Guardian readers recently voted Newcastle their favourite UK city, but how does it fare for good affordable food? Updating his 2010 budget eats guide, Tony Naylor chooses 10 more Tyneside restaurants where you can eat well for under £10.
Zapatista Burrito Bar
Zapatista may not be breaking new ground – San Francisco’s Mission District-style assembly line burrito bars are now commonplace in the UK – but it is a reminder of how welcome a development that is. A good burrito is about as much on-the-run, food fun as you can have for a fiver, and this is a very good burrito. The spicy shredded beef was long on flavour and left my lips tingling, the pico de gallo salsa was bright-eyed and spritzy, the lettuce and sour cream clean and fresh. As was the case across Newcastle as a whole, the service was also friendly and full of smiles.
On the subject of street food, Zapatista are veterans of the Boiler Shop Steamer, Newcastle’s monthly street-food and craft-beer shindig. The next event is Feb 6 and 7 (entry £4) and features many of the north’s hottest traders, such as Manjit’s Kitchen, the Hip Hop Chip Shop, Fu Schnickens and Riley’s Lobster. • Burritos from £4.50. 28 Ridley Place, 0191-261 7769 zapatistaburrito.com. Also at 9 Grainger Street, 0191-222 0800. Both branches open Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11.30am-5.30pm
Chef Simon Snowball’s cafe is pretty swish – Chesterfield sofas, clean white tiling, attractive counter-top cake displays – but it’s a place where there is no standing on ceremony. Tightly-packed tables give it a nice, cosy buzz; the welcome is warm and you can hear the radio competing with the sound of sizzling bacon in the open kitchen. Quay’s menu is founded on sound regional ingredients and comes complete with various cheffy flourishes (Craster kippers with lemon parsley, omelette Arnold Bennett, confit duck salad) which, judging from his well-executed eggs Benedict, Snowball has the skill to carry off. If that sounds too highfalutin’ or expensive for you, Snowball is still a man of the people: he also serves a breakfast boiled egg and soldiers, a chip butty at lunch and, from 8am-10am, sausage and bacon muffins for just £1.25. A flat white coffee (£2.60) lacked body, it was more generic milky coffee, but its flavour was true. • Breakfast from £2.95, sandwiches from £1.95, lunches from £4.95. 4 Queen Street, Quayside, 0191-447 2327, quayingredient.co.uk. Open daily 8am-5pm
Gems don’t come much more hidden than Cook House, two converted shipping containers tucked behind Hotel du Vin in Ouseburn. There, Anna Hedworth, aka the Grazer, hosts supperclubs and food-related events and, on weekdays, serves breakfast and lunch until 3.30pm. Prettily decked out with eggshell-blue patio furniture, a stainless-steel cooking range and a wood-burning chimney that keeps it toasty on even the coldest of days, eating here is like sitting in Hedworth’s own kitchen, as she busies herself assembling plates of, for example, potted chicken livers with pickled red grapes and toast, or a roast fennel, orange and dill salad with honey dressing. Stuffed with moist roast chicken and laced with a terrific aioli, a sourdough sandwich was A1 and arrived partnered with a similarly bright-eyed and crunchy, mustard-dressed beetroot and seed side-salad. Ingredients come from Cook House’s own kitchen garden and a network of trusted local suppliers, such as Ouseburn Coffee, Charlotte’s Butchery in Gosforth and the Great Northumberland Bread Company. As for alcohol, it’s a BYO-affair. The Ouseburn valley, a former industrial zone of workshops and garages, which is slowly being colonised by design studios and tech start-ups, is approximately 15 minutes’ walk from the Tyne bridge. • Dishes £4-£7.20. 20 Ouse Street, Ouseburn, no phone, cookhouse.org. Open Mon-Fri 8.30am-3.30pm
This hip Ouseburn cafe-bar goes late with DJs and dancing, but during the day its focus is on proper, homemade snap. As the menu puts it: “Our food is real.” Up to a point, anyway. I am not sure that Ernest’s lamb flatbread, a take on the pizza-like Turkish lahmacun – topped with vibrant pulped tomatoes, ground, seasoned lamb, pine nuts and feta – would get top marks for authenticity in Istanbul or, for that matter on Harringay’s Green Lanes, but it was certainly tasty. Elsewhere, the menu ranges from a breakfast of chorizo hash topped with a poached egg and Hollandaise mayo, to more virtuous specials such as a roast celeriac and beetroot pearl barley risotto. Ernest offers a 10% discount on takeaways and also carries a compact range of craft beers, including brews from local outfits Tyne Bank and Anarchy. Expect to find arty types – the Biscuit Factory gallery is just next door – tapping away on laptops at the next table. • All-day brunch dishes from £4.50, lunch mains around £7-£9.50. 1 Boyd Street, Ouseburn, 0191-260 5216, weareernest.com. Open Mon-Sun 10am-midnight (kitchen Mon-Thurs 10am-2.30pm and 5.30pm-9pm, Fri-Sun 10am-9pm)
