The Split Chimp opens new Rum Bar!

‘Wine is crying juice. Rum is worse’ – Retta

When you think back to about 5 years ago and all the empty units that seemed to be dotted around Newcastle City Centre it would be safe to say that there’s been somewhat of a rebirth pubwise recently. For my personal taste there has been a few too many Harry’s type places springing up but one place I have always rated and has gone from strength to strength over the last 18 months has been the Split Chimp on Westgate Road (next door to the Herb Garden).

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The Chimp micro pub started out life round the other side of the railway arches opposite The Telegraph. They moved round to the lighter side in 2016 to a larger unit all the while keeping their micropub feel and I don’t think there has been a time I’ve walked passed where there hasn’t been a good handful of people inside.

Despite other micropubs starting to pop up, The Split Chimp still remains my favourite with it’s perfect mix of real ale (including their own Clever Chimp – a great session ale) and £15 bottles of prosecco – which is what drew me there in the first place. So the question really is – how do you improve in perfection?

 

You install a rum bar, that’s how! Owner Mark Hall, a former paramedic, decided that there was a market in a city awash with swanky gin bars that he would offer something different for the pirates among us so opened up the Top Chimp. Renovating the upstairs area with a rum bar open on Fridays and Saturdays and adding some comfy sofas and softer lighting for a more cosy atmosphere. Not only do they have a vast selection of rums with names I can’t even pronounce, Mark has painstakingly produced his own Rum Cocktails (rum mixed with flavoured ciders and ales) which are pretty amazing! Needless to say if it’s just Bacardi you’re after you might want to try somewhere else..

It’s so lovely being able to see your favourite pub go from strength to strength without having to adopt any fancy marketing plans or corporate brewery chain input creating an oasis in a city jam packed with pretentious ginnery’s (is that a word – it is now!). I love the big leather arms chairs that have replaced the skittle alley and wooden benches, especially with the darker nights drawing in, even more reason to snuggle in for an evening with friends. If only I can now convince Mark to open on Sundays…

Contact:

Address: Arch 7, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1SA
Website: http://www.splitchimp.pub
Twitter: @SplitChimp
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/splitchimp
Instagram: @thesplitchimp

West Monkseaton

West Monkseaton station has been around since 1933 where it was part of the London and North Eastern Railway but was taken over as a metro station in 1980. It has retained a lot of the original fixtures and fittings from the LNER, most notably the platform canopy which also survived the 1999 refurbishment.

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If you leave the stations main entrance, cross over to the other side of the road the turn right, if you walk for about 2-3 minutes you’ll see The Beacon Hotel.

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The Beacon is owned by Ember Inns and has all the markings of your bog standard, run of the mill family pub in the middle of a housing estate. It’s plushly done out inside with loads of large tables for family dining, sport on the TV to encourage groups of friends, pop music on the juke box and real ale. It’s certainly a pub that can be all things to all people depending of what you want.

My best mate Ang was my drinking partner when we visited a few weeks ago and were greeted with a really warm welcome buy the guy behind the bar as we deliberated over what kind of wine we wanted and (perhaps more importantly) what flavour crisps to have.

We weren’t eating on this occasion by the food menu was all the pub classics you’d expect from a chain pub at good prices and what we did see coming out the kitchen looked delicious. They have lots of offers on if you become and Ember Member, possibly most noteworthy a free bottle of prosecco on your birthday, something i’d most definitely take advantage of if it were my local.

I’m normally put off by big chain pubs that are quite family centric, and a hidden gem this wasn’t. However, perhaps it was the warm welcome, the real fireplace or maybe I was just full of salt n vinegar crisps, but Ang and I had a splendid time when we visited and I would have no reservations going back to sample their prosecco, whether it’s my birthday or not!

Contact:

Earsdon Road, Whitley Bay NE25 9PT, England
0191 253 6911
https://www.emberinns.co.uk/nationalsearch/northwest/the-beacon-hotel-whitley-bay

Find out where else we’ve been on our metro adventure here

What I Wore – Summer 2017

‘People get excited about summer wardrobes and what they will wear on holiday, and people have an opportunity to wear things that they don’t normally wear when they’re in the city’ – Jade Jagger

There’s a lot to be said for entering your mid thirties and suddenly realising that all the petty superficial stuff that used to bother you in your twenties you actually don’t give a shit about any more. I certainly don’t mess with my hair as much as I used to have have even been embracing my natral waves more recently.

When I was 25 I joined weight watchers and lost a bit of weight which, other than half a stone here or there I’ve managed to keep off. One of the side effects of losing so much weight was that it made me borderline obsessed with clothes and shopping – because shopping had become enjoyable again. However I’ve always played it pretty safe in the past and have always been a bootcut jeans and a t-shirt kind of girl.

