39. Dine at Blackfriars

Blackfriars is, for a history nerd like myself, undoubtedly the most interesting restaurant in Newcastle. It is the oldest dining room in the whole of the United Kingdom with a fascinating history that dates back to 1239.

Blackfriars began life as a Priory for Dominican Friars who were travelling the world in an attempt to establish their order. They were able to build Blackfriars thanks to donations from the then Mayor of Newcastle, Sir Peter Scot, as well as three sisters who, unfortunately, remain anonymous to this day.

As well as having the impressive accolade of having hosted King Henry III on several occasions when he was fighting the Scots, Blackfriars may also be responsible for the famous black and white kit of the Newcastle United football team! It is said that the Dominican Friars wore white tunics and black cloaks and that this uniform influenced the football club into choosing black and white for their home strip.

The Dominican Friars were forced to leave Newcastle during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1500s under King Henry VIII and only returned in 1860. Today there are just five left in the city.

There are many options for dining at Blackfriars and for various other cooking events which look absolutely incredible but which are, for the time being at least, very much out of my price range. The restaurants hosts traditional medieval banquets in its historical banquet hall, provides wine, beer and whiskey tasting and also has a range of other rooms where you can go just to enjoy some absolutely excellent food.

Neil’s parents were visiting us last weekend and to celebrate Neil having passed his most recent exams they very kindly took us for Sunday lunch at Blackfriars. We began with some drinks – I had the GeordieJack (hugely recommended for gin lovers), Corrinne and Paul opted for wine and Neil decided to try something traditional and got himself a mead based drink. He expected it to come in some sort of tankard and was slightly sheepish when it turned up like this…


Food wise I went slightly rogue for a Sunday lunch – beginning with a beetroot risotto, followed by salmon and then lemon posset for pudding. Neil was more traditional with fishcakes and roast lamb. He didn’t get a pudding – inexcusable really.

 




The food was just delicious and the service and atmosphere of the restaurant superb. Eating at Blackfriars on an evening can cost around £20 for a main course, but Sunday lunch is just £21 for three courses and honestly it is so bloody good. I am genuinely now just sat here reminiscing happily about it and trying to work out when I can next find an excuse to go back!

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37. Shop around in Grainger Market

Situated in a Grade 1 building in the centre of Newcastle, Grainger Market first opened in October 1835 as the biggest market in all of Europe. Back then it was divided into a flesh market (butchers) and a vegetable market. Shoppers can still get their meat and veg there today, but can also enjoy a vast range of other stores and eateries – over 100 in total. Notable amongst the stores are the world’s smallest Marks and Spencer store – the  ‘Marks and Spencer Original Penny Bazaar’ – and thehistorical  Weigh House. The Weigh House was  originally used back in the 19th century for stall holders and customers to weigh their products. Today, however, it has changed its purpose just slightly and is used instead for customers to weigh themselves! 


I have been to Grainger Market a fair few times –  I went to their Christmas event last December and have popped in for lunch a couple of times too. What I very rarely do, however, is actually go there to do my shopping. Although I like to think of myself as the sort of person who shops at markets and independent stores the reality is that the vast majority of the time I, like so many others, fail to resist the convenience of a large supermarket. For this week, however, I decided to change that and, along with my friend Bridie, headed there with £30 and my weekly shopping list to see what I could get.

Today, as on the other rare occasions I have completed my food shop outside of a supermarket, I was reminded of just how satisfying it is to food shop in a proper traditional market. People actually chat to you for a start and you get that feel-good glow about the fact that you are shopping locally from independent retailers rather than giving your money to enormous corporations.

We made brief stops at a butchers and fishmongers and a lengthier one at a greengrocers where I bought everything seen below for just £7.00 and had a lovely chat with the owner of the stall who, in true Geordie style, called me “love” or “pet” at every opportunity. God I love Newcastle.


We also had a wander to a cheese store where I pretty much wanted to buy everything in the shop (I have a serious thing for cheese) but, sensily albeit reluctantly, left only with some Parmesan. The final item on my list was chorizo which I picked up in a very pretty Spanish delicatesen pictured below.


Bridie and I had planned to buy our lunch in the market too and were seriously tempted by pretty much every café/eaterie we wandered past. Crepes, pizza and Sloppy Joes were all strong contenders, but we eventually settled on some  mixed dumplings and a cup of Jasmine tea each.


I’d been to Grainger Market more recently than Bridie and it was great to go with someone who was seeing it through fresh eyes. She confessed to me that not having been since she was a child she always kind of thought of it as a “butchers and big knickers kind of place” and, returning as an adult, was now incredible impressed with all it had to offer. We were both eager to return and try out some more of the food on offer and whilst I can’t pretend that I am likely to begin to complete my food shop at Grainger Market on a weekly basis, I am going to make a significant effort to do it a lot more often than I have previously.

6. Quayside Seaside

I absolutely love the Quayside Seaside. It’s genuinely one of my favourite things about summer in Newcastle. For anyone who is unsure as to what I’m talking about, the Quayside Seaside is essentially a pop up beach, which appears every summer from May to October by the Tyne Bridge. I think (assuming I’ve researched correctly) that this is its fifth year in existence and it just seems to get better and better. It comes complete with sand (obviously), deckchairs, beach huts, palm trees, and buckets and spades. If you’re as fond of the Quayside on a sunny day as I am, then it’s basically an unbeatable spot and this year it’s better than ever, thanks to its new addition.. Riley’s Fish Shack!

I’ve wanted to try Riley’s Fish Shack for ages. Usually based only in Tynemouth, they describe themselves as offering “fabulous fish, locally caught, simply served”. I’ve read several, extremely complimentary, reviews and I was incredibly excited when I realised that they would be a part of the Quayside Seaside this year.

My opportunity to spend some time at the Quayside Seaside and thus to try out Riley’s came today, when I woke up to glorious sunshine. Neil had spent Friday and Saturday in Paris watching the Euros but, almost as soon as he returned,  I dragged him down to the Quayside. We both ordered a mackerel wrap and it was everything I had hoped it would be. It was phenomenal.


After eating our food and me saying “oh my god, this is MINT” approximately one hundred times, I got more excited still when I realised that Riley’s not only serve food; they serve drinks too. Hurray! Rarely able to resist a cold beer on a sunny day, we ordered a couple of pints and sat outside.

Sitting there in the sun, enjoying the buzz of the Quayside market and the views of the River Tyne, the bridges, the Sage and the Baltic, it was as good as any city break I’ve ever been on and I honestly felt as though I was falling in love with Newcastle all over again.

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