22 March 2011

The Town Wall

Children and Dogs welcome

Food ✪✪  
Service  ✪
Ambience ✪✪✪✪

The Town Wall Public House and Eatery
Pink Lane, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 5HX
0191 232 3000

Start off with a good lunch, my editor said.

Perfect, I thought, anticipating foie gras, oysters and Dover sole. But this is 2011, he said, so it must be a Coalition lunch: no more than £20 for two courses, including a glass of wine. Find somewhere that shows off our homegrown produce and has a bit of history.

Historical, local and cheap? That’s a tough call.
   I started at a pub. Not any old pub, this was an “eatery”.  The Town Wall has provenance – it’s part of Bewick House, named after the Northumbrian artist Thomas Bewick.

All the artists I know live in tiny bedsits. Here you could house a couple of hundred of them and still have room for their easels. It’s a vast room with tables for eight or more, plus a “library” without books and a “cinema” without a screen. Did this “eatery” actually have food?

I chose it because their website invited me to “salivate with expectancy”, and also because it’s catered by Stewart & Co, who used to make a very good job of lunch at Meldon Park. It has a fine range of beers and gets a big tick for allowing children and dogs. But the proof of an eatery is in the eating.

Good range of house wines and beers on tap
The biggest problem was getting served. Like pubs in the Sixties, everything has to be paid for at the bar and they won’t let you open a tab with your credit card, so if you’ve forgotten a glass of mineral water you have to go back and pay with cash – they won’t take credit cards for less than £10. The “server” (a very loose term here) made a suggestion: “I could take £10 from your card and give you the cash back”. That’s just insane. This is the kind of non-service that gives the North East a bad name.

Despite the claims of “28-day aged well-hung steak from our own butcher in Jesmond”, the meat was chewy. Both the sirloin and the rib-eye, which should have melted at that age, were too resistant to tooth and knife and the smoke of the grill overpowered the flavour of the meat. Though the chips were good, the salad was dull and the “artisan bread” of the fresh but under-seasoned burger looked suspiciously like a bun. It’s above average pub food, and gave me some change for £20, but there was to nothing to inspire the promised saliva.

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