Problem is that I love a bargain almost as much as I love jeans and t-shirts and i have a wardrobe full of clothes I’ve picked up from charity shops or in sales or on eBay that were brave for me, but I’ve never gotten round to wearing. This summer I decided to throw caution to the wind and wear all of the lovely clothes I’d bought, and be damned what anyone else thought because I liked them.

Here’s a catalogue of my summer of bravery:

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I’ve worn more dresses this summer than I think I’ve worn in my entire life!

I’ve also been trying to embrace the playsuit/jumpsuit/dungarees, especially when travelling, its one complete outfit but only one item of clothing. Plus you can be as smart or as casual as you like..

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Outfit details:

  1. Floral maxi dress – Kimerley Walsh for Very
  2. Red lace dress – h&m
  3. Denim dress – Levi
  4. Black & white prom dress – Coast
  5. Dungaree dress – F&F @ Tesco
  6. Black & white playsuit – F&F @ Tesco
  7. Black jumpsuit – Primark
  8. Black skinny dungarees – Primark 
  9. Khaki playsuit – Dorothy Perkins
  10. Black asymmetric playsuit – Kookai

Comment or link below and tell me what your favourite outfits of the summer have been!

JustSO release debut album

‘All music is escapism for me, but I like the way that, on a good night, that sense of escapism can be shared’ – Jamie xx

One of the best parts of my job is being able to talk passionately about things I love and discovering new music has always been a great love of mine. Writing this blog has given me many amazing opportunities, and none more amazing than being offered the opportunity to work as press officer for local North East rock band The Longsands after they read a review I wrote of one of their gigs. It helped that I was mates with them at school of course; having an already established relationship made the job so much easier and it was a dream come true for me.

Guitarist from The Longsands Stan had always had a side project in JustSO, a more laid back acoustic offering with vocalist Olivia Morley which he managed concurrently with The Longsands but when the boys decided to call it a day in 2017, Stan moved forward with JustSO and started recording their own material rather than just relying on a popular wedding band repertoire.

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They’ve now just released their first self titled album full of original material and although it couldn’t be more different from The Longsands back catalogue, on just first listen it sounds like a perfect laid back pop album.

The change in direction (for Stan at least) is a refreshing change of pace and his distinctive voice shines through as he shares 50% of the vocals. As soon I heard his guitar kick in I instantly thought ‘there’s Stan’. His voice melts like butter with Olivia’s who although may vocally lack the power of Beyonce or Adele, she certainly more than makes up for it in soul and reminds me of some of my favourite female singers from the 90s like Paula Cole and Jewel.

The album is track after track of polished classy radio friendly hits with a distinct modern americana vibe. Stand out track from me is Stay, which could have been pulled straight off the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack and believe me when I say I hold the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack in very high esteem!

History hasn’t been too kind to male/female bands however I think JustSO manage to pull off the musical credibility of Fleetwood Mac (without being too mumsy) and the energy of The Beautiful South (without being a bit rubbish). I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you heard them on radio 2 in the very near future!

Download the album from amazon and find out more about the band on their Facebook page.

Sunderland

Metro extended down to Sunderland in 2002, which is relatively recent considering it feels like it’s part of the line that’s always been there. What makes Sunderland station unique is that the main line and local line services all share the same tracks, which when there’s up to 5 trains an hour serviced by the metro alone, means it’s one of the busiest stations on the line.

City centre stations are always a joy to review because there’s an abundance of pubs and restaurants to choose from. For the purposes of this guide we chose the Tipsy Cow on Bridge Street.  If you leave the station onto Waterloo Place which merges into Union Street, then turn right onto High Street then left onto Bridge Street and the Tipsy Cow will be on the left.

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I absolutely love the decor of pubs like this which are both cosy and trendy; they remind me of (what I imagine) Canadian ski lodges look like with the plaid upholstery and dark wooden furnishings. We had a Groupon voucher luckily when we visited so had some gourmet burgers and sides, all were cooked perfectly, portions were plentiful and prices (even without the voucher) were really reasonable.

Sometimes city centre pubs can go one of two ways; over priced because of a captive audience, or reasonable because of the competition. The Tipsy Cow thankfully is the latter with a good selection of real ales on tap and lots good drinks offers (like bottles of wine for £7 on a Sunday). The staff were also good and food came quickly.

There’s plenty of choice in Sunderland City Centre and it would be easy to fall into old faithfuls like a Wetherspoons (of which there are 3 within walking distance of the metro station) but I think The Tipsy Cow offers something a little different and would be the perfect edition to a Sunderland session.

