The Town Mouse Ale House

I’ve spent so much time at Northern Stage recently that I had forgotten there are other places to go in that part of the city. So after our jaunt to the Hancock Gallery, my friend S and I decided to have a bit of a wander. First up was a coffee and a scone at Quilliam Brothers, one of my favourite spots in the city, where S had tea, which enabled me to admire their lovely branded tea cups.

We had planned a bit of a walk but the inclement weather gave me an excuse to try a place I had walked past a few times and been keen on: The Town Mouse. Based minutes away from Haymarket in a basement on St Mary’s Place, it’s surprisingly light and airy for an underground space, aided by quirky but uncluttered decor. (As with so many of the spots round there – my old stamping ground – I spent half my time trying to figure out what it used to be. Veggies restaurant, maybe? I definitely recall there being a basement vegetarian restaurant on that street when I worked at Thorne’s – now Blackwells – as my friend C would sometimes meet me from work and we would have lunch there. The chip shop my friend S and I would pop into on our way home from clubbing before walking back to our flat in Jesmond still seems to be going strong, mind…)

It was surprisingly busy – though not crowded – given it wasn’t even 5pm (but hey, we were there, so who am I to judge). I’m not sure how much I would love it on a Saturday night, but then I rarely love anywhere but my sofa on a Saturday night, so that can’t be held against it. Certainly, on our visit it had much to recommend it.

A charming and friendly barman was happy to let us taste a few things before choosing – and struck just the right note for a pub like this, informed and interested (he patiently answered some of my questions about some of the drinks) without making you feel like a loser if you’re not an expert on rare brews. The stock was impressive (not that I’m an expert!) and it looks like the kind of place where ale aficionados will find plenty to love.

S likes IPA, I prefer lager, so I went for Northern Helles and he had a one of the barman’s recs, and we both enjoyed the place’s laid back afternoon vibe so much we could have happily stayed for more…

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Food fit for gods at Quilliam Bros

Having been thwarted on my attempt to visit Quilliam Brothers on Saturday – it was closed for refurbishment – I was delighted to get a second swing today, when my friends L & A were in town. L is a tea lover, so I knew she would like the range of brews on offer, but what I really had my eye on was the stottie sandwiches. Disappointingly, my absolute favourite wasn’t on the menu – last time I was here I had a ‘Geordie rarebit’, made with Newcastle Brown Ale and possibly the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my life.

This time I had to be satisfied with the cheese and ham toasted stottie without the ham – though since it was bloody delicious, this wasn’t a hardship. L had the lentil and squash salad and pronounced it good, while A went for the falafel stottie, and was equally impressed. (He was also pleased to be introduced to the Geordie word ‘scran’).

Sated, we had a potter around Blackwell’s bookshop and said our farewells, all of us planning to return.