Newcastle upon Tyne
0794 956 5013
Gluten free? Yes
As the years skid past, painting my hair in ever lighter tones of grey, I become increasingly aware that I must be losing any credibility I may have had in the past to pronounce on what is, or isn't, cool. Unless, of course grey hair itself is cool (Lord knows, fashion is so daft that it might be), in which case I’m getting cooler by the minute.
Anyway, forgetting how uncool I really am: every now and then I find myself somewhere in Newcastle that is so clearly, unambiguously cool (or hot, as I used to say back in the day) that it might as well be in Dalston, Kreuzberg, Williamsburg or wherever. It fills me with no little civic pride to note that Newcastle is able to see such places survive and maybe even thrive. And, usually, they’re in the Ouseburn.
Whether it’s Anna Hedworth’s soon-to-be-moved-to-larger-premises Cookhouse, the ever-dependable Ernest, The Ship Inn with its riotously bright, tasty vegan food or any one of a few first-rate boozers, there is more good food and drink per square metre in Ouseburn - and always at wallet-friendly prices - than anywhere else I can think of outside the city centre. To this list you can now add the subject of today’s review: Kiln.
The moment we navigated the outside seated section, past pretty potted plants, vegetable beds, paper globe lights and a young couple playing chess while nonchalantly rocking their baby to sleep in a pram, it was clear that Kiln was very much of a piece with the Ouseburn’s strongly urban, (barely) post-industrial poise.
Kiln is a sort-of café, part of the same business as 1265 Degrees North, a pottery producing simple but beautiful ceramics, on which all the food is served. They manage to give the impression that their food and drink offering has happened almost by accident, perhaps just as a way for the team producing the plates to get fed. And yet their attention to detail is impressive.
Coffee, from Leicester-based roasters St Martin’s is superb. My flat white had a refreshing acidity, along with a chocolatey richness that fair walloped the spot with a caffeine mallet. Sourdough, from local FAB bakery (stands for Fresh Artisan Bread – seek them out) was also fantastic.
We ordered a hummus sharer, which got us three salads, a pile of dip, a scattering of really great olives and plenty of that wonderful bread, all on a massive plate they made in the workshop we could see into from our table. Of the salads, a crunchily fresh beetroot and dill number was the winner, a butternut and hazelnut effort was given zip and vim by the addition of a good mustard, and courgette and quinoa had as much flavour as they had any right to, which isn’t a huge amount if we’re honest.
That said, a courgette and basil soup was surprisingly delicious, with a keen sharpness I’m guessing had come from the addition of lemon juice, and perhaps a good dollop of yoghurt. Little things, again: toasted sesame seeds on top made it all the more interesting.
They do a fair line of brunchy things with eggs. Mrs Diner eschewed shakshuka and Turkish baked eggs and went for the Huevos rancheros with chorizo. This consisted of a skillet of spuds, chorizo, a spicy salsa, a brace of perfectly runny poachies (is anyone else thinking of Athletico Mince as they read this sentence?) and a scatter of parsley. It wasn’t bad, but the chorizo wasn’t the greatest and hadn’t given up much of the luscious oils that should have made this dish a real hangover slayer.
There were some fabulous looking cakes on the counter, so we tried a couple of slices (just to see off the last dregs of our coffees, you understand). I’m a total sucker for anything vaguely marzipan-ish, or that tastes like a Mr Kipling Cherry Bakewell, so the cherry and almond cake was always going to work on me, although a heavier hand with the almond icing - maybe an extra layer between the slices? - would have hurt nobody. The blueberry cake didn’t work quite so well, having a slightly processed taste to it, but in fairness, by this point we were ridiculously full.
We paid a shade over £40 in order to have to waddle out of the place. The main dishes are mostly about eight quid. Combining one of those with a slice of cake and a coffee will set you back thirteen pounds, and improve your day substantially.
The food is definitely good, if not quite amazing, but to criticise it unduly would be to totally miss the point of this place. From the genuinely lovely staff and the wood and metal industriana of it all, through to the range of comfy seating and premium selection of tunes on rotation, Kiln is just a gorgeous place to be.
It’s the kind of joint run by people who make it look so deceptively effortless. It’s the kind of place I want to go back to tomorrow, for more of that great coffee and maybe to see what the stew of the day is, or to try some of the pickles they’d ran out of when we visited. It’s the kind of place that makes you want to check Zoopla, just to see what property is doing within walking distance of it.
It’s also the kind of place where you can eat cake off the same type of plates they use in Michelin starred restaurants. Their customers include our own House of Tides along with London restaurant Story and The Forest Side in Grasmere. These designs and glazes are unobtrusive yet classy; the plates and beakers are beautifully tactile. You can buy them direct from the cafe.
If we had been drinking, there was a good selection of first-rate beers in the fridge and a bar stocked with a range of spirits. They open every day from ten in the morning until eleven at night, and as far as I can tell from the website, serve food for that duration, assuming they haven’t run out. Cool.