I’d been wanting to eat at the Bridge Tavern since turning up for the opening night back in September, when the owner Dave Stone (who also owns The Town Wall) brought over a rack of delicious ales and Head Chef Tony Renwick (who used to be a chef at Broad Chare) delivered a bowl of smoked nuts. These nuts were unbelievable, good enough to be memorable, and I’d been thinking: if they make memorable nuts, what must the rest of the menu taste like?
So I was full of optimism when I headed to Newcastle’s Quayside, an area that’s currently transforming from a sodden, boorish scuzzpit into a hotspot for good food and grown-up drinking – House of Tides, Quay Ingredient and Broad Chare are among the highlights. The Bridge Tavern is there too, directly under the Tyne Bridge, in a building that was once the Newcastle Arms, and it’s steadily gaining a good reputation by word of mouth.
Unfortunately, when we walked in we got a slap of disappointment. The upstairs terrace, with views under the bridge, was closed for a private party (Adobe Typekit, the sign said). Instead we were shown to a downstairs table. And it had a sidescreen blocking most of the pub from view. And when I tried to sit down the chairs were jammed in – another customer had to help me lift the table to get them out, which was a unique experience. And the table wobbled.
But that was it. A rat-a-tat of disappointment, all done in five minutes, and after that everything picked up, quickly and dramatically. Me and my wife wandered around to have a proper look. It’s beautiful – brick walls, bookcases, exposed ducting, a polished microbrewery at the back. We headed to the bar to order drinks and food (this is more a pub than a restaurant) and the assistant manager was helpful and friendly, cheery in fact.
I ordered a rack of pale ales, which the assistant manager chose for me and which he talked me through. They came in small glasses on a wooden pallet. Another bartender poured a delicious glass of red wine for my wife. We ordered food, which we were excited about, because the menu is appealing; modern high-end pub food, substantial and hardy.
My wife started with crab salad with asparagus and soft hens egg and I started with a haggis toastie – haggis and quails eggs in a toastie. It was staggeringly good. Everything we ate was crammed with flavour. It’s like they’ve got sandbags filled with flavour in the kitchen, and they’re just shovelling the stuff into everything they serve. And I don’t mean salt. My wife hates salt, but she loved the food here. I just mean flavour, buckets of flavour.
For mains my wife had chicken pie with creamed potatoes and cabbage. The pie crust was hard, but tasted amazing and the chicken was perfect; the potato was gorgeous; the cabbage was gorgeous. I had a flat iron steak with smoked bone marrow butter and triple-cooked chips. The chips were very crispy, some reduced to almost batter – lovely. The steak though... Wow, this steak. Whatever the cow ate before being chopped up, I’m thankful, because the result was delicious.
It cost about £40 in total. We didn’t do puddings. Like I said, we were done. We cancelled our plans, went home and waited to recover. The next day we woke up and... Is there such a thing as a flavour hangover? That’s what it felt like: nothing else tasted as good as it did before.
0191 261 9966 www.thebridgetavern.com