A guide to some of the licensed premises that contribute enormously to Britain’s renowned pub culture. Most of them have featured in some form in publications such as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, written – and researched – by Alastair Gilmour
The Bridge Tavern interior owes much to the school of exposed innards with ducting and services extending across the ceiling. Areas of brickwork, joists, joints and cast concrete also represent utilitarian beauty.
The pub hunkers so neatly under the stanchions of the celebrated Tyne Bridge that the roof terrace beyond the upstairs bar is sheltered from all but the worst of the North East climate by its green bare belly. Viewing panels were also included in the reconstruction for close appreciation of 1927-vintage rivets and girders.
Back in the main bar, rather than buying a job lot of books by the metre, an offbeat library was donated from a local jazz café owner’s collection. A random sampling uncovers a copy of American Combat Planes (a Convair B-36D is simply sculpture with propellers), The Theory And Practice of Heat Engines, and a 1953 edition of the Radiation Cookery Book, which includes a recipe for Free Kirk Pudding, presumably named after the evangelical Scottish Presbyterian church that frowns on drinking alcohol on the Sabbath along with the singing of hymns and playing musical instruments in church. Psalms are OK.
The Bridge Tavern has driven Newcastle’s brewpub wave that’s creating more interest in beer styles and niche production than at any time in brewing history. Combining a microbrewery and bar-eatery, it’s aimed squarely at the drinker and diner seeking style and sophistication wrapped in traditional familiarity.
I’m greeted by a slowly dissipating aroma of malted barley from an early-morning brew. Today’s 360-pint batch of Tavernales produced on the beautiful stainless steel and copper vessels, looking like the support act to an international space programme, will be different from yesterday’s – and tomorrow’s. This “when it’s gone it’s gone” approach is in accord with the experimentation and adventure now expected in our food and drink.
However, the more popular recipes are reintroduced, such as Chachapoya (3.8% abv) an amber-hued aromatic ale with overtones of autumnal fruit, and American Broon (4.7% abv), a sweetish, malty transatlantic version of the Newcastle Brown Ale once brewed in the city. They’re supplemented by a regular supply of local Wylam Brewery ales, including the sensationally bittersweet Jakehead IPA (6.3% abv), and significant guests in cask and keg versions from the likes of Dark Star, Redemption and Camden Town breweries.
The pub’s menu focuses firmly on seasonal British comfort food “with a local twist”, led by meat and fish sharing planks (£11.95). Mains include roast North Sea cod, split peas and smoked bacon (£11.95), while “bar bait” features crispy lamb’s tongue and chilli bean paste (£3.50), and beer-battered Lindisfarne oysters (£1.95 each).
Free Kirk Pudding, a rather austere combination of flour, currants and breadcrumbs, has yet to appear.
*The Bridge Tavern, Akenside Hill, Newcastle NE1 3UF. (0191 261 9966: www.thebridgetavern.com)
+44 (0)7930 144 846
THE BRIDGE TAVERN, NEWCASTLE
First-time visitors to Newcastle Quayside would be forgiven for thinking one of its pubs has two names. A swinging sign announces The Bridge Tavern, while the words Newcastle Arms project proud and prominent on the building’s sandstone fascia. A previously neglected pub and nightspot was gutted and restyled in 2013, but the relief lettering was retained as it would have been “architectural vandalism” to hack it off. Such sensitivity in pub refurbishment is exceptional but it’s an appropriate introduction to what lies inside.
IT'S ABOUT EVERY AGE GROUP
More than ever we need pub owners with the vision and determination to do something that will persuade people to venture out on a wet Tuesday when Holby City might seem the better option. We have plenty of them around the North East and the better ones are doing very well, thank you very much.
Entrepreneurial publican Dave Carr is one such chap.
Meet and Drink writer Alastair Gilmour regularly conducts beer events throughout the UK and internationally – tours and tastings that have included a platform suspended 30 metres above the River Tyne and a real ale festival in a Moscow nightclub – and was for several years on the judging panel of the Pilsner Urquell International Master Bartender programme. [READ MORE]
+44 (0)7930 144 846