Free Weekend? Explore Newcastle’s food scene and – if you’re quick – EAT! festival
It’s long been known as one of the world’s best party cities, but did you know the annual EAT! festival is in its seventh year? We give an overview of some of the best food-based fun you can have in the Geordie capital
The Broad Chare It’s the pub everyone we met over the weekend was raving about, a cross between the Fat Butcher,Bull & Last and Southampton Arms: think perfect pork pies, Scotch eggs, crispy pigs’ ears. We sunk a fragrant Writer’s Block Pale Ale in the cosy downstairs tavern, before heading to the dining room (in a converted sack warehouse) for a few sharing plates: a summer tomato salad (£6.50), its flavours sweet, sharp, creamy; meltingly soft cauliflower cheese fritters with apple, walnuts and watercress; tiny sliders (£3) packed with meaty minced sirloin. And best of all, a light brown crab on toast (£6.60). 25 Broad Chare
It boasts the oldest dining room in the country, dating back to 1239, a refectory for the erstwhile monastery. And history aside, we couldn’t fault our dining experience within its atmospheric stone walls, the sun streaming through in shards, the light always changing. And like the monks of yore, head chef Andy Hook grows herbs and walnuts in the courtyard and veg in the allotment. Highlights? A deeply moreish heritage beetroot risotto, edged with tarragon; salmon, cured in-house with cucumber and celery and served in sashimi-like wedges with fennel salad; duck ham with a tasty crust, its accompanying liver parfait velvet-smooth. For mains, we went native and shared pan haggerty (the dish made from potatoes, cabbage and onions) for a main, served with runny duck egg and the salty freshness of samphire, pak choi and peas. A Northumberland rump steak, perfectly medium-rare, was more flavoursome than many steaks this year. And all for £15 for two courses. Wines start around £16 a bottle, service friendly and efficient. Friars Street NE1
Even back when I lived in Newcastle, 21 was the place to go for a posh date (if you could afford it); and while it’s now moved to new premises, its star has risen further. More formal than new breed places like the Chare (which restaurateur Terry Laybourne also owns), it’s worth going for the early bird option (two courses for £17.50 before 7pm Mon-Sat) with options like spiced mackerel or corn-fed chicken. Or have a blowout (mains from about £16). And Laybourne’s company also own Caffe Vivo, a rated Italian next to the Broad Chare. A Stein-like mini empire, indeed. 21 Trinity Gardens
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Newcastle simply has too many good boozers to mention. I’ve always liked the Cumberland Arms up near Byker, the Head of Steam (opposite Central Station), the Trent House near Leazes Park and The Forth on Pink Lane (left), now a lot glitzier than its bohemian 90s incarnation. A newer opening? The Town Wall, boasting a succession of pared-down rooms in elegant Bewick House.
Page 3: where to stay, find the best local produce – and learn some Geordie food lingo