I’ve been fortunate enough to dine at some amazing restaurants and sample the array of wonderful local produce that this region has to offer. So, I had the stupid idea of putting together an A-Z of the North East’s best food and drink.
Why was it a stupid idea? Because it has honestly been so hard to pick my favourites! I’ve changed my mind at least a dozen times and the letters A, F, H, P and S proved particularly difficult but after much deliberation I’ve finally settled on a list. I hope it gives you a taste of what’s on offer in Geordieland!
A classically British restaurant where the menu is as creative as the surroundings, it’s located inside the Biscuit Factory, an art gallery in the heart of Ouseburn. The food really is incredible, you can read a full review here. I’d recommend you keep an eye out for Artisan’s monthly seasonal showcase evenings too.
With a rich history that goes back to 1239, Blackfriars is probably the oldest restaurant in Newcastle! It has a plethora of awards to its name and the Sunday lunch is regarded as one of the best in the Toon. I’d also highly recommend the Medieval Banquet nights at Blackfriars. You’ll be served a rustic feast by wenches in the atmospheric banqueting hall and be entertained by talented musicians playing traditional instruments.
www.blackfriarsrestaurant.co.uk, Friars St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4XN, 0191 261 5945
Ask any foodie in Newcastle for a restaurant recommendation and Cafe 21 is sure to get a mention. Revered chef Terry Laybourne is the man behind 21 Hospitality Group which includes a stylish flagship restaurant just off the Quayside, a rustic bistro in Durham and a fishmongers with a difference inside Fenwick on Northumberland Street. The atmosphere is different at each one but the standard of food is equally high at them all. My photos above are of dishes from the early evening menu at Cafe 21* near the Quayside where you can enjoy three beautifully presented courses for £22 from 5.30pm till 7pm Mon – Sat.
*Recently renamed ’21’
This is the place to come for Indian street food with bags of flavour. I love the tapas style menu which gives you a chance to try lots of different dishes. The sweet potato chaat is a particular favourite of mine! If you can’t decide what to order just ask for the ‘chef’s surprise’. There are two locations, the one on High Bridge is perfect for pre-theatre dining and there’s also a Dabbawal in the student suburb of Jesmond.
— Michala (@Ginger_Michala) September 20, 2015
The tweet I’ve shared above is a typical response from an El Coto diner. I’ve lost count of the number of times James and I have started a night out in here with a jug of sangria, it’s one of our favourite places for casual dining. www.elcoto.co.uk, 21 Leazes Park Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 4PF, 0191 261 0555
Fentimans is a botanical brewery based in Hexham and they create the most delicious soft drinks known to man! Their Rose Lemonade is the perfect alcohol free tipple, when I’m the designated driver this is always my drink of choice! As well as fancy pop Fentimans also produce a range of tonics and mixers which are much loved by mixologists and gin connoisseurs.
www.fentimans.com, stockists worldwide
OK… so I’ve kind of cheated with this one. By choosing the Grainger Market for the letter G, I can include several of my favourite places for lunch all in one place. It first opened in 1835 and is a somewhat of a Geordie institution, so when you eat in this Grade 1 listed market, you are really helping to keep local tradition alive. Choose from authentic Italian pizza by the slice, freshly made crepes served by a handsome French man, indulgent cup cakes, Lindasfarne oysters, mouthwatering pasties from ‘England and Wales’ best bakery’ and loads more!
www.newcastlegateshead.com/grainger-market, Grainger Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5QQ, 0191 211 5542
House of Tides
You might recognise the talented chef above as he’s a familiar face on BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. His name is Kenny Atkinson and he opened House of Tides in 2014 after transforming a dilapidated old building into an exceptional restaurant. Within 18 months he was awarded a Michelin star (currently the only one in Newcastle) and after trying some of Kenny’s famous dishes I can certainly say the accolade is well deserved. A six course dinner will set you back £55 per head but for a special occasion it’s worth every penny!
There’s a long row of restaurants along the North Shields fish quay but Irvins Brasserie is hard to beat. As you would expect from the location, there’s an emphasis on fresh, local produce with seafood playing an important part of the classically British menu. It’s also a firm favourite for Sunday lunch when three courses will cost you £20.
