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Arches and Palaces....

More tales from the North East, with forays into Gateshead, and some more excellent places across the river involving railway arches and a palace by a lake....

I was watching Town take on Gateshead at the International Stadium, the athletics stadium which doubles up as the home ground of The Heed, and where the away side had scored an early goal to take a 1-0 lead. That pleasing scoreline didn't detract from the feeling of cold. Open at both ends, the International Stadium has, I am convinced, its own micro climate, where the winds blowing in from the Tyne and the steppes of County Durham meet to reduce the temperature by at least 10 degrees to that outside the stadium. To make matters worse, Gateshead equalised through our former player Scott Boden, and we played out the last freezing half hour unable to regain the lead. Still, a good away point, and as we marched past deserted car parks and buildings on our way to the hotel via the Millennium Bridge, we were warmed by that scoreline as we waited for the heat to return to our freezing bones.

Before the game, we had a visited a couple of Gateshead's pubs, the always-reliable Central, and Station East, which was a new one for me. We ordered some food at the Central, and with more friends due to join us we headed into the other room, where the helpful girl behind the bar put the heating on for us. I like the Central, which is part of the Head of Steam group, it is an amazing building, flat-iron shaped and with an amazing interior, and the beer and food were both very good.
Stunning traditional bar at The Central, Gateshead
Station East, built on the site of the former Gateshead East station is another attractive pub, and is just up the road from the Central. Built into the railway arches, it has recently been extended into another arch, and also features a mezzanine floor with additional seating. The beer is mainly from Hadrian and Border of Newburn, and is another friendly pub that is worth a visit.

We checked in at the hotel, got changed and re-convened at the Broad Chare, which conveniently was minutes walk from the Travelodge. We were joined by our Cherry and Anth, and then I organised a fleet of taxis to take us to the Ouseburn Valley, where we enjoyed the delights of the Cluny, the Cumberland Arms -my National pub of 2017- and the Free Trade Inn, my National pub of 2018. Everyone liked the places, the Cumberland in particular going down well with my brother. From there, we walked back along the Quayside, and had a curry. A good night.

Day 2, and my initial plan had been to drive up the coast, but I decided I couldn't be bothered to move the car, which gave me the opportunity to try some of the pubs in Newcastle I hadn't tried before. I went back over the Millennium Bridge and spent the morning at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, the stunning former flour mills which, along with the Sage Theatre, have transformed the Gateshead quayside. Even if you don't like art, it is well worth a visit for the fantastic views over the Tyne and surrounding area from the building.
Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts, Gateshead
I headed back over to the Newcastle side of the river, planning out the rest of the day as I walked back across the Bridge. First port of call, and a re-visit for the first time in a couple of years, was the Split Chimp situated in a railway arch on Westgate Road. It has Clever Chimp from the close-by Errant Brewery as the house beer, and is quite big for a micro, with a second level above the bar. It was fairly quiet, but was getting busier by the time I left, having tried a half of the Clever Chimp and another one from Wilde Child.
Next stop, just around the corner on Forth Street, are the premises originally occupied by Split Chimp. Today it is the tap house for the Box Social microbrewery. I arrived, no one was in the small bar, where loud music was pumping out, not sure what it was but it reminded me a bit of Fela Kuti, which it probably wasn't. I was checking out the beers on the bar, when a side door opened, and a tall, long-haired guy appeared. It turned out this was Leo, who immediately made me feel welcome. I ordered a half of the Gentlemen's Nectar, and we got talking about football. It turned out that Leo is a massive fan of the Magpies, I said I had been watching my team at Gateshead, and we had a great, football-focussed conversation which led me to try a half of the Blood Orange Sour from the taps. I liked the Box Social, it was friendly, the beer was good, and it had a great ambience.
Boxing Clever: the bar at Box Social
I then popped into the next arch, where there is another micro! This is Beer Street, which has only been open about 6 months. I took an immediate shine to the place, as the sound of the Libertines was coming out of the speakers. I ordered a half of Oakham Citra and got chatting to Pete, one of the owners of the business. The bar is built into a container which means it doesn't impact on the structure of the railway arches around it. And as befits a bar named after one of William Hogarth's 18th century prints, the container has been illustrated with stunning murals by local artist Sune. Upstairs, there is another room with additional seating. As a passing train rumbled overhead, Pete told me how they'd got started, the sense of community there is between the micro pubs of the Toon, and the day to day juggling involved in running the place. The likes of Oasis and Stone Roses continued to provide an excellent backdrop. I ordered a half of a Mango, Lime, and Black Pepper Session IPA from Northern Alchemy, former container dwellers themselves, although I wasn't that impressed. Still, a most enjoyable visit, and I wish Pete all the best for the future.
Striking mural at Beer Street
I left the bars of Forth Street after a very pleasant hour and a half so, and headed through one of the roads that run beneath the station. I decided to call in at the Newcastle Tap, opposite the main station entrance and next door to the Head of Steam. Wrong move! After the pleasant conversation and chilled out ambience of the micros, this was loud, brash, and just not what the doctor ordered. The only redeeming features were that the half of Anarchy was fine and it was another tick in the city centre. I don't need to go again....