Contact:

Address: 33 Bridge St, Sunderland SR1 1TA
Phone: 0191 567 1616

Find out where else we’ve been on our metro pub adventure here

Pick of the Year: 2005

 

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  1. Scissor Sisters – Filthy/Gorgeous
  2. Rooster – Staring At the Sun
  3. Ciara – Goodies
  4. Chemical Brothers – Galvanize
  5. Athlete – Wires
  6. Ashanti – Only You
  7. Eminem – Like Toy Soldiers
  8. Doves – Black & White Town
  9. Lil John – Let’s Go
  10. Kaiser Chiefs – Oh My God
  11. Verbalicious – Don’t Play Nice
  12. Britney Spears – Do Somethin’
  13. Phantom Planet – California
  14. Feeder – Feeling A Moment
  15. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc
  16. Destiny’s Child – Girl
  17. Killers – Smile Like You Mean It
  18. KT Tunstall – Other Side of the World
  19. Rob Thomas – Lonely No More
  20. Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl
  21. John Legend – Ordinary People
  22. Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends
  23. Missy Elliott – Lose Control
  24. Backstreet Boys – Incomplete
  25. Mario – Here I Go Again
  26. Kanye West – Diamonds from Sierra Leone
  27. Inaya Day – Nasty Girl
  28. Roll Deep – The Avenue
  29. Daniel Powter – Bad Day
  30. Simon Webbe – Lay Your Hands
  31. Gorillaz – Dare
  32. Pussycat Dolls – Don’t Cha
  33. Coldplay – Fix You
  34. Bowling for Soup – Almost
  35. Kanye West – Gold Digger
  36. Backstreet Boys – Just Want You To Know
  37. Will Smith – Party Starter
  38. Crag David – Don’t Love You No More
  39. Darren Hayes – So Beautiful
  40. Oasis – Let There Be Love
  41. Robbie Williams – Advertising Space
  42. Nizlopi  – The JCB Song

Gig Review: Jaret Reddick Heartache & Hilarity Tour

‘It’s cool to meet your idol’ – Meg White

It’s safe to say Dave and I have quite varied musical tastes and provide very little overlap. In fact if you drew a venn diagram of what we listen to it would look something like this:

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So of course when Jaret Reddick, Bowling for Soup front man announced that he was doing a solo tour, you can bet your sweet ass we were getting tickets. Before I go into a review of the gig let’s rewind slightly to earlier in September and me bored on a train to Eastbourne. Idly scrolling though my instagram feed and I see that Jaret is asking people to post pictures of themselves doing their best ‘Jaret Faces’ to win 4 VIP tickets to a gig of their choice. Now, it’s 6 hours to get from Newcastle to Eastbourne, (it’s literally the other end of the country you know) so to pass the time I thought i would post a picture of me and Emma (also a massive BFS fan) pulling our best Jaret faces:

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And then I forgot all about it. Until 7am on a Tuesday morning when  I woke up and checked my phone as I always do and saw that Jaret had tagged me in something. My sleepy blonde brain instantly though ‘oh the winners of that competition must be announced, bet I didn’t win’ then I though, hang on a second, he wouldn’t be tagging me in if I hadn’t won right? RIGHT? Our drunk mugs had only bloody won! Now our drunk mugs (along with Dave and my Dad) were off to meet the great man himself!

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Despite a few rokc n roll admin issues surrounding the Meet & Greet (it started early so we showed up a little late) we were let into the venue and ushered through to say hello and have our pictures take with Jaret. I know people say you should never meet your idols however he couldn’t have been more lovely, he happily posed for pictures with us and loved the story I told him about my dad introducing me to the band, he then went on to suggest my dad have a commemorative tattoo from the onsite tattooist (that was clearly the ‘hilarity’ aspect of the tour title).

We had a few drinks and watched the Lounge Kittens who were supporting – definitely worth checking out for their mashup of 80s cartoon theme tunes alone. We also had chance to practice our kazoo work – something we were given by Jaret to join in with when he played 1985.

I’d seen Jaret and Erik so a solo acoustic tour back in 2010 which isn’t something I thought could be topped however I think this may have even been better (sorry Erik!). Jaret, in my opinion, has never sounded better and I love the laid back vibe of gigs like this and takes me back to the old Storytellers series that used to be on VH1. We’ve all heard the songs of our favourite bands but it’s a unique experience to also hear the stories behind them. It helps that Jaret is a natural storyteller, the right amount of ernest and witty (unlike a lot of Americans he seems to get British humour) and had the audience hanging on his every word.

The highlight of any BFS tour for me will always be the inclusion of Turbulence which is a song I listen to on a weekly, if not daily basis and particularly if i’m having a tough time. It’s the musical incarnation of the phrase ‘this too shall pass’ and that’s something I regularly need reminding of.

Set list wise I couldn’t have asked for much more. I’m naturally more drawn to the more sentimental serious ballads of their back catalogue, being the lyrics girl that I am, and they’re the songs that lend themselves better to an acoustic show. Hearing Where to Begin live was pretty monumental for me as after Turbulence it’s my second favourite BFS song, however it’s always super cool to hear Girl All the Bad Guys Want and The Bitch Song song acoustically too.

Bowling for Soup are such an important band to me, my family and friends and what a pleasure it was to meet such an honest, friendly humble guy. Never meet your heroes? Poppycock! I’m so pleased we got the opportunity to meet ours. Even if our kazoo skills still need a bit of work.