Turks Head Hotel                                                          The Bodega                                                                    Bacchus       

The last time I went to watch a match in Newcastle, my mate drove up early for an evening match and we parked in Tynemouth for lunch (lots of available cheap/free parking and easy access by Metro).  Tynemouth is a seaside town, most definitely, and here is where the Tyne meets the North Sea, with the ruins of a castle and a priory. The original monastery dated from the 7th century and was finally abandoned in the 11th century. There are a few pubs here, if you are touring or not in a rush, but we visited an old haunt of my mate's, very close to the sea front, the Turks Head Hotel, 41 Front Street, NE30 4DZ (0191 257 6547), which is named after a sailor's knot and was built in 1850 with a listed white tiled facade. They sell regular cask beers, ie Courage Directors, McEwans 80/- and Charles Wells Bombardier, and up to 4 Guest ales. They also sell very good value food, which we enjoyed before catching the Metro to Newcastle (we had parked very close to the Metro station). 

Newcastle has a great range of excellent pubs, bars and restaurants, indeed, has a great night life, but my favourite place (and it is a very closely run choice) is the The Bodega, 125 Westgate Road, NE1 4AG (0191 221 1552). The Bodega has a traditional long bar along the side, wooden panelling, 2 fascinating Victorian stained glass domes (this place reminds me of the back bar of the Bell in Nottingham), elaborately tiled floors, and a large widescreen TV at the rear, with a small TV to front, to cater for sports fans. 

The Bodega attracts a diverse clientele and has a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and it is very close to St James' Park. Indeed, the stadium is right in the centre of town, easy to get to, and a surprise if you are used to some of the new out of town new builds. Another surprise is the million or so steps you have to climb to get into the clouds to watch the match as an away supporter. Take my advice, train hard before you go to an away match here to build up your stamina! 

Apparently, they sell food here at lunchtimes, but I've only ever visited for the pre and/or after match drinking, which brings back great memories. The last time I visited I stuck to just the one beer (more than one pint though), though they do have a great choice, but it was one of my all-time favourites, Durham Magus, and it was in fine fettle. Sadly, my mate was getting a bit bored now, because he'd stopped drinking (nominated driver ;-), and he wanted to move on, but there are other great bars to drink in. 

The Bacchus, 42 - 48 High Bridge, NE1 6BX (0191 261 1008) is also in the heart of Newcastle city centre. Its walls are lined with black and white images that look back favourably at Tyneside’s ship building past. It is also a handy place to stop off if visiting to the nearby Theatre Royal. During the day there is a varied menu, including snacks and quickly served lunches, and the Bacchus has a wide selection of cask ales, including a regularly changing microbrewery beers, and an extensive wine list. As I said earlier, there are a good selection of places to eat and drink in. 


              Bridge Hotel                                                 Lady Greys                                            Crown Posada                                              Free Trade Inn   

Which brings us to the Bridge Hotel, Castle Square, NE1 1RQ (0191 232 6400), which offers a great location as it is just a short walk from the Quayside, and right next door to the Castle Keep and the High Level bridge. From here you will have stunning views of the River Tyne from inside the building or on the outdoor terrace. 

This is the first place I ever drank in on my first visit to Newcastle. The Bridge Hotel has stained glass windows and highly detailed mosaics, cosy corners, and wooden panelling and carved fittings, not to mention the view, have I sold it to you? Like all my recommendations, the atmosphere is warm and friendly, and it is yet another place serving a varied choice of good cask ales, and it sells food too. 

Also, near to Central Station is The Forth, Pink Lane NE1 5DW (0191 232 6478) with 4/5 real ales on tap, a fine selection of wines and interesting specials on the food menu.  This is another bar worth visiting, and I have missed many out due to the reason behind this site, ie to pick out a few worth visiting when you visit town.  For a longer stay, I'd suggest getting in touch with CAMRA locally or the Tourist Board.   

Another bar that has more recently come to my attention is Lady Greys, 20 Shakespeare Street NE1 6AQ (0191 232 3606), which offers a fine selection of food and drink, including local ales and food from farms in Northumberland. There is a friendly atmosphere, with a mixed clientele, and ultra-comfort is provided, thanks to their oversized chesterfield sofas; many great photographs on their website, thanks for the one above.   

They serve 4 regularly changing cask ales (eg Anchor Liberty and Allendale Golden Plover were on at the time of writing), and Mordue Northumbrian Blonde is a regular, bottled beers (including many from Belgium and my old friends at Goose Island in Chicago), wine, and spirits from around the world, with knowledgeable staff to provide advice about what drink can accompany your meal.  Traditional British food is served up with, what I’ve been told is, a modern influence (the menu is varied and looks very interesting), and homemade burgers and pies.  They have “2 for 1” offers for Sunday roasts and a hearty Sunday brunch menu. Opening hours have recently been extended until 2am, Monday-Saturday.   

Which brings us to my penultimate recommendation in Newcastle, the Crown Posada, 31 The Side, NE1 3JE (0191 232 1269), and, remember, there are dozens of other great places to visit near here. Architecturally, this is another fine old establishment. The front of the pub has gorgeous stained glass windows, and the interior has a bare wooden floor, wooden and mirrored wall panelling, an ornate ceiling and pictures of sailing ships on the Tyne adorn the wall. At the back of the pub there is high backed leather seating, and this area of the bar has several caricatures hanging on the walls. 

The Crown Posada has over 6 cask conditioned ales, including a choice of Mordue beers, with guest ales available. Food-wise, freshly made large sandwiches are available, and, for the Quayside area, the prices are quite reasonable. This is another gem.

Finally, another recent recommendation has been made to me by my mate, Tony, this pub being in Byker, ie the Free Trade Inn, Saint Lawrence Road, NE6 1A6 ( 0191 265 5764), which has 8 real ales that regularly change, including Mordue IPA and Workie Ticket as regulars, and up to 6 guest ales and real cider.  They also have an annual Cider Festival, and a large range of ciders can be brought from the cellar, supplementing what is on the bar.  Since originally writing this, I have seen an article in Telegraph Weekend about the Free Trade Inn (27 07 13), it's worth a read, and supports the suggestion of visiting this pub too, their "guide to the best British pubs", praise indeed!