Newcastle-Upon-Tyne or as it is more commonly referred to, Newcastle, is a city I have only briefly seen from the window of a train. I was long overdue a visit.
I'm not entirely sure that Newcastle is known for its food culture, it's football, loud and scantily clad women, Geordie accents and impressive bridges yes. From what I can gather the food scene is on the way up like most Northern cities, no longer are good eateries confined to that London place. Like many major cities you'll find a lot of chain restaurants decorating the main streets but tucked away down the quayside, chares (small streets) and less obvious walkways you'll find a range of different independents and some upcoming or well-known chef eateries (NB this doesn't include Jamie's Italian which is right up there in central position with the rest of the chains).
It was only a matter of time before I visited Newcastle as the chap is fond of the ol' football and despite coming from Leeds is an NUFC fan. I did a fair bit of research before we visited so not to end up eating somewhere too disappointing, and I've found a fair few Newcastle bloggers in the process too, which is always going to be handy for any upcoming visits (of which I am sure there will be plenty more).
Quite a few places were recommended to me by some locals. I really wanted something that we didn't have in Leeds, for instance an overindulging burger place or a chain. Amongst the recommendations were a sausage restaurant and the Broad Chare. Whilst reading through some blogs I stumbled across The Bridge Tavern. Its menu seemed very similar to The Broad Chare... but a few quid cheaper and featuring a micro brewery. On this occasion The Bridge Tavern won and it became our choice of pre-match grub. I've since read that the chef from Broad Chare has migrated to The Bridge Tavern so this could explain the similar offerings.
Knowing it was match day and that a micro brewery might be a typically popular place when Newcastle are playing at home we decided to book, and it was a good job too otherwise we might have had to have done some table loitering to be able to eat comfortably.
The first thing that struck us as we were waiting at the bar to be served was just how many ales they had on cask, I'm hazarding a guess of about 10 plus your general lagers.
They brew in association with Wylam Brewery who are a local craft brewery but there is someone on site who helps create the bespoke brews that are available on tap in the pub.
The micro brewery at the back was one of the smaller micro breweries I have seen, my comparison being the micro breweries in Leeds (Tapped, Brewery Taps etc). Our table was conveniently placed beside the fermenters and behind a column so nicely tucked away.
I decided to go with half pints, my clever ploy to try more without getting too full or drunk. First up I tried the West Coast pale which is brewed on site.
A really refreshing IPA with a hoppy taste but slightly lower in strength than some of the IPA's out there. D quoted that it was one of the nicest on site brews he has ever had.
One of the things that really attracted me to The Bridge Tavern was the obscurity of the menu, there were things on there that I had never before seen on pub menus. This included things such as pig head croquettes, fried pigs ears, slow cooked ox cheek on bone marrow toast, haggis toastie... to name just a few. Maybe that's just what they eat in the North East.
Unsure of how big the portions would be we decided to go for just one 'bar bite' to share between us and a main each. If we still felt hungry we'd try a few more things from the menu afterwards. Turns out this was enough food to fill our bellies.
The bar bite we decided upon was the pig head croquettes.
These were the piggiest things I have ever eaten in my whole life. Inside the breadcrumbs were layers of pigs head, I'm afraid I have to say these were just too porky for my taste. It appears I just can't handle the pork.
For mains D chose the Galloway Beef Pie which came with creamed tatties (mashed potato) and cabbage.
I dare say I have never tasted such a creamy buttery pastry before, it was a delight. The pie was packed full of different flavours and break away beef, this was a perfect meal for such a crisp cold day.
Disappointed that the venison burger was no longer an option on the menu, not wanting to order the same as D, being put off the steak from a picture I saw on tripadviser (yeah yeah I know) and also not wanting to indulge in fish and chips twice in one week, I went for the next thing that looked appetising on the menu... and seen as they clearly specialised in the pork business I decided to opt for the pulled pork bun with kimichee slaw and pickled cucumbers - the side of triple cooked chips were an extra £2.45.
The chips came with a whole load of crispy bits, it left me wondering if I had received the bottom dregs of the frying basket, good job I like crispy bits, D described them as Kettle chip-like.
The bun as you may see from the picture above had been toasted on the inside, but unfortunately someone had taken their eye off the ball (bun) and it was slightly charred around the edges. My main arrived a couple of minutes later than D's so I was surprised to find the pulled pork that was peeping out of the bun was slightly cold... I guess the wait was for the chips. There wasn't much slaw to be found in the burger, the pickles were nice but an extra slice would have been nicer. Done properly this had the potential to be a great meal but it settled for okay in my books.
Looking around I probably should have gotten the firm favourite that afternoon which was the fish and chips. A massive portion of fish with a substantial amount of chips served with mushy peas it looked the business.
We were both comfortably full from our meal, which with a pint and a half came to a mere £26. We tried a couple more halves each, the other on site brewed pale (which I can't recall the name of as I forgot to take a picture - it was something like Tavern Pale) and a guest ale.
The atmosphere in The Bridge Tavern was perfect. Relaxed and informal, a whole range of ages all with a love for ale (it appeared). The decor was a mix of this stripped back fashion that's doing the rounds, book cases, filament caged lights and doodles on the painted walls. It wasn't overly packed for a Saturday afternoon, we expected it to be busier on match day. If you want to eat and not wait for a table that's suitable I would suggest booking. There are a few high stools and couches which are great for drinking at but not so much eating at.
Another plus point for me was their choice in tomato ketchup. Love this stuff.
We walked past The Bridge Tavern twice whilst trying to find it as it inhabits an old pub whose name is still displayed above.
A few silly mistakes were made, but overall we left with a good impression. A good Saturday-Afternooner.
The Bridge Tavern
7 Akenside Hill