Heworth

Heworth station was one of the first on the original metro line to open in 1981. In 1984, the line extended eastwards to South Shields. It also serves as an overland rail station with services to Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Hartlepool.

When we were visiting we were on our way back from Sunderland, as you come out the main doors of the interchange you will see the nearest pub directly in front of you (a sure point scorer according to WBM rules). Which in this case is The Swan.

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This reminded me both outside and inside of The Railway in Walkergate. An old style dark building with your traditional bar on one side, lounge on the other with the bar running between both.

There seemed to be a big bike rally happening when we visited early evening on a Saturday which provided a good lively atmosphere. The offerings at the bar were pretty much what you’d expect from a put of this style, no real ale however some good offers on bottles where we got two bottles of Becks for a fiver. From someone who’s local is the Twin Farms in Bank Foot, I know there’s not much you can get for a fiver in most pubs these days! I mean let’s be honest, its a northern pub which shows the football and has bandits so it’s not exactly falling into hidden gem category but as far as a what you see is what you get pub, it’s certainly not the worse we’ve been to.

One thing that struck me (maybe all the bikers that were in at the time) was that it felt like a really local pub but a lot more relaxed, friendly and welcoming than some of the others I’ve described as local in the past. In most pubs we visit for the tour we have one drink then head on the net however I would have happily stayed for another more at The Swan!

Contact:

Address: Sunderland Road, Gateshead NE10 0NT
See where else we’ve been on our metro adventure here

Pallion

Pallion in Sunderland is another station that was added to the network when the Sunderland extension was built in 2002 and mostly services Pallion high street, sorry Pallion Shopping Terrace, and the Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Sadly, pub wise, it’s thin on the ground. We walked passed 3 social clubs and a dilapidated old Pub before we finally found somewhere suitable, and by suitable, i mean open, on Hylton Road, a good 20 minutes from the Metro station.

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From the station walk up towards Pallion high street, sorry, Shopping Terrace, and follow signs to the Hospital. Once in sight turn left down Hylton Road, keeping the hospital on your right and you’ll eventually find the Willow Pond.

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This oasis in the desert that is Hylton Road was actually a really nice surprise. It was nicely busy for a Saturday afternoon with regulars chatting and watching sport but there was a quieter lounge area where we hung out. The staff and locals were all great, especially as we had the youngest member of the WBM crew joining us today and got loads of help with navigating his buggy around the bar stools.

 

 

The drink options weren’t amazing, it was still pretty much real ale free however three pints of lager and a bottle of Desperados came to around a tenner which didn’t feel like bad value at all. I feel i use the phrase ‘local pub for local people’ a little too often in this guide however i think it’s appropriate in this case and I don’t mean it in a negative way either.

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One of the loveliest things has been meeting loads of local people in areas that you wouldn’t normally find yourself and it’s heartwarming to see the North East’s reputation of being friendly a welcoming alive and well, even for a couple of Geordies drinking in deepest darkest Sunderland.

Contact:

Address: 173 Hylton Road, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear SR4 7YF
Tel: 0191 567 6742
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Willow-Pond/

Longbenton

Longbenton, located betwixt Four Lane Ends and South Gosforth is predominantly used as a commuter station the DSS and Freeman hospital and other that those and a medium sized house estate I can’t really imagine why else you’d need to visit Longbenton.

Pub wise there’s a social club literally right next to the station however we’ve already played our Social Club card in Howdon so, coming from town, if you hop off the platform through the main exit and walk straight in front of you, through the little precinct of shops and you’ll stumble across The Charnwood.

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The Charnwood has all the potential in the world to be a really good local pub, it’s nicely decorated inside, even looks like it could have been fairly recently refurbished with a large lounge and family area for food as you walk through the main doors and a bar area with pool table through the back. However it sadly appears to be the pub that time forgot.

 

We found it a little surprising that as we visited at around 6.30pm on a Saturday night and it was absolutely deserted, well aside from one man asleep at a table in the corner and a few people milling around playing pool.

The barmaid was really friendly and chatted with us for a little bit as she served our drinks (your average offerings of Carling, Guinness and cider) no real ale and wine appeared to come in three forms; red, white or rose. That being said it was a surprisingly pleasant and super chilled glass of white so I can’t really complain on that front.

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It just seems bizarre to me that a put that on first appearances seems pretty well kept, it certainly hasn’t been the most run down we’ve visited on the tour so far, yet so weird that in the middle of a sizable housing estate it doesn’t attract more visitors. A little research on Facebook says they specialises in Chinese Food, which is weird when the decor would suggest homely good of fashioned pub grub but gets good reviews all the same. Our visit just left me feeling a little bit sad and wonder how long it could be sustainable as a business for much longer.

Contact:
1 Charnwood Ave, Longbenton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 8PT
Tel: 0191 270 9975

Review: The Bathtub Sessions Gin Festival

‘Could have been the whiskey, might have been the gin. Could have been three or four six-packs, I don’t know, but look at the mess I’m in’ – Irish Rovers

I’m always a little dubious when the word festival’ is added in front of anything and they seem to be popping up more and more; whiskey festivals, food festivals, chili festivals, and in my experience it’s always felt like an excuse to get a captive audience and over charge them.