Jesmond Dene House
Jesmond Dene House has long been regarded as one of the best restaurants in Newcastle. Nestled in the picturesque surroundings of Jesmond Dene it has a very romantic feel and is popular for weddings. Their afternoon tea also receives rave reviews (here’s a great post from blogger New Girl in Toon). I have a table booked for December and I’m looking forward to trying their famous ‘tasting menu’ with dishes like ‘Dorset Snails, Cauliflower, Leek Oil & Forced Shoots’ and Aylesbury Duck, North Counrty Beetroot, Pickled Walnut and Curly Endiv’. Check back in the new year for a full review.
This independent Greek inspired cafe is one of my absolute faves for lunch. When I tell people it’s on the Bigg Market (an area famed for its notorious nightlife) I do get some funny looks it but once they experience the warm welcome and delicious dishes like chicken souvlaki, pulled pork gyros and posh toasties, they love it just as much as I do! It’s also a real sun trap in the summer and you’ll often find me here drinking a bottle of Mythos, pretending to be on my holidays.
www.kafeneon.co.uk, 8 Bigg Market, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1UW, 0191 260 2577
It’s not often I find myself raving about chain restaurants but they don’t come much better than Las Iguanas. The creators of this Latin American bar and restaurant have completely understood what diners want and have managed to tick all the boxes… great cocktails, cool music, contemporary surroundings, food that’s full of flavour and an atmosphere that’s fun, relaxed and unpretentious. I love it so much I even choose to eat here on my birthday and not just because of the free main course and complimentary cocktail!
Check out the size of that bad boy! I recently ordered a 20″ Manny’s pizza through Deliveroo as I was too busy to leave the office for lunch and my colleague’s jaws were on the floor when they saw the humongous pizza box, obviously I shared! As well as a deli to your door service, Manny’s also have a cool little hangout in the centre of Newcastle where you enjoy their delicious New York style pizza by the slice with an ice cold beer.
Northumberland Cheese Company
I am fanatical about cheese, in fact, if I was forced to give up cheese or chocolate I would probably have to say chocolate (and I LOVE chocolate)! So believe me when I say that everything that comes from the Northumberland Cheese Company is mouth-wateringly good! Last year I paid a visit to their small but perfectly formed cheese farm in Blagdon where I enjoyed a tour of the dairy and sampled lots of lovely, stinky cheese, I was in heaven!
Northumberland Cheese Company also offer ‘cheese making days’ when you can actually have a go yourself! If you want to stick to just eating the cheese rather than making it then keep an eye out for Northumberland Cheese at farmer’s markets throughout the region.
I’ve recently started to become more adventurous with Asian cuisine and although I’m still not a huge fan of sushi, I do enjoy a visit to Japanese restaurant Osaka. While James tucks in to pickled veg and salmon sashimi, there’s plenty of other dishes for a fuss pot like me to choose from, including classic chicken katsu, stir fried noodle dishes and teppanyaki. Osaka is the perfect pit stop when we’re shopping in town, they offer a great value set menu of three courses for £13.50 from 12pm till 2pm.
I can’t get through my day without coffee and Pumphrey’s have been giving Geordies their much needed caffeine hit for over 250 years! The family business imports the finest coffee beans from around the world and roast them using traditional methods at their factory in Blaydon. They supply many of the North East’s best restaurants and cafes but they also have their very own Brewing Emporium in the afore mentioned Grainger Marget. The baristas here won the award for ‘Best Cappuccino in the UK’ in 2014 so I urge you to pull up a stool and enjoy one for yourself, the smell from the coffee bean shop on the other side is out of this world!
Visitors to Newcastle often ask me for ideas on where to go for breakfast or brunch and my recommendation of Quilliam Brothers hasn’t let me down yet. This traditional tea house is located in a beautiful building and the eggs benedict are always cooked to perfection.
Sometimes all you need is a nice cup of tea and a biscuit to make everything seem better. Thankfully Ringtons deliver on both counts… literally! Their door to door service is famous throughout the North East and dates back to 1907 when founder Samuel Smith started selling tea from his horse and cart in Newcastle. Ringtons’ ginger snaps are the best I’ve ever tasted, perfect for dunking! I’m also a big fan of their festive hampers which make wonderful Christmas gifts.
www.ringtons.co.uk, see online for stockists
Six at the BALTIC
With a prestigious location on the top floor of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Six offers unbeatable views of the NewcastleGateshead Quayside. The food is equally impressive, Fresh Element is the name of the company behind the menu and their passion for local produce is clear to see. A meal here certainly feels special and I’ve no hesitation in recommending it.
