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!
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).
Tonight I met my friend M for drinks and dinner in City Tavern, a nice little pub just off Northumberland Street. So dog friendly it has a local hound and a wall of dog pictures, it also did fantastic chips, though the halloumi portions were so generous I might not eat for the rest of the week.*
*spoiler: I will.
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…
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…
Went for a birthday brunch to The Factory Kitchen at the Biscuit Factory, in the newly revitalised Ouseburn. I have been to the gallery before, and liked it, but never eaten at any of the eateries. The Factory Kitchen is, I think, the most affordable, and I will definitely be going back: the grilled cheese sandwich was one of the best I have ever had, and my companion was equally taken with her eggs Benedict. The only downside was it was so filling that even after we took a break to walk around the art and enjoy a pop up jewellery shop (the main gallery also sells some lustworthy pieces), we were still so full that her plan to buy me a slice of cake was thwarted and we had to settle for another coffee instead…
As I mentioned in my post on Mason + Rye, I took a detour through the glory that is Fenwick’s Food Hall today. It’s a gorgeous place – light, airy and with a fantastic selection of breads, cheeses, (and I think meat and fish, if you are into that sort of thing…), drinks and chocolates. The chocolates were particularly tempting, and include a range of local brands.
It was redone quite recently, I think – and I have to say that while the refurb has made it more spacious, brighter and shinier, and opened more spaces where you can eat and drink, which is nice, it has lost some of its charm. The old Food Hall used to be more of an eclectic mix: there were a couple of gondolas dedicated to ‘normal’ groceries, so as well as somewhere you could stock up on fancies, there was a decent selection of basics, and a lively queue of old ladies who happily seemed to do their weekly shop there. (I often wonder what happens to these old dears when places like this get all gentrified, and it makes me sad that the cost of ‘progress’ is to push away the folk who have been loyally patronising somewhere for years. I’m looking at you, Red Roaster, Brighton.)
Still, it remains a lovely place, and should I ever want to fritter my rent on artisanal sweets and posh gin – and you know there’s a high possibility of that – I know just where I can go.