‘I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day’ – Frank Sinatra
It’s the first weekend in September, the mornings are getting darker and cooler. The only good thing about this time of year is that the dog over the back fence no longer gets let out at 6am to do its morning ablutions then yaps for half an hour to be let back in. So what better to do on an autumnal Saturday than hang out at the Boilershop Steamer with the rest of Newcastle’s hipsters and get drunk.
I heard a lot about the Steamer through Steph who’s been a few times, but I’d never really thought about it, the mix of my ever so slightly acrophobia husband and poorly reproduced street food (I went to a food festival in Bents Park in South Shields recently when the normally excellent Zapatista had a stand and the food was dreadful) doesn’t fill me with much confidence. I’ve often viewed these things the same way I’ve viewed music festivals, everyone else always looks like they’re having a great time but I’m always in the way, or too hot, or can’t see anything, or getting covered in someone else’s urine (ok, I’ll admit I would have been very shocked had that happened at the steamer, but you never know!). But I’m always up for trying new things and in the same way they say you’re never more than 6ft away from a rat in London, I try and never be more than 6ft away from some gin. Off me and my motley crew went.
We decided to go on the Saturday, got thee early as its free before 2pm (shout out to the cheapskates, woop!) and it was already starting to fill up. It was smaller than I imagined. People I know who’ve been before have said that it’s absolutely massive. The Boilershop it’s self though is impressive (the birthplace of Robert Stephenson’s Rocket – fact fans!) and an excellent use of space. We had a brief walk around to see what was there then settled on some drinks (doing nothing to banish any gender stereotypes we went for Real Ale for the boys and Prosecco for the girls). Prices for drinks weren’t outrageous (£3.50 for a pint of ale and £20 for a bottle of Proescco) and you got (albeit plastic) champagne flutes for the fizz, which is always nicer to drink out of than a crappy plastic half pint glass. There are very few places to sit so if you want a seat you need to get there really early and I’d advise if you do get a seat, don’t leave it!
We stood around people watching for a while, it really was hipster heaven so i’m glad i was wearing my new checked shirt to blend in with the crowd. A game of ‘spot the longest beard’ is always fun after a few glasses of bubbly. It’s worth pointing out though that it’s really family friendly. Whilst there isn’t much in the way of entertainment for kids, there were lots of families there and they seemed to be made to feel very welcome, just watch where you put you feet as there might be a little person below your eyeline right behind you!
When it came time to have something to eat there certainly was plenty of choice. Some went for pizza, some went for pulled pork burgers, some went for chilli and all of it looked very fresh and decent sized portions. I myself went for some sweet potato fries with sesame mayonnaise which was really tasty, although I wasn’t all that pleased to see them use frozen sweet potato out of a packet, especially for the £4 pricetag. The paying system was something else that bothered me. For drinks you could just pay cash but for food you had to buy tokens which were £2 each. To me it just seemed an excuse to charge more money. For example at the falafel stand where I got my fries, a lamb burger was 4 tokens. £8 seems a lot of money to pay for what it was. Dave’s mexican pulled pork filled taco bowl was 3 tokens and most of the taco bowl was burnt. Value for money, this place isn’t.
I really love the idea of the steamer. I think it’s a great use of space there and there’s a great laid back atmosphere. I like that there’s something for everyone, you don’t all have to order off the same menu or drink the same drinks so it caters for all tastes. It’s something different from just sitting in a Wetherspoons all afternoon. However if you’re looking for a cheap and cheerful afternoon out with your friends then this probably isn’t the place for you. The food is over priced and there wasn’t half the vendors there that were advertised on their website; Longhorns, Papa Ganoush, Fat Hippo and Fat Friars were all advertised as being in attendance but weren’t there (I personally was looking forward to visiting the ‘Hip Hop Chip Shop just for the photo op alone!) so that was disappointing. For me they could also do away with the token system, as it serves no purpose other than an excuse to charge more than if they were accepting cash. Later on in the day they had some live bands on,which is a great idea, and provides a great opportunity to listen to some local bands however with the building because the size it is, they’re were just way too loud and you couldn’t really hold a conversation. Saying that there is lots of outside space as well if you wanted somewhere a little quieter. We left after the first band as we wouldn’t hear a word anyone was saying.
The steamer is on the first weekend of every month with special events on for bank holidays
The Boiler Shop
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear
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