Thursday, April 07, 2011

A Day In The Toon


As readers of 'A Swift One' will be aware, a couple of months ago, Robin the train and myself took a trip to London to check out the pubs in the capital, and it set us wondering where else we could try in the interests of research. We chose Newcastle, a city neither of us had visited for some time and which promised a good selection of both beer and pubs. This is the story of our day.

The city is about 2 hours from Huddersfield by train. We arrived about 10 am and made our way up to Haymarket where we were to meet our guides for the day, Alan from GOBBS guide, and Phil, who maintains a daily updated website of local ale pubs, who better to show us the sights.

Between us we decided on a route that worked in a rough figure of 8 to cater for the different opening hours of the pubs we were visiting, and an hour after arrival we were in Newcastle's newest Wetherspoons sampling their wares. 'The Five Swans' is on St Marys Place, about 5 minutes walk from Haymarket. It is a modern corner pub, airy and plenty of inside and outside seating offering beers from the 'Spoons range and some local beers as well.

Next port of call was another 'Spoons, 'The Mile Castle'. A large 3 floor conversion down towards the station, and another beer from the festival list. We followed this with the 3rd 'Spoons, and in my opinion the best. An old converted Gentleman's club near Central Station, again on 3 floors with bars hidden in all sorts of odd places and a superb staircase. 'The Union'Rooms is worth visiting just for the building, let alone the range of beers, (and the fact you can see buses passing the windows !).

By now we were all 'Spooned out and the clock had ticked by to allow some of the other pubs to open. Next on the list was the city's must visit pub. 'The Crown Posada' is steeped in history, and after the walk down to the pub, steep is the operative word. Hiding down a side street, called 'Side' oddly enough, it is towards the river away from the city centre. The interior is listed in Camra's inventory of pub interiors and the whole place is dominated by 2 stained glass windows facing onto the street. Long and thin, with a superb decorative ceiling, music from an old gramophone adds to the atmosphere of calm here. There are 6 beers on tap here, many locally sourced, so a half of Wylam 'Gold Tankard' hit the spot while chilling out.

The only problem with the 'Posada' is the walk back to the centre, all up hill. I was overruled in my request for a taxi, so we made our way back up the hill, and a flight of steps akin to scaling Everest which brought us to the next pub. Facing the castle and on the edge of the High Level Bridge (more of which in a minute) 'The Bridge Hotel' is a large pub, with plenty of seating in different open plan areas, again GBBG listed, and again a selection of locally sourced beer, but we went for the Cumberland Ales 'Corby Blonde' and pretty good it was too.

Our guides then suggested a walk into Gateshead for our next pub. Off across the bridge and at the end, on the left hand side hidden away is the newly renovated 'Central Hotel'. Well, to say newly renovated gives the wrong impression. The place had been derelict for many years until the Head of Steam chain got hold of it and sympathetically restored it. A long thin pub, with a new central bar, (but still using the original hand pulls) it is a credit to them. Especially if you can get chance to visit the back room, which is totally unchanged from its previous existence with a massive polished wood bar and was discovered intact when the pub was being renovated. A exciting food menu, and an equally exciting beer menu, we tarried here for quite a while, sampling offering from the rare 'Stables' brewery, and a couple of other beers rare to the area. A must visit pub. (cont)

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