Anyone who reads this blog frequently will know that we champion our local, independent restauranteurs and foodie business owners to a huge level. Sure, business growth of any kind in the North East is great, but those who’ve gone it alone to bring deliciousness to the doorstep hold a special place in the collective Scran on the Tyne heart.
I don’t tend to write ‘Top’ lists, but after a challenge from Travelodge to be a #TravelodgeTipster, I decided to get involved and share with you my favourite places in the north to eat, drink and be merry.
Of course, it’s not just for existing Scran on the Tyne fans – it’s also for those planning a visit to Newcastle and the surrounding area for Christmas shopping, parties or cheeky weekends away. You might even be heading up to stay at one of the 9 Travelodges in the area for a comfortable and reasonably priced trip, so hopefully these tips will come in very handy as you plan your gastronomic tour of our wonderful city.
1. A taste of the East for lunch at Nan Bei Dumpling & Tea House
This little gem of a spot opened in the Grainger Market just before summer, owned and operated by Maggie Wen, part of the brains behind amazing breakfast spot, Quay Ingredient. Nan Bei is an entirely different bag, however, as they offer the most incredible (and very purse friendly!) dim sum dumplings and steamed buns.
Dumplings are available in six varieties; Pork and Cabbage, Pork and Celery, Spicy Beef and Carrot (my personal fave!), White Fish and Prawn and Mushroom and Egg. All are handmade on site and steamed in bamboo steamers, and priced at £2.50 for 4 and £3.50 for 6.
I’m not going to lie, I tend to go for 10 dumplings (hey, a girl’s gotta eat!), plus a Char Sui Pork steamed bun (£1.50) for a delicious lunch that packs a punch in terms of flavour. Enjoy yours at the dining area out front and use the complimentary condiments, including made-on-site garlic and chilli oils, with fresh spring onions and coriander and plenty of soy.
For more information, check out their Facebook page.
2. A decadent dinner at Peace and Loaf, Jesmond
I’ve been asked more than a few times by many people, “where do you go for something really special?” in the North East and without hesitation, my answer is always Peace and Loaf.
Opened in 2013 by Dave Coulson (you’ll recognise him from Masterchef: The Professionals a few years back) and the brilliant family of restauranteurs behind Newcastle-favourite ‘Sachins’, it’s a feast not only for the taste, but for the eyes too.
Dave and his team of talented chefs and patissieres concoct stunning-looking plates using locally-sourced and deliciously fresh produce and as such, all menus are seasonal. On past visits, I’ve tried pigeon and venison, both of which were new to me, and both of which I’d have again in a heartbeat.
Their desserts are stunning to look at and taste even better, despite the fact I’m someone who doesn’t have a sweet tooth whatsoever. The pic at the top of this post is one of theirs, so you can see what I mean when I say “stunning”…
They also do a brilliant Sunday lunch – the belly pork in particular is amazing – at £25 for three courses, but you’ll need to book as tables are snapped up quickly. Their midweek Prix-Fixe menu is also great for those requiring a bit of foodie decadence at the snip of the price to soften the weekly work slog.
Put it this way… Jay Rayner loved it, so who are we to argue?
Check out menus and further info over on the website.
3. A pub dinner with a difference: The Earl of Pitt Street
Formerly a naughty firm pub called The Greyhound, the wonderfully-decorated and much-hyped Earl of Pitt Street is a stone’s throw away from St James. Park and takes pride of place on the corner of Pitt Street, just up from the new Newcastle University buildings. First off, it’s worth mentioning that the dismal days of The Greyhound are long gone and The Earl is a beautifully-designed, chic pub and eatery, so don’t let its history put you off. Think of it as character.
The pub and restaurant is the brain child of Mark and Libby Lagun (aka the great folk behind Barn Asia, Barn Again and Electric East) and boasts a menu boasting taste-aplenty from across the globe, from eastern curries and noodle dishes to a’la carte confit duck leg, or even a delicious lamb Bolognese with fresh gnocchi and crispy lamb on top. Oh, and an out-of-this-world starter of pork belly and butternut squash purée. Aaaand a gorgeously fresh seafood ceviche. I could go on, but put it this way, all of it is in a word: EXCELLENT.
One thing is for sure, nothing is run of the mill and everything is plentiful, so you’ll certainly get value for money and it’s far from your average pub meal. They offer some fantastic offers on food, including £16.50 for two courses and £19.50 for three courses on Mon-Sat 12 till 3pm and Sun-Thurs 5pm – 9pm. Oh, and wines are reasonably priced, too.
I’m yet to head there for Sunday lunch but I’ve heard brilliant things, so that’ll be next on the list.
Head to their website for further information and get booked in ASAP!
A belly-busting breakfast at Ernest…
And finally, there’s breakfast. I couldn’t do a top 3 and not cover my favourite meal of the day in there, could I?! Whilst the aforementioned Quay Ingredient is a-maz-ing (and I’ve heard the same about their Heaton-based sister venue!), I had to include Ernest, which is swiftly-becoming one of my go-to places for a good, hearty breakfast just outside of the city.
The decor has a sort of laid-back, art café vibe, with mixed furniture, lots of light and plenty of fresh flowers. It’s based on Boyd Street, just behind the Biscuit Factory in Ouseburn, so parking is free, too, and plentiful on the street just outside.
Their ‘Ernest Large’ is a fairly reasonable £8 and is packed with bacon, sausages, fried potato, grilled mushroom, black pudding, fried tomato, beans and delicious fresh bread. It will leave you full for literally hours, too.
Accompanying a truly stellar breakfast menu that also includes a delicious chorizo hash (£8.50), there’s a full general menu packed with salads, flat breads, sandwiches and soups, plus fresh coffee and juices. They also have a late license and have DJ’s playing most Fridays and Saturday nights, should you decide to take your breakfast into lunch, dinner and midnight supper.
My boyfriend and I are huge fans of Ernest and go whenever we need a proper fixer of a breakfast, so you’ll not be disappointed… especially if you’re a little on the hungover side! Don’t worry though, it’s not a greasy-spoon type affair. It’s fresh and mostly grilled, so you can have the sustenance of a full English without the guilt.
You can check out the Ernest current menu right here!
There’s also a whole host of fantastic places to visit with little ones, like Lane7 on St. James Boulevard and the Baltic at the Quayside, which boasts a small café/bistro that’s perfect for a family afternoon outing.
For those looking for something a little different, check out The Staith House at North Shields, another personal favourite of mine, and the brilliant Irvin’s Brasserie, right across the road.
Oh – and bon appetit!
For a purse-friendly and central place to stay, definitely check out the Newcastle Central Travelodge, which is right beside the Quayside and just a short walk from the city centre.