I like taking a book and having a cuppa at Super Natural, a cozy veggie cafe near the station. It has comfy sofas, whimsical nature murals and a hand-drawn solar system with fairy lights on the ceiling. Food options, all meatless, range from sandwiches and jacket potatoes (I love the dal) to lasagne. I also like to wander the Quayside Market on Sundays, where food vans sell anything from Thai and Caribbean food to fudge and crepes. Under the Tyne Bridge on the Gateshead side of the river, is Trakol, a trendy nose-to-tail restaurant. Set in a rusty set of shipping containers overlooking the Tyne, its menu – called “outrageously good” by Jay Rayner – focuses on open-fire cooking and seasonal ingredients.
Ali Pritchard was only 22 when he put on his first show at the Dog and Parrot pub. His audience that night? One man, who’d been kicked out of the pub downstairs, and his dog. A decade later, he owns the 80-seat. Alphabetti Theater, which offers weekly poetry, comedy, music and theater. The theater wasn’t created for “business, money or personal gain”, so operates a pay-as-you-feel policy, which ensures that everyone in the “toon” has access to the arts.
Ouseburn Valley once teemed with grafters but is now home to a thriving art community of potters, artists, printmakers, musicians and the like. The Ouseburn Trustan independent charity, has been repurposing industrial buildings there for decades, turning it into a buzzy creative haven. The Biscuit Factory has arts and crafts exhibitions year-round, plus regular workshops and talks. Kiln Cafe & Ceramics (pictured, inset) is good for breakfast, serving Middle Eastern fare including a lovely shakshuka. Customers can eat while watching clay-covered artisans throwing pots next door. Bars are plentiful too. The Cluny is a popular gig venue; Arch 2 is the place for craft beer; and Tyne Bar – under Glasshouse Bridge, where the Ouse meets the Tyne – is perfect for sunny days. For families, Ouseburn community farm has pigs, sheep, cows and more.
Jump on a metro or bus to Jesmond Dene – a peaceful wooded valley north of the center. A maze of tall ash trees tower over mossy stone bridges, and a babbling beck leads to a waterfall. Families should take a few butties to the hilly picnic area or visit Pets Cornerwhere chatty Amazon parrots and cute pot-bellied pigs amuse the crowds. A Taste of Persia, an Iranian restaurant owned by the wide-smiling Buke Dehaty, is an excellent place to refuel after a trip to the Dene. The joojeh (saffron- and lemon-marinated grilled chicken skewer) is a real treat.
Geordies are quick-witted folk; see this first-hand at The Stand, an underground comedy club to rival Chicago’s Second City. Red Raw on Wednesday night is an excellent place to start as it showcases the region’s best rookie comedians for a fiver. The Stand has seating for about 300, a Noddy-inspired color theme, a small stage and two quality bars (the upstairs one usually has shorter queues).
For a cracking pint of craft ale, head to the Mean-Eyed Cat, an independent micropub in a former newsagent’s previously known for its abundance of adult reading matter. This shed-like bar across from Newcastle’s central bus station, named after an old Johnny Cash song, is full of wacky Lucha Libre wrestling paraphernalia, abstract cat paintings and multicoloured Johnny Cash artwork. The crowd is welcoming and there’s a revolving selection of local, national and international beer, plus a country-meets-Americana-meets-punk-garage playlist.
Motel One (doubles from £69) is a chic and central chain hotel. Jesmond Dene House (doubles from £108) is a boutique hotel 10 minutes’ drive from the center in a Grade II-listed house with restaurant.
Adam Taylor is a Tyneside-based travel writer.
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