As you read this I will be enjoying a long weekend back home in the Highlands with family and friends.
The Highlands – haggis country you cry. Oh yes, but really you don’t need to head north of the border to enjoy some pretty damn fine haggis closer to home, as I discovered this week.
I also discovered what might well now be my favourite eating out pub in the North East. So I have much to thank this page for.
Said pub is The Bridge Tavern, newly opened on Newcastle Quayside. It is already the jewel in the crown of gastro bars in the region as far as I am concerned.
Owned by the same team which has the Town Wall in the city centre, the former Newcastle Arms from days gone by has been given a complete makeover – but the Newcastle Arms element has been lovingly restored on the frontage.
The bar nestles nicely under the Tyne Bridge and is on two floors, with outdoor terraces on each.
From great brickwork on the walls, to sturdy, but trendy, wooden floors, everything has been superbly thought out. It even boasts its own on-site micro brewery, with Wylam brewery, and the aroma of the brewing beer and ale is wonderful.
What of the food, though? In a word – tremendous. When we arrived early evening mid-week the bar was buzzing with diners and lovers of real ale. The wafts of the beer battered haddock from several tables immediately made me want it, but when I saw the menu itself, and the choice on offer, I decided to opt for something different (I’ll be back, though, to taste that haddock!).
There is a selection of weekly specials to choose from and also some `bar bait’ and sharing planks. But we were going for the full monty so had starters from the light bites followed by mains and desserts.
I love haggis, so when I saw a haggis toastie (£4.95) on the menu there was no going back. I’d never had it on a toastie before, nor had I had it with a soft quails egg and Broon sauce. What a dish! The haggis itself was superb, and the quails egg in the centre was just spot-on as an accompaniment. I will be trying this at home – and not just for Burns Night.
My friend tried the soup of the day (£4.95), which was carrot, and was over the moon with it. Rich in colour, it tasted as good as it looked with a wonderful consistency. Other lights include crab salad with golden beetroot; `baked beans’ – trotter, smoked bacon and butter beans, soft hens egg and sourdough toast; and Gloucester old spot pork salad with black pudding and apple.
The mains selection was just as appetising. I decided on the roast lamb chump (£11.95), after asking co-owner Dave Stone which meal he would recommend. Good choice mister! I don’t think I have had lamb cooked quite so perfectly, It was tender as can be and packed with flavour. The dish itself came with deep green sprouting broccoli, mint dressing and capers. As a side I had the triple cooked chips. Everything worked and tasted wonderfully.
My pal had the Flat Iron steak (£12.50) which she asked to be cooked medium, and was presented just-so. This came with a fantastic mushroom ketchup and triple cooked chips, while her side was some terrific onion rings.
There was absolutely nothing to fault with either dish and we both agreed it was some of the best food we had ever tasted on our many nights out together over the years.
Other mains include that beer battered haddock; ground beef chuck burger and roasted aubergine burger.
For dessert we shared a stupendous caramel ice cream, salted peanut brittle and chocolate sauce (£4.50). It was heaven on a plate. I also tried the stout float, with bramble syrup and vanilla ice cream, but had been spoilt by the deliciousness of our first sweet. The house wine, a lovely dry and perfectly chilled Marsanne Viognier( £14.50) went down a treat, but I had to give the ale plank a go too!
This is like an ale platter – four one-third pints of ales. I had the Tavernale (my favourite), extra pale Tavernale, Four of a Kind and Black Perle.
All in all a superb night out, faultless in every respect. Chef Tony Renwick is masterful in his dishes and I also have to mention Pip and Ashley, who looked after us superbly throughout our meal.
A fine and welcome addition to the region’s drinking and food scene.