The northern outpost of a London-based restaurant group, the neat, quayside Rasa – a space as pink as Barbara Cartland’s boudoir – serves up remarkable south Indian food and, at lunchtimes, does it ridiculously cheaply, too. You can pick up a substantial lunchbox meal (served in a nifty, portable tray with roti and a kheer rice pudding-like dessert) for £5.50 or less. My takeaway included a chicken curry with serious depth of flavour, a stir-fried cabbage thoran of exemplary delicacy and a lentil and mixed-vegetable sambar, packed with curry leaves, mustard seeds and whole chillies, which was warm, comforting and deeply savoury – like a Keralan winter broth. Prices are higher at night but you can still pick up a dosa or curry for around £7-£10. For cooking this vibrant and variegated in its flavours, that is a real steal. • Lunch £4-£5.50, curry with shared rice, from £9. 27 Queen Street, 0191-232 7799, rasarestaurants.com. Open Mon-Sat midday-3pm and 6pm-11pm, Sun 6pm-11pm
The Bridge Tavern
This smart brewpub, found beneath the stanchions of the iconic Tyne bridge, is best known for its beer, but it is no slouch on the food front. You could describe what it does as gutsy pub grub, but that rather underplays the slickness and fastidiousness of what appears on the plate. On the menu, trendy nose-to-tail dishes (slow-cooked ox cheek with bone marrow, toast and pickled walnuts), rub shoulders with a haggis toastie and soft quail’s egg, a duck and green pepper corn hash, and a kimchee slaw pulled pork bun. On this visit, a sample Welsh rarebit was fantastic, the silky topping a thick duvet of mustard, beer and mature cheddar, sat atop bread griddled so that it had a crisp edge and a smoky character. Beyond the beer (a half of Wylam Brewery’s acerbic, tropical Silver Ghost Redux, £2.10), a glowing log-burner and the plush, gentleman’s club furnishings will make it difficult to tear yourself away. • Light dishes from £4.95, mains from £8.95. 7 Akenside Hill, 0191-261 9966, thebridgetavern.com. Open Mon-Thurs midday-midnight, Fri-Sat midday-1am, Sun midday-11pm
The Sausage Emporium
No prizes for guessing the main attraction at this lightly faux-rustic railway-arch restaurant (there is a lot of pine wood and decorative use of astroturf). In the open kitchen, you will find chef, co-owner and butcher’s son John Holliday making the superb bangers which go into rib-sticking dishes of, for example, Wylam ale sausages (juicy, rough-cut with an interesting herbal edge), served with roast potatoes, seasonal veg and gravy; or black pudding (perhaps a shade lacking in bloody, iron-rich tang, for me) with fried brown ale bread, confit tomato and a poached egg. The main course versions of these nudge £10 but they are offered in half portions, too. The Emporium also serves sausage sandwiches on gob-stopping seeded rolls with, among other sauces, a brilliant chipotle chilli ketchup. • Sandwiches from £4.50, mains from £9.95. Arch 6, Westgate Road, 0191-340 3082, thesausageemporium.com. Open Mon-Fri midday-2.30pm and 5pm-10pm, Sat midday-10.30pm
Fat Hippo Underground & Grainger Market
This brick-lined cellar space is Newcastle’s go-to for new-wave burgers and a solid selection of craft beers, from highly-rated London brewers Redchurch to North East favourites Allendale. With its thinner 4oz patty (great steak flavour, despite its size) and simple accompaniments of mustard, ketchup, cheese and pickle, my American was reminiscent of a revved-up, refreshed McDonald’s cheeseburger. And, yes, that is a compliment – for Fat Hippo, not Ronald McDonald. Like competitive body-builders, the triple-cooked chips were bronzed, gnarled and glistened with oil, yet perfectly soft and buttery within. At night, a burger meal hovers around the £9 mark, but at lunch Fat Hippo offers three single-patty burgers with chips for just £5. There is also a £10 two-course weekday menu, served from 5pm to 6pm.