I am however a fan of drinking gin with my friends in the sunshine so when a group of girls I don’t spend nearly enough time with thought it would be a good reason for us all to have a catch up (like we need an excuse) the £11 ticket price didn’t actually seem like that much of a rip off.

DSC_0412Thanks to Sam from www.northeastfamilyfun.co.uk for the image

It was a bonus that this particular gin festival was being held in the gorgeous Wylam Brewery in Exhibition park, which I’ve been a few times over the last few months and always had a great time. We were also extremely lucky with the weather when we went in second weekend in July so were able to spill out into the lawn and enjoy what little we get of the British summer.

The Bathtub Sessions advertise themselves as a Gin Festival with a twist (although to this day i’m not completely sure what the twist was). They have a bevy of distillers who have travelled from all over the country to give you their first hand experience of how they make their gin and allow you to sample their wares.

The £11 entry gave you your own commemorative gin glass and purchasing the gin is done on a token basis. Tokens are £5 each (so it’s essentially a fiver a drink). There were 4 or 5 different stand you could visit and props where it’s due, all the mixologists know their stuff, who knew there was so much to learn about gin!

One thing I do love about the festival atmosphere is it gives everyone some common ground and a talking point. Perhaps it was the weather or perhaps it was the gin but everyone just seemed to be mingling together asking each other what they were drinking and what recommendations they had – north east friendliness at its best!

We ended up have three drinks each; first I tried a gin and pink grapefruit mix from the Newcastle gin company which is based at Bealim House in Gallowgate. When you normally just live off lower end supermarket gins, trying something a little less mass produced is a real treat and this one was very smooth and tasted amazing with the grapefruit tonic. The second two I had I ordered off the menu we were provided with on arrival as a guide. I love anything fruity so had Boosma Dry Gin which is a ducth gin and served with indian tonic and fresh strawberries. The gin itself wasn’t infulsed with fruit but it did take on the flavour of the fresh fruit so was the perfect blend of still being about to taste the gin without it being sickly sweet.

I’m so pleased my last gin was my favourite though as it’s always a bit of a disappointment when you wish you’d just stuck with what you like. They didn’t have anything that was kiwi based (my second favourite fruit after strawberries) and was recommended an Italian lemon gin called Malfy which is made with the same lemons used to make Lemoncello (and I love Lemoncello). Served with Indian tonic and fresh lemon slices it was absolutely beautiful. It wasn’t too sharp or too sweet and the lemon flavour wasn’t too overbearing. It was like a gorgeous tasty alcoholic lemonade. I loved it so much that a bottle has gone straight on my birthday list!

We didn’t try any of the food but a friend of mine who went did and was less than impressed. The queue for one was massive so obviously they didn’t have enough staff on serving. It was also over priced (£19 for two people? – Ouch) and it was all just a mess of different things; lamb, noodles, and prawns you have to peel. Who serves prawns you have to peel as street food when you’ve nowhere to sit?!

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So Bathtub Sessions may have gone some way to restore my faith in the idea of a festival although I think certainly o the food front they need to up their gave and not rely on the captive audience. I must admit though this was very well run, it wasn’t over crowded (however had it been raining and everyone was inside this may have been a different story), the staff and mixologists were fantastic and you didn’t have to wait too long to get served.

Anywhere that introduces me to my new favourite gin can’t be all that bad in my eyes.

 

Felling

Felling station used to be owned by the Brandling Junction Railway but was taken over by metro and after a 2 year refurbishment reopened in 1981. Felling is one of the largest towns in Gateshead and known for producing a host of professional footballers, probably most famous being Newcastle United and pop chart worrier Chris Waddle, who was born in Felling in 1960.

Coming from Sunderland you leave the platform to the right, walk south east along Quarry Row and you’ll come to The Mallard pub literally 100 yards away from the platform. As far as WBM rules go, this ticks all the boxes so far!

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Considering it was 8pm on a Saturday night after payday we were surprised at how quiet it was. Apart from us there were probably only about another 5 or 6 people dotted around the spacious bar area. Inside, the decor is everything you’d expect from a northern working class pub with dark wood and upholstery reminiscent of a social club from the 1970s. I’m also not too sure there’s much need for a Gollywog doll behind the bar in 2017 however , I digress…

 

The staff were extremely friendly when we arrived and we had a good laugh with a regular at the bar about my sweatshirt. One of the things I’ve loved most about this tour so far is how warm and friendly everyone has been, which can turn the most intimidating of pubs into a wonderful place to spend a few hours.

Drinks wise we were’t in real ale land anymore Toto and the wine is served from a box under the bar. That said it was £4.80 for a 175ml glass and a pint of Coors so this is now officially my new favourite pub in the world! It’s a shame it was so quiet really and if it’s not busy on a Saturday evening it’s hard to see when it ever would be and as such how it can stay in business. Perhaps we were just unlucky with our timings on this occasion.