I made my way up Westgate to one of the first pubs I ever went in in Newcastle, but that one that I couldn't find on my last visit. No such problem this time, the Bodega was just as I remembered from several years ago. It wasn't too busy, there was a good choice of beers on the bar. I ordered a pint of Almasty Creation, which was excellent, and retreated to a corner. The Bodega is a brilliant old-school town centre pub with some lovely art deco features, although several large non-art deco TV screens showing Man Utd v Bournemouth were attracting more general interest.
Classic, old-school pub: The Bodega
Time to move on, the afternoon sun was almost spent as dusk spread through the streets around Gallowgate. I walked past St James Park and stopped for a quick half at The Strawberry, which is to St James Park what the Three Pigeons is to The Shay. A friendly local which is no doubt rammed come match day.

It was a fair walk from there to my next stop. Out past the Royal Victoria Hospital, and eventually to Exhibition Park, where Wylam Brewery recently moved into the stunning Palace of Arts. As you walk in the park, you go through a scary-looking underpass, the effects created by the lighting....
Whether that disorientated me or not, I don't know, but for some inexplicable reason, instead of taking what I eventually saw was a well-lit footpath, I decided to branch left along along a lonely and unlit service road. Considering it was less than a mile from the hospital buildings it was dark, I couldn't see the road surface as it curled around an ornamental lake. In the distance I spotted what I assumed was the Palace of Arts.
Eventually, the road brought me to the entrance of the Palace, a stunning Art Deco building built for the 1929 North East Exhibition. A busy bar was off to the left, warm but not especially welcoming. I ordered a pint of Hickey the Rake which was excellent and managed to grab a seat at a table with nearby sockets so I could charge up my phone. I had a wander round, there are some stunning features, huge doors, a huge entrance hall, whilst at the back there is a room with a stage where events and gigs are regularly held. I got myself a half of another favourite, Jakehead IPA from the taps, which again was spot on. Whilst there is no doubt the Palace of Arts is an amazing place and definitely worth a visit, I ultimately found it to be a bit clinical and soulless. Which is a shame, as I love Wylam beers.

I rang for a taxi, who after some initial confusion, came down the same service road I had walked to pick me up from the Palace entrance. Apparently, this wasn't the norm, drop-offs and pick ups are normally from the park entrance, so it was a first for the driver! My destination was back over the river at By The River Brew Co, situated beneath the Tyne Bridge on the Gateshead Quays. They also have a highly-acclaimed open-fire seasonal-based kitchen, Trakol, which I hadn't realised finished at 6 on a Sunday, and whilst I am sure their Facebook status had said half an hour before it was open, it was probably me that was wrong. So I got a pint of one of the BTRB beers from one of their 20 keg lines which features a few of their own beers plus loads from the UK craft brewing scene. The beer was pretty good, I failed to note the name, and whilst I was disappointed there was no food, I will be returning.

Getting hungrier by the minute, I retreated back over the bridge and found an excellent Pizza place just up from the Crown Posada. And it just hit the spot, along with a glass of red. There was just time for a final pint of Pennine Pale in the afore-mentioned Crown, and then it was back to the hotel after a most enjoyable day wandering around the streets, the arches, and the palaces of Newcastle....
A Night on the Tyne....
Follow me on Twitter: @realalemusic


  1. I really can't keep up with all those new bars on the Tyne, particularly confusing as I someone else takes over Split Chimp, do I need to do them all again ? Actually got a ticket for City at St James next Tues. so may well. Sadly a couple of Brewery bars don't open till Thurs. Bet it was cold at the 'Heed !

    1. It certainly was! Check out Box Social and Beer Street for a preemptive if you get a chance!

  2. Thanks for the excellent introduction to Byker Chris.Recently sampled the Old Fox and Wheat Sheaf in Felling (the latter definitely worth a visit when Town are next at Gateshead).To reiterate,yes it was bloody cold !

    1. Cheers, mate, always happy to visit it Byker! Will hopefully catch up again soon - I had noticed the Wheatsheaf and earmarked it for a visit, so will have to give it a go!


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