Tyneside Bar Cafe
When the Tyneside Bar Cafe opened in 2014 I was so excited; because the cinema it’s attached to is one of my favourite places in the whole of Newcastle. Now I’ve got even more reasons to love this unique and treasured venue, the food and drink on offer at Tyneside Bar Cafe is top notch! The menu has something to satisfy your hungover at any time of day (read a previous review HERE) and they even have their own real ale called ’35mm’ which my other half tells me is very nice indeed!
This week’s #TasteDurham dish is a slice of Steak & Ale Pie, £6.35 or £10 with a bottle of Durham Ale @ThisisDurham pic.twitter.com/iroVs0AJyT — UndercroftRestaurant (@DCathRestaurant) October 13, 2015
Nestled in the West cloister of the world famous Durham Cathedral is a quirky little cafe called Undercroft. It was recently refurbished, allowing you to see the magnificent vaulted ceiling in all its glory. It holds a prestigious Taste Durham award in recognition of its support of local food producers and is licensed too, so you can sample the delights of local real ales with a home cooked meal in a unique and beautiful medieval space.
Just off the Military road near Matfen, Northumberland is a foodie heaven that I urge you to visit. Vallum is home to a patisserie & deli, a tearoom & ice-cream parlour and a fabulous restaurant with its own kitchen garden and farm. The people behind Vallum had a vision to create a community of artisan chefs and producers and they’ve been pretty successful, the car park is rammed every weekend. I had the best sticky toffee pudding I have ever tasted at Vallum and believe me, I’ve tried A LOT of sticky toffee puddings!
For the letter W it had to be Wylam Brewery, creators of ‘proper beer, for proper people’. It’s been a fantastic few years for the local business, they burst on to the beer scene in 2000 and since then they’ve won loads of awards as well as the hearts of many a real ale drinker. Jakehead is the name of their India Pale Ale which won ‘Britain’s Best Beer’ in a public vote (UK 100 hottest beers poll) and hopefully when the brewery moves to its new home ‘The Palace of Arts’ in Newcastle’s Exhibtion Park, there’ll be even more good things to come.
X – Bierrex
Well… I tried… but despite my best efforts I couldn’t find any North East food or drink for the letter X! So until someone opens a bar or restaurant called ‘Xylophone’ I’m going to let Bierrex have this slot, it does end in X after all.
Bierrex appeared on Pilgrim Street shortly after Popolo closed its doors on the same site and it started a bit of a trend for smokehouses and craft ale in the city centre. There was a complete makeover of the bar, it has an entirely bespoke interior, watch out for the meat cleaver handles on the door! I often walk past on my way to work and the smell coming from the wood-fired Fast Eddy smoker is irresistible!
James and I recently discovered this stylish new bar in the affluent area of Ponteland and were both hugely impressed. There’s a large outdoor seating area which I expect will get packed in summer and inside the vaulted ceiling, exposed brickwork and decadent lighting makes a stunning first impression. The food also knocked our socks off, I’ll be doing a full review soon but a special mention has to go to the seafood sharing board (pictured above). You might not be able to see the juicy butterfly prawns but they were plump and delicious and I’ll definitely be ordering them again!
When you want fresh, tasty, fast food on a budget head to Zapatista. People queue out of the door for their mouthwatering burritos which fill you up for less than a fiver! They’re healthy too (well, in comparison to many other fast food outlets I could mention) and as it’s a traditional Mexican dish it would be rude not to wash it down with an ice cold Corona.
www.zapatistaburrito.com, 9 Grainger Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 5DQ, 0191 222 0800
Thanks for checking out my A-Z of North East Food & Drink, I’d love to know if you agree with my recommendations or if I’ve inspired you to try somewhere new?
All photos in this post are my own unless otherwise stated, for a full list of bars and restaurants in the area visit www.newcastlegateshead.com