Contact:

Address: 10-12 Gosforth Street, Gateshead NE10 9LS
Tel: 0191 420 0285

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

Billy Bootleggers, Newcastle

‘Whiskey will always be a part of my life’ Artie Lange

I’m sure that people who consider themselves to be real pub connoisseurs would want to burn me at the stake when I openly admit how much of a lover of a Wetherspoons I am. Cheap food, cheap wine and real ale, what’s not to love? The problem with Newcastle upon Tyne is that apart from the couple of Wetherspoons they have, and a sprinkling of decent authentic one of a kind pubs(Lady Greys, Split Chimp, Crowne Posada) it’s almost wall to wall swanky champagne bars where it takes an hour to get a cocktail and the only beer on tap is Stella.

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Another favourite pub of mine which is neither a Wetherspoons or a long standing staple of the the city is No28, which I visit frequently and was very honoured to be able to try out their Unlimited Prosecco offer before it was launched last summer. Imagine my joy when I found out that they were expanding and adding a sister underground Speakeasy.

 

Down at Billy Bootleggers, believe me when I say there’s nothing else like this place in Newcastle. A dive bar in the truest sense with its’s dark cubbyhole corners, Americana decor and bourbon whiskey by the jar. The graffiti filled walls when you walk in reminded me on CBGBs in New York (the original dive bar). So far this place is ticking all my boxes, if you pardon the phrase.  The best bar in Newcastle just got even better.

We finally visited at about 10pm on a Friday night and it was nicely busy but not so heaving that you couldn’t get moved. We sought advice from the barmaid as to what to drink as we were just looking for a nightcap before heading home. She recommended their flavoured whiskeys (at 3 for 10) so we went for Raspberry, Cranberry and Banana and they came in really cute little jam jars. Mixers were also available with them if we felt we needed them but they were tasty enough without. The Cranberry was definitely my favourite, I could have drank me a million and a half of those little glass beauties! They also brew their own secret recipe of Apple Pie Moonshine which will be the first thing I’m trying on my next visit.

The band who were playing at the time (who’s name escapes me – I blame the whiskey) were really good, not too loud that they were over bearing and playing a mixture of original material and stripped down covers all with an acoustic rockabilly feel.

The food and drinks menus are totally on brand and there are no bells and whistles. If your sipping whiskey and listening to an Americana version of Billy Jean, do you really want foi gras or hispter kale and kombucha? No, you want hot dogs (from £7) and wings (from £5) and fries (from £3.50) and stuff you can eat with your hands. They have an extensive cocktail menu if bourbon ain’t your thing, along with wine and beer too.

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Much like No28, I have a feeling Billy’s is going to be one of those places that I drag everyone along to for some enforced fun. It’s also probably the only place in the city that makes me wish there was no smoking ban; whiskey and cigars. So bluesy!

Billys is open daily from 5pm to 2am with live music at weekends.

Contact:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/billybootleggers/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BBootleggers

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bootleggersnewcastle/

 

 

Four Lane Ends

Back when we lived in Cramlington, Four Lane Ends was the closest metro to us, so anytime I didn’t feel like sitting on the Arriva 42 bus which seemed to go via Berwick to get into the centre of Newcastle, we would drive down to ride the rail. Like Haymarket and it’s one of the few stations on the network which has been granted ‘interchange’ status, which, from what i can tell basically means there’s also a newsagent and a bus station there.

 

An interchange that boasts almost 900,000 passengers flowing through the vacinity annually you expect there to be a pretty decent watering hole for at least half of those people right? Right!

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If you exit the interchange via the main doors and round the corner onto Front Street, in a couple of seconds you’ll stumble across The Benton Ale House. Now, with a names like that you’d probably be expecting a swanky pretentious hipster Brewdog knock off where you can play a game of ‘spot the man bun’ however, thankfully, the Benton Ale House is none of those things. It’s seemingly naming itself an ale house in the truest sense, a good old fashioned pub that does real ale (and a glass of wine for the ladies) at reasonable prices.

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The one thing that struck me most, was how massive it is inside compared to the size of the bar, which seems to sit slap bang in the middle of the pub with different sections circulating around it; a bar to the left, a lounge to the right, and a larger lounge round the back. There was live music on when we called in around tea time on a Sunday; a really good Beatles acoustic band incidentally, which only added to the atmosphere as from memory, it’s the only pub on the WAB Tour that’s had live music on. And I love a bit of live music.

 

They had a decent selection of real ales and lagers on tap (well, they are an ale house after all) and any regular reader will know that when it comes to my wine, i like it large and cold, of which this was both; i also quite like it when i get a choice of grape too, however I’ve never yet met a glass I didn’t like so this is less important. And for two pints, a large glass of wine and a lime & soda it was under a tenner.

On first glance I found the Benton Ale House a little intimidating; it looked from the outside a little too local for me, kind of ‘the juke box will stop playing as you walk in’ kind of local however, it’s proof you should ever judge a pub by it’s facade. I could have happily stayed all evening listening to the music and discussing the best Beatles song ever*

Contact:

Benton House Front Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE7 7XE, 
*It’s She’s Leaving Home in case you were wondering
Find out where else we’ve been on our metro pub adventure here