Newcastle is more than just a magnet for stag and hen dos. Local food and drink blogger Jeff Lyall offers his top tips for ten of the best bars in the city.
For better or for worse, Newcastle Upon Tyne and drinking have, and most likely, will always go hand in hand. Continuously voted one of the top party destinations in the world, Newcastle plays host to easily more than a hundred bars and, being such a compact city, it’s ideal for a pub crawl.
It’s not all shots and cheap lager though, as drinkers in “the toon” now demand a vast selection of quality drinks, and microbreweries supplying these are popping up all over the region. There are plenty of craft beers, sophisticated cocktails and quality wines available, though of course the stag and hen crowd are well catered for, with the (in)famous Bigg Market, and more recently, The Gate.
But with trendy cocktail bars, small independents, big chain pubs and a vibrant gay scene, there’s truly something for everyone.
The Broad Chare
A tagline of “proper pub, proper beer, proper food” is quite the bold statement, but one which the Broad Chare ticks off with some ease. Known as much for its “proper” drinks selection as its cracking bar snacks and simple but excellent food, you wouldn’t be surprised to know it’s owned by local restaurant god Terry Laybourne. There are quality pints and bottles from both local brewers and around the globe, as well as some serious wines. This is matched by arguably the best scotch egg in the world, and a seriously good pork pie. With a traditional pub downstairs, and restaurant upstairs, it’s definitely pricey, but always worth it. Fun fact: they will refuse to serve you a Jägerbomb. Class.
25 Broad Chare, NE1 3DQ (Tel: 0191 211 2144, www.thebroadchare.co.uk)
Definitely a trendy bar as opposed to a pub, but it’s difficult to argue with the quality drinks, laid-back atmosphere and beautiful interior design. It’s small and often very, very busy, so you’re on to a winner if you can snag one of the snug tables in the little hideaway at the back of the bar. You’ll pay a premium for the drinks, featuring plenty of guest beers, but sitting just across from the Theatre Royal, you’ll be sure to avoid the stag and hen crowd. Food options are basic but good value.
20 Shakespeare Street, NE1 6AQ (Tel: 0191 232 5932, www.ladygreys.co.uk)
I could have chosen any of the Wetherspoons in Newcastle, as they’re all in stunning locations, but this one takes the biscuit for its massive scale and grand, multiple rooms over three impressive floors. Yes, it’s a(nother) Wetherpoons, but that means it’s one of the cheapest choices going, and being situated a minute’s walk from the train station makes it perfect for a “welcome home” beverage. Big night out? The central location makes it ideal for the first few, and likely to be full of other similar minded people (read: drunk people) having a good time.
48 Westgate Road, NE1 1TT (Tel: 0191 261 5718, website)
The awards speak for themselves – this one has won them all, including the coveted ‘Pub of the Year’. It’s been around a lot longer than its neighbours, and it’s more or less guaranteed that you’ll get a decent pint – it features in CAMRA guides almost every year. A recent refurb has given it a slight nautical theme, but it remains popular with weary shoppers and after-work drinkers alike. Many beer and ale afficianodos will tell you Bacchus is the best pub in town. Reflecting this, it is always busy at weekends.
42-48 High Bridge Street, NE1 1EW (Tel: 0191 261 1008, www.thebacchusnewcastle.co.uk)
The Ouseburn is definitely Newcastle’s favourite up and coming area, and popular bars like the Tyne are one of the reasons why. Yes, it’s another packed to the rafters beer garden, so on any given summer’s day, find it overflowing with all manner of sun worshippers. The crowd is typically lively and on the same page about having a relaxed pint – of which there are a good rotation of quality beers and ciders on tap, and occasional (diverse) live music. What’s not to like?
1 Maling Street, NE6 1LP (Tel: 0191 2652550, www.thetyne.com)
A relative newcomer to the Newcastle landscape, but run by a local Italian family who really know what they’re doing, this is actually inside part of the listed Theatre Royal building. But you would never guess, given its super-funky and contemporary interior. It’s all about the craft beers here, with a massive focus on daily-changing kegged beer taps from small brewers from around the world. They can be pricey, but all are worth your money. Food is also worth a mention, with a dedicated wood fired pizza, and some decent burgers. Try the 1/3 pint “beer flights” – selected by the bar staff – for a taste of something different.
11 Market Street, NE1 6JN (Tel: 0191 244 2513, datbarnewcastle.co.uk)
You can’t mention Newcastle without the words “football” and “pub” in the same breath, and this institution brings the best of the two together. Yes it’s a pub, with beers, seats, and packets of crisps, but really, you’re here to cheer on the Toon. Boasting occasional visits from the players, the ‘Berry has an unbeatable atmosphere on match day, and with memorabilia everywhere, it is more NUFC museum than pub – wearing anything other than black and white might not go down too well here, mind! On a sunny match day, with a pint in hand, there’s no better place than the St. James Park-facing terrace to watch the match.
7-8 Strawberry Place, NE1 4SF (Tel: 0191 232 6865, website)
Free Trade Inn
Another Ouseburn option, the Free Trade is popular with a real mix of drinkers, from students who come for the beer garden with some of the best views of Newcastle going, to regulars who appreciate the decent selection of beers and ciders on tap, which change regularly. Basic inside, but given anything warmer than 10°C, people spill out onto the bank, and lounge in the beer garden offering some of the best views of the Tyne around. Fun fact: house cat named Craig David. Yep.
St. Lawrence Road, NE6 1AP (Tel: 0191 265 5764, Facebook)
As You Like It
Apartment Group own many restaurants in the city, and party-goers will love their bars on The Diamond Strip, but their flagship remains the best. It’s easy to see why they often brag about being voted “sexiest bar in the world”. The surroundings are gorgeous, and the cracking cocktails make this a great place for a smart after-work drink, or for a full-on night out, or to see live bands at the weekend. There’s always plenty going on, and the comedy nights are worth a look. It’s usually busting at the seams at the weekend, but sister bar across the road Mr Lynchs can sort you out.
Archbold Terrace, NE2 1DB (Tel: 0191 281 2277, www.asyoulikeitjesmond.com)
OK, so when we said ’10 of the best’ at the top of the page, we were telling a little porky. Because it’s impossible to choose between these two near-neighbours on Pilgrim Street. Both are cracking dedicated cocktail bars, and Hoochie often boasts an incredible soul, funk and jazz live music lineup. Many events are free, but Hoochie also attracts some huge names – Chaka Khan this month, for example.
54 Pilgrim Street, NE1 6SF (Tel: 0191 222 0130, www.hoochiecoochie.co.uk)
Alvinos is a lot more about about the chilled out vibe but both serve serious cocktails which are made well, and sensibly priced. Of course, there’s American lager bottles, and all manner of wine if you want it, but in Newcastle, there’s nowhere better for cocktails. And so you get 11 bars for the price of 10.
88 Pilgrim Street, NE1 6SG (Tel: 0191 261 5656, www.alvinosbar.co.uk)