Dinosaurs at Northern Stage and Ghosts at Live Theatre

Another day of theatre yesterday – I am rather loving the fact that I am seeing so much. I had a meeting at Northern Stage in the afternoon, where I got to do one of my favourite things (rant about theatre and class) in good company. I hadn’t, however, reckoned with the fact that the theatre is currently showing Dinosaur World Live, so was mobbed with excitable kids. I was actually quite jealous – not only would I love to see a show featuring ‘live’ dinosaurs – but it was only an hour long! I did at least get to see one of the dinos roaming wild in the cafe, which made up for some of the commotion.

Then after a quick stop at Pizza Express on Dean Street – a place I haven’t been since I went on a date there 25 years ago with a bloke who actually fancied my flatmate more than me (good times), I was back at Live Theatre for the press night of Clear White Light. It’s quite an odd concept – a retelling of the Fall of the House of Usher, set against a backdrop of NHS cuts and to a soundtrack of Alan Hull (of Lindisfarne fame) songs, and it took a while to find its feet – the first half dragged a bit (and you know I already think everything is 15 minutes too long), but it bounced back with a very strong second half that had some proper surprises, and the acting was strong throughout. The rousing finale, a song exhorting us to ‘bring down the government’ ended the evening on a high note. (“I think every play should end with an ode to revolution,” said one of my fellow audience members, as we were leaving.

It’s sold out now, so if you haven’t got a ticket you are probably out of luck, but if it does come back or you can get returns, it’s worth catching.

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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).

Lola Jeans

Lola Jeans is a bar / restaurant tucked just off Grey Street (on Market Street) and when I heard it did a mean line in cocktails, I had to check it out. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get round to having a cocktail – it was early evening, and I was in the mood more for wine – but it’s definitely a place with promise. Because I met my friend around 5 the place was still too quiet to gauge its atmosphere or buzz, but I liked the decor – heavy on the brocade sofas – and the staff were friendly.

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…

The Biscuit Factory

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…

Pizza Punks

Located midway down Dean Street, new joint on the scene Pizza Punks is certainly striking: neon signs and bare brick, graffiti-covered walls. The menu is promising, and they don’t gouge you on toppings – there is a set price for their pizzas. But my first trip was a little bit of a disappointment, if I am honest.

The vibe is cool but slightly try-hard (we were called ‘love’ a little too often by the admittedly friendly staff), and our meal was marred by being 45 minutes late – their Wi-Fi went down, apparently, so our order disappeared, which made me rather wish that they had gone with the retro vibe and used a bloody notebook. The wine list is limited, as far as I could see (though my friend chose) – glasses, carafes and half carafes of white, red and prosecco.

The food when it arrived was delicious – the pizzas well-made and generous – but despite their numerous apologies for the delay, they only reduced the bill when we actually complained, which I felt we shouldn’t have had to do, since it had been commented on multiple times.

The desserts looked amazing and there were some great options on the menu, so I will probably go back, but will maybe give them a little time to bed in first…