28 January 2020

The Impeccable Pig

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Front St
Sedgefield
Stockton-on-Tees
TS21 3AT

01740 582580

impeccablepig.co.uk

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free options? Yes


Sedgefield’s a nice spot, isn’t it? I can see why Tony Blair was happy enough to be parachuted in - sorry: choose to relocate - all those years ago. As we parked up opposite St Edmund’s Church on a Saturday afternoon that grudgingly offered some pale wintry warmth, everything felt comfortable, genteel and agreeable. It was all very... nice.

This probably helped to persuade Ramside Estates to plough a reported £1.5m - it’s always a big round number, isn’t it? - into refurbishing what used to be The Hope on Front Street and turning it into The Impeccable Pig, a restaurant with rooms. What they’ve done is very impressive, but also probably necessary for a venture of this size; with respect to almost everything about the place, they’ve found that magic sweet spot in the Venn diagram where the circles of quality, accessibility and affordability overlap.

Namaste Taste of India

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195 Park View
Whitley Bay
NE26 3RD

07875 971796

(Facebook only)

Accessibility? No
Gluten free options? Yes

I had always vaguely known, but it was on an Indian cookery course many years ago that it was brought crashing home to me just how little subcontinental home cooking has in common with the Anglicised, vaguely Bangladeshi stuff we know so well from our own curry houses. The food we cooked and ate that day was relatively quick and simple, but completely delicious. No one-size-fits-all heavy ghee or cream-based gravies; the spicing was clear and to the point, with each ingredient contributing something worthwhile.

16 January 2020

Thali Tray/Arch 2 Brewpub

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Stepney Bank
Ouseburn
NE1 2NP

07446 011 941
newcastlebrewingltd.co.uk 
thalitray.co.uk 

Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free options?Yes


Where can you eat a curry in a brewery, followed by a pudding in a different brewery, followed by watching snooker’s Steve Davis perform in a leftfield electronica act, all without having to walk more than a few hundred yards? This might sound like some fever dream, but no, this was the shape my actual evening took last night as I tap these words out. So where was I? The impossibly cool Ouseburn, obvs.

For as long as I've lived round these parts, the Ouseburn has always been home to some excellent pubs. A very fine summer’s day could be spent flaneuring between The Cumberland, The Free Trade, The Tyne and The Cluny. But over the last few years things in the valley have really gone a bit next-level, with actual breweries setting up and opening their doors to punters, as well as a smattering of top-rate food businesses taking root.

14 January 2020

The Punch Bowl Hotel

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125 Jesmond Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE2 1JY

0191 239 9566

Accessibility? TBC
Gluten free options? TBC

punchbowlnewcastle.com 

Where to start with this one? Tell you what, let’s start at the bottom and talk about the toilets. 

I had entered the Punch Bowl in a hurry, a meandering pre-dinner walk through Jesmond Dene having rendered me in fairly urgent need, if you get my drift. I clocked that the loos were where I remembered from the olden days, before this place had been closed and reborn. I pushed on the door of the solitary cubicle and was relieved to find it vacant. It wasn’t until I rose from the facility that I found I was facing a worrying set of choices.


A panel attached to the side of the toilet had a series of buttons on it, offering either rear or front oscillation, “massage”, “dry” or “De-odor/self clean”. Other buttons invited me one to adjust the water pressure and/or the nozzle position. I didn’t see a nozzle. What nozzle? What fresh hell was this? Why were lights flashing? Did I do something wrong? It dawned on me: this must be one of those fancy Japanese-style bogs. What the…?

1783 at The Burgoyne

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On The Green
Reeth
Swaledale
DL11 6SN
01748 884 292

theburgoyne.co.uk 

Accessibility? No
Gluten free options? Yes 


I’ve endured some pretty duff meals in hotel restaurants over the last couple of years. The full spectrum, in fact: from stuffy country house piles serving terribly average food on big plates designed in vain to make you say “ooh, fancy!”, through to places struggling to maintain the standards across all their various and divergent offerings, all the way to gloriously inept experiences straight out of the Fawlty Towers playbook.

