Ouseburn Pub Crawl

‘I like to go home early, that’s my thing. My idea of a pub crawl lasts from midday until 5pm’ – Nick Frost

Just over a year ago I was musing to the hubs that I’d never really had a good walk around our fair city home city of Newcastle upon Tyne and seen the city walls, china town etc. So one rain Good Friday we did just that, I wrote a blog post about it and it became the most successful post I’ve ever done.

The Ouseburn area of Newcastle is also somewhere I’ve never really been been, Meagan and I ventured down there when she was over in July, just we ended up just getting drunk in the Ship Inn and did really try any of the other pubs. So, hubby being the amazing, supportive hombre he is, agreed to be dragged out the house for a day on drink. All in the name of research of course. How selfless.

Ouseburnmap

Directions

Every professional drinker knows that you need to line your stomach well before a good session, so we fueled up on some mahoosive meat sarnies and quirky new deli Kracklin on Market Street (just round the corner from the Theatre Royal.

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Kracklin

After you’ve been fed and watered turn right out of the cafe and continue all the way along Market Street until you come to a large dual carriage way (The A167M). To your left you should see a set of stairs that will lead to a foot bridge crossing the carriageway. This will lead you to New Bridge Street. It’s worth stopping halfway over the footbridge and taking a look to you right where you’ll get a pretty decent view of the iconic Tyne Bridge.

As you come down the ramp off the other side of the footbridge you’re now on New Bridge Street and should see Manors Metro Station (this is another good place to start if you want to miss out lunch). Walk passed the metro station keeping it on your right and you should come across the first pub of the crawl just passed it, called the New Bridge

Part of the Sir John Fitzgerald pub chain this isn’t the same as most of the others in the chain like The Twin Farms or the Pavilion, it’s much more traditional. Near the front door there are cute little wooden booths to sit in quietly then past the bar it opens out where it’s a little more lively but still with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere (the barmaid in particular was really good fun). They have big plasma screens showing the Newcastle match if it’s on so a good one for footie fans. There’s a good range of real ales, always a winner with the hubs, I however was firmly on the wine (a small glass though this was a marathon not a sprint!)

Come out of the New Bridge and turn right continuing along New Bridge Street, after about 5 minutes or so you will see the Tanners Arms directly in front of you.

Probably the least salubrious of the pubs on the tour, however it was reasonably quiet when we were in and got a warm welcome from the bar staff. You get a real sense of Newcastle here – a local pub but not in an intimidating, the music stops and everyone stares at you as you walk in kind of way. It’s another real ale pub with a lot of variation on offer including ciders on tap. Although we weren’t eating they did a good variety of reasonably priced hot dogs and gourmet burgers. The music was pretty spot on as well, the only pub on the tour that has it’s own resident DJ, I daren’t ask him if he had any Backstreet Boys though.

When you come out of the side door of the Tanners you want to hike a left then sharp left again so you’re walking down Stepney Bank. You should see the famous Byker Bridge infront of you on the left, walk down the bank keeping to the right of the bridge arches. About 3/4 minutes down the road it will start to bear round to the right onto Lime Street where you’ll see the Ship Inn on the left and the Cluny right in front of you (The Ship Inn is also worth a try if your liver is up to the challenge but since I’d already drank in there we gave it a miss on this occasion) and headed straight into the Cluny instead.

The Cluny apparently is a regular fixture in the top 100 list of World’s Best Bars, and is currently the only pub in Newcastle upon Tyne to make the list. As well as being a cafe and bar it’s also a live music venue with two different rooms, the largest of which has a capacity of around 300. Personally, this was probably my least favourite pub of all on the tour. Perhaps my expectations were too high with it being so iconic. I mean, there was nothing wrong with it, it was just a little bit too hipstery (the irony of that is not lost considering we were in Ouseburn – the most hispter place on the planet) but I just found it a little too cool for school and the staff looked bored and surly. Reading some reviews on Tripadvisor appear to concur as well sadly, the fact that it’s a music venue seemingly the only thing saving it at the moment. Should have stuck to what we knew and gone back to the Ship Inn instead.

Come out of the Cluny and turn right (or if you’ve taken my advice and gone to the Ship turn left) with Ouseburn Farm on your left and over the wooden bridge that crosses the Rive Ouse. Follow the path round to the right a little bit and you should see a set of steep steps on the right. Climb the steps to pub number 4 – The Cumberland Arms

Absolute, hands down favourite pub of the day. The pub is split into 2 bar areas with the bar in the middle servicing both rooms. We found a little table in the left hand room which was lovely and cosy with a roaring open fire, books and board games. They don’t do food because, well, they’re not Wetherspoons, but we got a couple of bags of crisps to tide us over. They also have a small performance space upstairs where they do improv – something I’d like to check out sometime. I will always love small quaint local pubs over large echoing rooms like the Cluny so The Cumberland is right up my street! There’s actually a B&B attached as well with 4 rooms available, something I’d be really keen to try out in the future if we wanted our next pub crawl to last a little longer into the night!

Coming out of the Cumberland you can either go back down the steps or turn immediate left which will lead you down to Byker Bank. Turn right onto Byker Bank and continue along the road for about 5 minutes where you will then need to turn left onto Ford Street. 2 minutes along Ford Street and you will start gradually walking up a hill and see The Free Trade Inn like a shining beacon in the distance, an oasis of real ale and wine, and pub number 5 on our tour!

