16 January 2020

Thali Tray/Arch 2 Brewpub

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Ambience ✪✪✪
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Stepney Bank

07446 011 941

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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Service ✪✪ 

125 Jesmond Road
Newcastle upon Tyne

0191 239 9566

Accessibility? TBC
Gluten free options? TBC


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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Ambience ✪✪
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On The Green
DL11 6SN
01748 884 292


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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Service ✪✪✪✪

206 Chillingham Road
Newcastle upon Tyne

07577 929205

Accessibility? No 
Gluten free options? Yes 


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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Ambience ✪✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪

The Wynding 
NE67 5AY 

01665 721 211 


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

Food ✪✪✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪
Service ✪✪✪✪

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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Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪ 

High Bridge Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 1EN 

0191 261 8000 

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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Service ✪✪✪✪ 

6 Mill Hill 
LS1 5DQ 

0113 243 1248 

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.

The Muddler

Food ✪✪ 
Ambience ✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪✪ 

69 Grey Street 
Newcastle upon Tyne 
NE1 6EF 

0191 222 0125 

Accessibility? No 
Gluten free? Yes 

Danieli Holdings is, or are, in their own words, “one of the fastest growing multi-faceted privately owned business [sic] based in the North East of England”, with care homes and security firms alongside their leisure “division”. 

I have no particular problem with big companies, or even with companies that do more than one thing. I am neither an anti-capitalist nor a starry-eyed believer that a good restaurant must of necessity be independently owned. However, you also can’t blame me for noticing that I’ve frequently struggled to find a half decent meal in the restaurants of companies like Danieli. 

Never heard of them? Try Bar B in The Gate. Or YOLO in Ponteland (see my rather scathing review of their High Bridge Branch here). Or the (rather better) shipping containers on Pilgrim Street. There you go: of course you know Danieli Holdings. My latest attempt at a decent Danieli meal was at The Muddler on Grey Street, where on a pleasant Sunday afternoon Mrs Diner and I took a friend to help us lay siege to their Pan-Asian offering.

4 November 2019

Scream For Pizza

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Ambience ✪✪✪✪ 
Service ✪✪✪ 

21 Starbeck Avenue 
NE2 1RJ 

0191 261 7974 

Accessibility? Yes 
Gluten free? “Gluten free pizzas available, but not suitable for coeliacs due to environment” 

Until pretty recently, if you were to ask me where in Newcastle to go for a sit-down pizza that’s a step (a lot of steps, actually) up from your standard cheapo pizza/pasta job, there would only be one answer: I'd be sending you to Cal’s Own.  

But, just like the Number 1 bus through Heaton, you wait years to have somewhere else do good Neapolitan style pizza and then three show up at once. Who doesn’t like choice? When it comes to pizza, not me. Flint Pizza on Chillingham Road looks the part, and I’ll reporting back before long, but first let me tell you about the bricks and mortar gaff from Street Food veterans Scream for Pizza.