‘The battle between craft breweries and big beer stretches back to the 1990s, when the idea of buying a beer brewed by a small, independent brewery first took off’ – Elizabeth Flock
In my early 20s Whitley Bay was somewhere I would go every Friday night, get tanked up on vodka/redbull and anything bubblegum flavoured, scoff my cheesy chips from pizza cottage in the taxi home then sleep the rest of the weekend. But this was in the early 00s when Whitley was the place to go if you didn’t want to go to town. Shortly after though it went into decline and most every single pub on our route slowly closed its doors.
Fast forward 10 15 years and thankfully Whitley Bay has been through somewhat as a resurgence. And one of the best things to come from that resurgence (after the beautiful Spanish City) is a wealth of quirky little micro pubs. And as you all know, if there’s one thing I like, it’s a pub. And I’m quite small, so you know, I feel at home.
Dave and I decided one sunny February Saturday to give these new watering holes a bit of a try and put together a guide for anyone who fancies wandering away from the Wetherspoons (the only pub that survived the 00’s decline) and trying something different.
We recommend starting the tour at Whitley Bay metro station, based on the assumption that not everyone is lucky enough to live by the coast and will probably be travelling in from somewhere else. It’s also an opportunity to line your stomachs with brunch or lunch at the wonderful Olives at the Station, which is located inside the metro station (and also has a fully licenced bar should you wish to start really early. But remember, this is a marathon not a sprint…
On leaving Olives/the metro station take a left on Station Square onto Victoria Road and walk pretty much the length of it until you see the Fire Station Pub over the road to the left. Storm Cellar is pretty much behind this on York Road and is where you’ll be greeted with a warm welcome and plenty of beer options. Storm Cellar is serviced by its own Black Storm Brewery and their prices are super competitive. Being a few days after valentines Day I treated myself to the Pink Champagne Brut IPA which – not being much of an ale drinker, was pretty bloody lovely. They also have an impressive spirits selection if beer isn’t your thing. The interior is minimalist but everything I look for in a micropub. Sofas for lounges around and long benches to encourage conversation. There’s also some boardgames available for anyone to play if you’re making a bit of a session of it. Being first stop at just after opening at 12pm, we were the only people in there, but I imagine when it gets busier there’s a real buzz about the place. A strong start for sure.
The Split Chimp
Come out of Storm Cellar and turn left then cross at the traffic lights on to Park Avenue. Head straight on towards Whitley Park. Keep the park on your left and you should see the Spanish City Dome in front of you. Walk towards it, cutting through the car park onto the promenade. Then turn left (so that the Premier Inn is now on your left, North Sea on your right) and follow the path round to the left where you will see the Split Chimp to the right of the main entrance to Spanish City.
Now. Regular readers of the blog will know how much I love this place, so I will try and keep this brief. The Split Chimp is probably my favourite pub in the world and now that they’ve opened The Split Chimp Whitley Bay, they’ve become my favourite pub chain. They are ideally placed for people watching on the sea front over a drink or 5. Come the summer there will be benches outside which is where I plan on being all summer sipping prosecco with my friends. They have their own house ale (Clever Chimp) and well as loads of guest ales which change on a regular basis and plenty of wine, cider and spirit options too. An absolute highlight of the tour and a good opportunity to see the newly revamped Spanish City while you’re there
Gilbert and Smiths
Come out of the Chimp, turn left and walk up to the traffic lights directly in front of you. Cross the road and continue walking straight onto Marine Avenue (The arcades will be on your left, Crab and on the right). Continue up to Marine Avenue for about 5 minutes then turn left onto Park View where you will see Gilbert and Smiths on the right-hand side of the street next to Eden’s Café.
I was instantly taken with the mix of exposed brickwork behind the bar and the dark teal painted walls (my favourite colour incidentally) and the high stools and tables, again to encourage a really social atmosphere. By this point I was off the ale and on to the wine and their house Sauvignon Blanc was one of the nicest I’ve tasted in a while and they had a wide range of local ales to keep wor lad happy! I pretty much fell in love with this place from first stepping foot inside as I think they’ve got the balance between local laid-back boozer and high-end cocktail bar perfectly spot on. With such an eclectic mix of residents in Whitley Bay it’s important to be able to appeal to a lot of people, I only wish they were at the end of my street, although my liver not so much.
Come out of Gilbert & Smiths turn right and walk for a minute down Park View and you’ll come to NORD Bottleshop, which is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, it’s bottleshop that you can also sit and have a drink in. Being predominantly a shop means they have the widest range of choices on offer. You can choose anything from their extensive fridges and also have some guest beers on tap. They don’t have any wine or spirits so when I asked advice from the friendly lady behind the bar I was chuffed with the fruity ale she recommended. It was a great, refreshing pallet cleanser having probably made the switch to wine too early in the day.
The thing that put me off this place was the same thing that puts me off having a café in the middle of Marks & Spencer. Yes, it’s nice having a glass of prosecco when you’re shopping, but you’re essentially sitting in the middle of the bread section. In NORD you very much feel like you’re sitting in the middle of a shop, so atmosphere wise, it falls a little short in comparison to the other places on the tour. That’s just my personal preference though, and probably because I’m a little salty that they don’t serve wine.
The Dog & Rabbit
Come out of NORD and continue right along Park View, after a couple of minutes the round will bear round to the left and turn into Park View, where you will see the Dog and Rabbit pub on the left.
In comparison to Gilbert and Smiths, The Dog and Rabbit is very much everything you’d expect from a small, tradition pub, and that is in no way a negative thing. It was also nicely busy when we arrived at about 4pm so the atmosphere was brilliant. Dave tried a 2/3 pint of the 6% Anarchy Anti venom (Anarchy being a firm favourite in our house) while I was just happy to be back on the grape juice. One thing worth mentioning for the wine drinkers amongst us is that a lot of these places serve wine y the mini bottle. So, whilst there isn’t a vast wine selection, at least you know what you’re getting is fresh and not from a bottle that’s been sitting open for 3 weeks.
The Dog & Rabbit has recently been awarded not only CAMRA best pub in North Tyneside but also overall pub of the year. When we visited staff and clientele were friendly which was a great representation of north east hospitality and a very much worthy venue to end a great tour on.
Check out some of the other guides we’ve put together: