Quayside market and Ouseburn Open

Terrible weather didn’t deter me from taking a wander around Ouseburn open weekend, where lots of the local studios – including The Biscuit Factory and Lime Street Studios – throw open their doors and you get a chance to meet the artists.

It was a lovely event – I could have spent a fortune, but limited myself to a picture and a couple of greeting cards. We also stopped for coffee in Hotel du Vin, which is a great pit stop in the area, in a beautifully repurposed building.

The biggest surprise of all though was the Quayside market. When I was growing up this was mainly somewhere packed with cheap shell suits and (probably) knock off DVDs, but now it is a foodie paradise with a range of great stalls. Definitely one for a return visit!

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Dabbawal and Stack

Belated birthday night out last night for my lovely friend S. Reconnecting with him since moving back – after so many years out of touch – has been a real joy, and it doesn’t hurt that he always has great recs for restaurants (Kiln was also his idea).

Last night we went to Stack for a quick drink before dinner. I’ve been, as you know, in the summer, but was interested to see how it fared in winter. I was slightly disappointed to see the covered gin bar replaced with a beer tent – it looked slightly dark, fusty and unfinished inside so we decided to brave the outdoor tables instead. These are certainly well-heated – the table heaters were so hot I couldn’t keep my coat on – and I can imagine nearer Christmas the whole fairy lights vibe will feel very festive.

Next up, Dabbawal, on High Bridge Street, which is becoming my local. I’d actually been here years ago with L of Raven in a Graveyard – she’d suggested it on one of my previous visits back from London, I think – so I had vague memories of liking it. And, mmmmmm, was I right.

The food – which is comprehensively labelled for allergies and diets, which always gives a nice sense of comfort – is Indian street food, and the choice is enormous, with a ton of vegetarian dishes. S and I plumped to share, and ordered a selection of sides and starters, all of which were delicious, though my eyes turned out to be too big for my belly, and that, combined with still feeling a tad ropey from the other week’s cold, meant I had to call it a night quite early – which, disappointingly, meant I didn’t get to try their advertised Espresso Martinis!

But the service was friendly, the food lovely, the vibe nice and low key – and, best of all, I discovered they sell their own notebooks. I’m definitely going back!

Lunch at Kiln

So my friend S and I went to Ouseburn today. It was a gorgeous day so perfect for a walk along the Quayside and pottering about, and as is becoming a pattern with our outings, lunch stretched into drinks. We did manage some culture – a wander round the Biscuit Factory and a coffee – but the highlight of the day was a trip to Kiln.

It’s a lovely little New York style cafe that does a great line in vegetarian food and cocktails. You can even buy some cups and plates made in the attached pottery, should you wish. I’ll definitely be going back!

Super Natural – Not the Show

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15, and let me tell you, back in those days that was no easy task. Veggie options were limited, the vegetarian diet was wildly misunderstood – I was regularly told to ‘just pick the meat out’ – and the idea of actual vegetarian restaurants seemed exotic and impossible.

One of the few places catering to the vegetarians of the town at the time was Super Natural. I didn’t go very often – I couldn’t afford to eat out much as a teen – but I did love it, and remember the sheer excitement of having a whole actual menu I could choose from* as opposed to one lowly option, which was always veggie lasagne. (I can trace the years of my vegetarianism by the ‘veggie option’ index: from veggie lasagne through to goats cheese and sundried tomatoes, through to the dreaded mushroom risotto, which is still such an alarmingly popular fallback that I now refuse to eat in any restaurant that only offers that).

*Not really. Having a nut allergy is a bit of a bugger when you are a vegetarian.

So today I popped in for lunch. The location has changed – it’s now on Grainger Street, so very handy for Central Station – but the vibe is very much the same. An impressive collection of cakes, snacks and main courses is available, and though I plumped just for rosemary chips (albeit they were slightly more on the potato wedge side), they were tasty and the coffee was good, and the place wasn’t too crowded, so I felt I could sit and relax. I’d like to go back when I have more time to try some of the more substantial fare (though the chips were blimmin filling enough), but for now I was just pleased to have a little blast of nostalgia (and some delicious grub).

Butterfly Cabinet

In my mission to eat every brunch in the North East, today I ventured to Heaton to try The Butterfly Cabinet. A funky wee place with a laid back vibe not far from that other Heaton stalwart, Sky Apple Cafe, this is mixed rather than veggie but the vegetarian is well catered for. From a plethora of choices I went for the posh French toast and it was so tasty and filling I needed a little lie down afterwards…

Kith and Kin

Another stop on my Metro Challenge today: Monkseaton to see my friend S, for a much belated catch up. We went for brunch to Kith and Kin, a lovely little cafe on the main drag a few munutes from the Metro that he had been to on a previous visit and I was keen to try again. The veggie options are great, the coffee good and the service friendly – and they passed the Tracey Test for brunch by doing my egg just how I asked…