer (if not more) as any far flung destination on the planet!

What was your first impression of NewcastleGateshead, has your opinion changed over the years or are you yet to visit Geordieland? Share your comments below…

Hotel du Vin Newcastle – Wine Dinner

Usually when I’m handed a wine list in a restaurant I immediately pass it to my boyfriend and give him the liberty of making a selection as frankly my knowledge of pairing wine with food doesn’t really go beyond white with fish and red with beef!

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However, if there was ever a place where I’d hope to get a bit of advice when choosing my tipple it would be at Hôtel du Vin, after all, the name of this prestigious venue suggests the staff know or thing or two doesn’t it? So when I was invited to join the general manager, Rob Tait, for an evening of fine food and perfectly matched wines, well, how could I resist?

Rob Tait on the cover of this month's North East TimesRob Tait on the cover of this month’s North East Times

It was an opportunity to sample the forthcoming ‘wine dinner’ events that Hotel du Vin has lined up this year and as well as being spoilt with a delicious five course meal I was also introduced to a different glass of wine with each dish. The hotel’s sommelier explained each one with passion and seemed to really care about it’s production too, it was exactly the kind of sophisticated experience I had hoped for. Here are a few of my foodie photos from the evening… each mouthful was even more delicious than it looks thanks to the skills of talented head chef, Stuart Donaldson.

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And those were just for starters! Thankfully I arrived hungry and made sure I had enough room for the stars of the gastronomical feast, the mouthwatering main course of ‘spiced venison loin, artichoke puree, black pudding and raspberry jus’ and gorgeous dessert of ‘honey mousse, burnt orange marmalade, honeycomb and chocolate’. Blimey, I’m getting hungry again now just reminiscing about it!

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If you’d like to sample a locally sourced, carefully prepared menu, matched perfectly with the finest wines then make sure you book early for one (or more!) of these forthcoming wine dinners at Hotel du Vin Newcastle, each event is £69 per person:

March 6th – Lallier Champagne

April 3rd – Burgundy

May 1st – South Africa

June 5th – Rhone valley

September 4th- Australia

October 2nd – New Spain

November 6th – New Zealand

For more information or to book please call the hotel directly, go on, you know you want to …. 0191 2292200

Boredom Busting Tips for Half Term

With schools closed for half term I thought I would do something a little bit different on the blog this week. I invited local parents to give me their top tips on how to keep kids entertained in the North East. They’re the experts, so I knew they would have some great ideas to share.

However, I was quite surprised at how many people suggested heading to the beach, have they looked outside? I suppose Geordies aren’t the type to let a bit of wind and rain stand in the way of a day of family fun! Here are some of their best boredom busting ideas…

Brian Moore, radio presenter on Metro Radio and TFM suggests Tynemouth…

brians kidsEmma, Samantha, David and Georgina don’t care if it’s cold!

“My family and me love to head to Tynemouth and have a good runaround on the beach. Even if it is a bit windy, you can always head into Crusoes for a fantastic frothy coffee”

Helen Rogers lives in South Shields with her son Lucas, they love exploring the North East…

helen and lucasNever a dull moment for Helen and Lucas

“My son Lucas and I love a trip to Beamish, you can spend a whole day wandering its historical cobbles and never get bored.  He is a particular fan of jumping on the trams and I love a visit to the sweet shop for my favourite spearmint chews! We also love spending time in The Centre for Life in Newcastle, there is all sorts of gadgets to feed an inquisitive nature and it’s lots of fun for me to watch his inner Albert Einstein thrive! Being a South Shields girl if we are looking for something closer to home we head to Ocean Beach Pleasure Park but he hasn’t managed to get me on the roller coaster… YET!”

Mark Clancey lives in Tynmouth with his wife Sophie and their one year old daughter Izzy…

clanceyFun at the Farm for Izzy

“We all enjoy a day out at Ouseburn Farm in Byker, I would definitely recommend it. Izzy loves all the animals, they have sheep, goats, pigs and chickens. On a practical note, it’s really accessible for buggies and it’s also free!”

Sharon Wrightson from Heaton has found the perfect way to entertain daughter Daisy…

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“My daughter and I love going to Seven Stories. We’re so lucky to have the National Centre for Children’s Books on our doorstep. It’s great to disappear in to a world of adventure”

Gemma Breakingbury (AKA The Real Supermammy) blogs about family life with two kids…

avaIs there any greater joy in life than jumping in a muddy puddle? Ava thinks not!