If a fiver is a stretch for lunch, you could always go around the corner to Grainger Market, where you will find a number of stalls knocking-out serviceable grub for two or three quid. Annoyingly, the one I was most excited about trying, the pizza joint Slice (unit 146/147, alley 4), wasn’t open, but Nan Bei’s (unit 62, alley 2) cabbage and pork dumplings (get them pan-fried, £4 for six), were worth the detour. The French Oven Bakery (unit 27, Grainger Arcade) is a good pasties and cakes alternative to Newcastle’s own, beloved Greggs; while Sloppy Joe’s (unit 30, Alley 1) – at the time of writing, Newcastle’s No1 restaurant on TripAdvisor – doles out fat, New York-Italian style sandwiches and salads. The slow-cooked mince on its eponymous Sloppy Joe (think spag bol sandwich, £3) was tasty, though I was less impressed with the side of characterless, underseasoned coleslaw. Keep an eye out for Sloppy Joe’s exhaustive range of help-yourself sauces and condiments. Whatever you want to splash on your lunch, they’ve got it covered. • Select burgers with chips £5, burger meals £8-£10.50. 2-6 Shakespeare Street, 0191-447 1161, fat-hippo.co.uk. Open Mon Thu midday-9.30pm, Fri midday-10pm, Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-4pm
The Settle Down Cafe
If you are rushing for a train from Newcastle Central, your journey will be vastly improved if you first swing past the nearby Sugar Down artisan bakery for a slice of something sweet – its millionaire’s shortbread (from £1) is mega – and then pick up a superlative flat white (£2.50) from Pink Lane Coffee. Alternatively, should you have a little more time to kill, take a seat in Sugar Down’s Settle Down Café, an artsy, boho space – one too genuinely thrown-together to be calculatedly cool – where you can enjoy more of that baking, alongside soups, good-looking salads, sandwiches and mini pizzas. A sample pot of Thai sweet potato soup was well-judged in its heat and spicing, although the accompanying dense, seeded bread was seriously rustic. Had I tried to eat the whole slice I would still be chewing – one for the hardcore, that. • Light meals from £3. 61-62 Thornton Street, 0191-222 0187, thesettledown.com. Open Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 9am-6pm
Tyneside Bar Café
A recent addition to the Tyneside Cinema, this street-level bar-restaurant has stolen the hearts of local foodies thanks to chef Tom Adlam’s attention to detail. It is an ultra-casual affair where you are welcome to drop-in for a pint (Wylam Brewery makes a beer, 35mm, for the Tyneside), or a three-course meal. Every dish, from a grilled cheese sandwich to a main course fish curry, is treated with equal reverence. Indeed, if anything, my salt beef bagel, chosen from a blackboard full of tempting items (white crab and basil frittata, chargrilled mackerel with a beetroot and walnut salad), was trying too hard to impress. The salt beef had been mixed with mild mustard and possibly mayo too, which gave it a rather curious mushy texture. But the flavours were all there and the other details – the crisp toasting of the high-quality bagel, the way even the cucumber had been cored in the unusually interesting and well-dressed side salad – confirmed the good things I had heard about this place. • Light meals and sandwiches from £4.50, mains from £7.95. 10-12 Pilgrim Street, 0191-227 5522; tynesidecinema.co.uk. Open Mon-Thur 8am-11pm. Fri- Sat 8am-late, Sun 10am-11pm