So, when The Burgoyne Hotel in Swaledale contacted me to ask me to consider a review I was minded to hit delete, until I clocked that the manager there is the former owner of Truffle, a restaurant in Darlington that I had very much enjoyed and was sad to hear had closed. So I kept hold of the email but, as Peter Cook might have said, immediately did nothing. I gave it a couple of months, booked in under a dastardly fake name, then hooned down the A1 to Reeth with Mrs Diner in tow, full of hope for a nice night in the country.

8 January 2020

Bao Bar

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206 Chillingham Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE6 5LN

07577 929205

Accessibility? No 
Gluten free options? Yes 

facebook.com/baobarNCL

If, as is often alleged, good things come in small packages, does it follow that exceptional things come in tiny packages? Logic never was my strong point, so I’ll leave this abstract musing to the more philosophically minded amongst you. What I can tell you is that Mrs Diner and I certainly found some evidence to support this thesis during a dank wintry weeknight on Chillingham Road.

Beadnell Towers

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The Wynding 
Beadnell 
Northumberland 
NE67 5AY 

01665 721 211 

beadnelltowers.co.uk 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free options? Yes 


There’s nothing so refreshing as having your jaded assumptions assailed and disproved by the jolt of actual experience. A number of dud lunches over the last few years have taught me to be suspicious of restaurants and hotels with a particular focus and financial outlay on the look of the place, particularly when that look seems to have come straight from the pages of Ideal Home magazine. Beadnell Towers has, according to the blurb, had £3 million pounds thrown at it, with Dynargh Design creating a “true ‘boutique’ hotel concept” for a new owner, property developer David Wilson. 

6 January 2020

Crab and Waltzer


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5-7 Marine Avenue
Whitley Bay
NE26 1LX

0191 251 9555


Accessibility? Yes
Gluten free? Yes

The literalist in me was delighted to find that Crab and Waltzer, on the seafront in Whitley Bay, isn’t named because of some flight of whimsy on behalf of the proprietors but as a reference to things which can actually be found within its walls. If you are so minded, and manage to grab the relevant table, you will indeed be able to sit in one of the cars from an old waltzer. And, once thus seated, you will be able to order dishes containing crab. If you’ve always wanted to eat crab in a waltzer, well, this is clearly the restaurant for you. You should probably stop reading now and book a table. But for those of us with less niche tastes, this is also a place that does a few other things rather well too.

17 December 2019

Hibou Blanc

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High Bridge Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 1EN 

0191 261 8000 
www.hiboublanc.co.uk 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? Yes 

On the evening that it was announced that Donald Trump would face impeachment proceedings, following the afternoon that the Supreme Court had found that our Prime Minister had given the Queen unlawful advice, Mrs Diner and I sat in a restaurant in the Bigg Market, peering at a menu offering caviar for ninety quid a tin. Caviar in the Bigg Market? Sure, why not! Nowadays anything goes. 

But while much else in the world seems grimly off-kilter and out of whack, this in fact turned out to be a meal full of comfort and reassurance, of things done mostly very well and occasionally brilliantly.

20 November 2019

Bundobust (Leeds)

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6 Mill Hill 
Leeds 
LS1 5DQ 

0113 243 1248 
bundobust.com/leeds 

Accessibility? No 
Gluten free? Yes 

Much as the nastiest jokes tend necessarily to contain a grain of truth, so some of the grimmest ideas have just a whiff of genius. Take, for example, the peculiarly Anglo-Saxon cultural practice of getting severely pissed-up on poor quality lager before laying siege to a phall in the local curry house. I can scarcely imagine a more despondent or dyspeptic way to spend an evening. 

And yet, there’s no getting away from the fact that, occasionally, spicy food and beer can improve each other in a rare, alchemical fashion. When both are of the proper type and quality, magic can occur. Which takes us to Leeds, and to Bundobust, where the beer is craft and the food is street. Yeah, I know. Roll your eyes all you like, though, because they've got it absolutely nailed.