By the time we arrived it was early evening and there was a great atmosphere in the pub. It probably offered the best range of real ale. It’s nice to be able to go into a real ale pub, order wine and not feel like a leper and one of the bonuses of being one of the only girls in a pub full of blokes is that you get a seat offered to you, sorry feminists but after nearly 5 hours on the drink my dogs were barking! I wouldn’t normally be that bothered about a seat to be honest other than were the view from the pub window not be as gorgeous as this:

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Oh, and the pub cat is called Craig David.

Well oiled a little bleary eyed we left the Free Trade and walked down the steep stone steps as if you’re heading towards the Quayside and you’ll stumble into the last pub on the tour, the Tyne Bar

It turned out to be a really good pub to end the night on, it was rammed, music pumping and the atmosphere was excellent. It’s not the biggest bar in the world, but my womanly charms managed to get us a seat again (either that or I just have the kind or personality that clears a room). There is a large outdoor space with a stage for live music but this was a cold Saturday at the beginning of March so we stayed inside. It’s possibly a little on the studenty side more my usual tastes but it was welcoming and friendly rather than pretentious and cold. Besides I  was 5 glasses of wine in, I was everyone’s friend by that point! A plate of chili nachos wafted past us at one point , which made me make a mental note to go there for food one time.

So needless to say after 6 pubs in almost as many hours it was needless to say it was time the Newman’s hit the strasse and rolled themselves home, which is exactly what we did (via the Crown Posada of course 😉

 

The Split Chimp gets a makeover

‘A pub can be a magical place’ – Rhys Ifans

A few months ago on a snowy February Saturday afternoon I dragged (well i say dragged, there was actually very little persuasion involved) my friends to the Split Chimp micro pub in Newcastle so we could could sample the £15 bottles of prosecco and perhaps I would get a blog post out of it too. Little did I know that that afternoon and that blog post would turn out to be one of the better ideas I’ve had in my life (certainly better than the idea I had once to so somersaults on a trampoline after a night of drinking neat Bacardi – that didn’t end so well).

Not only was that afternoon one of my favourite afternoons I’ve spent with my friends in recent memory but it was also the afternoon I discovered what was to be become my favourite pub in Newcastle.

Dave and I have been been quite a few times since and it was on our last visit that we got talking to the owner Mark, who told us he was moving premises, to the other side of the railway arches next door to the Herb Garden. It was great that business was doing well (so well I fact that he sold out of prosecco the weekend before thanks to my last post) but I was a little worried. The thing I loved so much about the original Chimp was that it was tiny, and that you could be in there with only a smattering of other people and you would inevitably start chatting to them because the likelihood was you’d end up sharing a table with them. I was worried that a larger Chimp would lose all it’s charm. And no one likes a charmless Chimp.

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The Old Chimp

Luckily, we got the chance to find out for ourselves what the deal was with the new gaff as Mark invited us along to the launch night where all my fears were put well and truly to rest. If possible the new Chimp is even better than the old. Split Chimp 2.0 if you will.

Firstly, although the new premises if bigger, it’s still small enough to be defined as micro and the extra bit of space has definitely been put to good use. There’s a larger bar area which means more real ale pumps, which of course means more choice. They’ve even got their own signature ale (Clever Chimp) which, taste wise, stacks up against any of the other guest ales they have n offer as well as some cider choices – always good to see a bit of variation!

All the character ad charm form the old place is still there, the cute monkey paraphernalia dotted around, board games you just pick up and have a go at if you fancy, nice large comfy sofas and mismatched furniture that makes you feel like you’re just hanging out at your mates place. New additions include a kitchen to be able to produce food and more room for live acoustic music at weekends. The skittle alley upstairs is also a welcome addition, which can be booked in advance if you’re interested. I’m always a fan of anything that gets people interacting rather than sitting in a large soulless room ignoring each other.

The new large glass front lets a ton of natural light in – perfect from when summer eventually arrives in the North East (I believe last year it was on a Sunday) and the mezzanine floor means the atmosphere and music from downstairs filters up so you’re not completely cut off, even if you do want somewhere a bit quieter to sit.

I could of course go on and on about how much I love this place, but you’re probably just better visiting for yourself because, like New York City, there’s just a vibe about it that I can’t quite describe. The kind of place that if it was on your doorstep you’d be there every night after work for a quick pint and a chat, it’s just really, really cool.

Now that the Chimp’s on the other side of the bridge I’m hoping that means it’ll get more footfall and that they continue to do well because with more and more flash in the pan chain restaurants popping up in town (particularly up near The Gate) I have a feeling the Chimp is going to be the Newman’s waterhole of choice for a long time to come. Even if we have to keep them in business ourselves!

Of course the most important thing of this whole move is that the bottles of Prosecco are still only £15 #SplitChimpforthewin

Contact details:

The Split Chimp
Arch 7, Westgate Rd, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1SA

Website: www.splitchimp.pub
Twitter: @SplitChimp
Facebook: www.facebook.com/splitchimp

 

Saturday at the Steamer

‘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.

Boiler

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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The steamer is on the first weekend of every month with special events on for bank holidays

The Boiler Shop
Sussex Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear
NE1 3PD

General Enquiries: info@theboilershopsteamer.com
Food Trader Enquiries: riley@rileysfishshack.com
Drinks Trader Enquiries: admin@wylambrewery.co.uk

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