Changing tastes are driving Newcastle's restaurant sector

Published on: 25th May 2016

Newcastle’s leisure scene has forever been one of its strengths, with the city’s food and drink sector being a key driver of visitors and business.

The dining sector in particular is going from strength to strength, with significant expansion witnessed in recent times as an increasing number of restauranteurs exploit opportunities in the market and other established businesses widen their footprint.

This evolution is commonplace in the food and drink sector, with operators adapting their themes to meet the changing tastes of consumers and demands for something different.

One striking example is Ladhar Leisure’s Pleased To Meet You, which underwent an extensive £500,000 extension to create a new dining area and subterranean cocktail bar, resulting in queues of customers lining up to see the latest gin and draft bar.

It reflects a general trend towards converting existing venues into stylish new properties, the foundations of which were built when the former Adelphi became Lady Grey’s, after a £200,000 refit that aimed to transform it from a football fan haunt into a city centre gastro pub.

Similar transformation – or rather evolution – has been occurring on the Quayside, where a number of venues have changed their appearance and offering.

The resurgence has again included a £700,000 project from Ladhar Leisure, which converted the former Offshore 44 into the Hop & Cleaver; a spacious bar and smokehouse that brings a taste of America to the area. Camerons Brewery has also added a pub in Quayside to its Head of Steam venues, after acquiring Eye on the Tyne.

It is further evidence of expanding interest in investment in the Quayside and Newcastle as a whole, and reflects the general trend for a different kind of business to target the market – something that has extended to Waterloo Square, with the opening of Bottle Shop Bar and Kitchen.  This craft beer and food venue stocks rare brands from across the world and has a head chef who changes the food menu on a daily basis to incorporate seasonal produce and drinks pairings.

Newcastle is also now in receipt of its first Michelin star for 15 years, with Kenny Atkinson’s House of Tides on Quayside further promoting the area as a destination for fine dining, just 18 months after opening its doors.

Further accolades have been bestowed on the Bridge Tavern and Broad Chare, which both recently made the Top 50 Gastro Pubs 2016 list. Whereas once the traditional pub and eatery were mainstays of the city centre – and remain that way in some cases -–this has now given way to artisan bars and gastro food.

Under the railway arches, on Westgate Road, a number of emerging venues are aiming to cater for traditionalists and connoisseurs alike, one of which is the Herb Garden pizza kitchen, offering a unique twist on the traditional Italian food and making use of the distinct locale.  As has The Split Chimp, Newcastle’s first Micro Pub, which has moved into a larger railway arch on Westgate Road, following it’s launch last year.

The Grey’s Quarter project is also well underway, with the former Sidgate and High Friars Malls at Eldon Square being converted into a £25m dining space with 20 restaurants, creating a raft of new opportunities for diners and businesses alike.  Operators such as Ed’s Diner, Frankie & Benny’s, Tapas Revolution, Giraffe and the Handmade Burger Co having already been announced.

Each of these movements, catalysed by a different type of consumer visiting the area, has in turn led to different sorts of business investing and expanding, and is helping to morph the make-up of Newcastle’s city centre dining scene.

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