“I love taking the kids and the dog to Watergate Forest Park in Gateshead, especially just after its been raining so that we can jump in muddy puddles! The kids love feeding the ducks, dropping stones in the waterfall and generally splashing about and getting mucky. It’s the kind of place where you can just breathe in the fresh air and enjoy them and its free, bonus!”

Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and photos for this week’s blog post, I hope you all have a fun filled week with your little ones! Further suggestions can be made in the comments box below and for more inspiration check out this handy guide put together by Newcastle Gateshead Initiative packed with some of the region’s best half term events: www.newcastlegateshead.com/things-to-do/whats-new/february-half-term-events

Kung Hey Fat Choi!

I’ll never forget my first experience of Chinese New Year in Geordieland, just a few weeks after I first moved to Fenham in 2006… I stumbled across a cookery demonstration in Nuns Moor Park and was offered a bowl of mouthwatering Chinese food, it was absolutely delicious! When I enquired why the food was generously being distributed and asked what all the colourful decorations were about I was told ‘Kung Hey Fat Choi’ which means Happy New Year in Chinese. If you’re heading to Newcastle this weekend you may hear this a lot!

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As the Chinese community welcomes in the Year of the Horse, NewcastleGateshead is preparing for a day of celebrations around Stowell Street and China Town (one of only five China Towns in England!) on Sunday 9th February from 11am till 4pm. It promises to be a great day out for everybody!

Chinese-inspired events will include performances of the lion dance, traditional arts and crafts, interactive games and activities and of course, there’ll be lots of delicious oriental food and drink to sample! For full details of the days events click HERE

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The stunning Chinese arch in Newcastle – image courtesy of NGI

As well as the action packed party that’s planned for Sunday, there is also a wider programme events taking place right up until Valentine’s day, the NewcastleGateshead website has all the details – Enjoy!

 

A Mid-Week Treat at Browns Bar & Brasserie

Working in the city centre of Newcastle means there’s no shortage of bars and restaurants to choose from for a mid-week treat! I recently paid a visit to Browns Bar & Brasserie on Grey Street after ditching the new year diet and invited my friend Zoe along to join me, she did not take much persuasion, especially once I had shown her the tempting a la carte menu! I’m so pleased Zoe said yes because as well as being great company, she also writes articles (for NE1 magazine no less!) so I knew she would understand when I insisted upon photographing our food before we tucked in, it’s the price you pay for being friends with a blogger!

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Zoe and I were both impressed with the palatial surroundings of Browns, I’d visited the one in Leeds before which is rather grand and was glad to see that the Geordie addition to the chain’s portfolio measured up!

After ordering a couple of glasses of wine from the extensive wine list and deciding on starters from a choice of about eight different dishes, we had a good nosey around the restaurant. It was much busier than I expected it to be on a Wednesday night in January and I couldn’t help but stare at some of the fancy looking meals making their way from the kitchen to the tables around us. I got a sense of reassurance when I saw diners happily nodding with satisfaction as they took their first mouthfuls. Always a good sign! Rather than put them off their dinner by snapping away with my camera like some crazed papparazi I requested these interior shots from the restaurants PR agency so that I could share with you what Browns looks like inside…

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After devouring our beautifully presented starters of roasted goat’s cheese (me) and asparagus with prosciutto (Zoe) we eagerly anticipated the arrival of our main courses and I definitely came out on top when they arrived. Don’t get me wrong, Zoe seemed very happy with her choice of fish pie and assured me that it was satisfyingly filled with flavoursome fish and big juicy prawns. It was also served with green beans which were thankfully non-squeeky!

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However, you just can’t beat a juicy steak can you? Well, unless you’re a vegetarian I suppose which I certainly am not! I ordered the rib eye medium rare and it was cooked perfectly! The meat was so tender it simply melted in my mouth , this pic really doesn’t do it justice if I’m honest…

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I honestly don’t know how I made room for dessert but after asking our lovely waiter for a recommendation it seemed rude to turn down his suggestion of Eton Mess. The Browns version was made with cherries and white chocolate and it was a delicious twist on the Great British classic. I would definitely order it again, perhaps leaving out the starter to make room, I always have had a sweet tooth!

Zoe went for one of the Browns Brownies, they seem to be a bit of speciality as there’s a whole section of the dessert menu devoted to them! The rich chocolatey indulgence certainly brought a smile to my friend’s face!

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I think it’s safe to say we both felt very satisfied as we left, showering the waiter with compliments and promising to return soon!

If you fancy trying Browns Bar and Brasserie yourself then you’ve never had a better excuse because it’s currently taking part in NE1 Restaurant Week, offering two courses for the bargain price of just £10. NE1 Restaurant Week has been extended with many venues making their special offers available till the 9th Feb so get booking!