When I check my bank account at the end of the month, I’m always left wondering where my money has gone. I have no clothes, makeup, or shoes to show for it – so what have I done with that student loan? And I’m left with the same answer, every single time: I’ve spent my money on food, and a lot of it.
We are huge foodies and enjoy nothing more than discovering somewhere new to eat and doing it to death until the waiters know us by name. To save you the bother of finding these places yourself, we’re giving you our top ten restaurant suggestions for the North East. In no particular order, here are our faves:
1. Lola Jeans
Every foodie in the North East has been to Lola Jeans, and there’s a reason why it’s so popular. Both restaurants, located in Tynemouth and Newcastle, are equally stunning. Lola Jeans has the perfect combination of exposed brick walls and bright art murals, with traditional chandeliers, distressed wooden furniture, and elegant velvet chairs. The cocktails are phenomenal so it’s a great place to begin your night on the town if you’re wanting something a little more civilised than the standard pre-drinks at Spoons.
When it comes to the food, I would recommend their Signature Steak Platter – the steak is cooked to perfection and is served with triple cooked chips, pitta breads, salad, onions, and two sauces that are to die for. For the quality of the food and service, you can’t complain about the price either. The steak platter is just £13.95 and it’s worth every single penny.
We recently attended the Battle of the Burger event in Newcastle and Lola Jeans were the obvious winners. My boyfriend claims ‘it’s the best burger he’s ever had’ and the only one including a pickled-onion Monster Munch crisp. They have great variety too – if you’re on a diet, they even have a ‘Keep It Clean’ menu. Although, I couldn’t imagine eating at Lola Jeans and forgoing those amazing homemade chips.
2. Fat Hippo
This really is the best burger joint in town. Like Lola Jeans, Fat Hippos are popping up all over the North East – they currently have restaurants in Newcastle, Jesmond, and Durham. As a Durham University student, my undergraduate degree was MADE when a Fat Hippo opened in the city centre. My waist line wasn’t too happy, but my burger cravings were well and truly satisfied.
You may be horrified to learn that my favourite burger on the menu is the Veggie Gastro. Yep, you heard right – no meat. Their veggie burgers are by far the best I’ve ever had – the combination of mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and pesto mayo is just heavenly. For meat-lovers, the Fat Hippo burger is meant to be amazing (or so my boyfriend says). For starter, try the Dirty Skins – you won’t be disappointed. To be honest, you could try anything on the menu and be impressed – it’s just that kind of place.
If you’re wanting to go somewhere a little different, visit the Newcastle restaurant which is entirely set underground. You may lose phone signal, but hey, that really isn’t a bad thing. You might actually resort to some old-fashioned conversation in between stuffing your faces with burgers and slurping on milkshakes.
3. Fat Buddha
Fat Buddha is my go-to restaurant for all occasions. Birthday? Fat Buddha. Anniversary? Fat Buddha. Valentines Day? Fat Buddha. I even went for an ‘Easter Sunday meal’ there in April – I’ll use any excuse to get some black bean chicken and egg fried rice.
You can find one of their restaurants in Newcastle, Durham, and now Seaburn – so no matter where you are in the North East, Asian cuisine is never too far away. They have great bars too and I’d really recommend trying the Fat Buddha cocktail (or mocktail, if you’re driving). I usually alternate between the Chinese style Chilli Black Bean, Hong Kong style Traditional Black Bean (there’s a difference, the Hong Kong style is a totally different dish and is well worth trying!), and their signature Honey Chilli Chicken.
Their evening menu is slightly on the pricey side so if you’re wanting to try Fat Buddha on a budget, I’d recommend going between 12-5pm when main courses are just £5.95! That’s pretty much the price of a McDonalds.
4. Mama’s Italian Kitchen
Italian food is by far our favourite cuisine. I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb yearning for spaghetti and garlic bread – a craving that hasn’t subsided since. It took me fourteen long years to find my favourite Italians but it was well worth the wait. We must visit Mama’s at least once a fortnight and I can honestly say I have never had a bad meal there. The service is always great and the food is always exceptional.
I order the same thing every single time: a garlic bread with cheese and tomato to start and Penne Mama’s for my main. I’ve tried to replicate Mama’s pasta so many times at home and I can never get it quite right – their chicken, chilli, garlic, cream, and tomato dish sounds simple, but I’m yet to visit another restaurant able to beat it. If you have room, I would definitely recommend trying one of their desserts – the brownie with hot Mars Bar sauce is to die for and their Daim Bar Pie is another firm favourite of mine.
It may not be located in a city centre, but this restaurant is a hidden gem in Houghton-Le-Spring and cannot be overlooked. They’ve recently launched their new menu with tasty additions like Crostini sandwiches and World Foods, including a Thai Red curry which I can’t wait to try!
5. The Stables
This is another local favourite of ours and one that is definitely worth the journey if you’re looking for something a little different from high street chains. The Stables is the perfect example of a quintessentially British pub, but with an exciting twist.
The food is simply to die for. They serve everything from traditional Sunday lunches to Thai curry, from chip butties to stilton and walnut pâté. Their dishes could feature in some of the most expensive restaurants, yet there is nothing pretentious about this place. The staff are lovely and there’s nothing more welcoming than an open fire, comfy chairs, and the buzz of locals talking over a bottle of red.
On a Friday and Saturday, you can sample the very best of their menu thanks to their tapas evenings. Why settle for one dish when you can enjoy several? From prawns, to baked camembert, to potato skins – there’s something for everyone and the price is right too! Better yet, The Stables is situated on the outskirts of Herrington Country Park so take a long afternoon stroll and finish it off with a pint and a steak and ale pie. They’re even pup friendly, so there really is no excuse.
6. Colman’s Fish and Chips
I remember flying back from Egypt a few years ago and, while trying to pass the time, I picked up one of the brochures stored in the seat in front. One article read ’10 of the best restaurants in the UK’ and, admittedly, I expected nothing other than Michelin star restaurants and break-the-bank bistros. But, to my surprise, situated on a map next to the North East, was Colman’s.
You’d be a fool for thinking that Colman’s is just ‘another fish and chip shop’. Famous faces line the walls and with the family business dating back to 1905, Colman’s have created quite a legacy for themselves. Just this year, they opened the new Seafood Temple. This seafront restaurant even has a cocktail and oyster bar, but remains true to its roots by offering a fish ‘n’ chip and seafood takeout.
The two Colman’s restaurants really do demonstrate the best of British food. There’s nothing better than ending a stroll along the beach with a pot of tea, fish ‘n’ chips, and mushy peas. Trust me – you’ll need the stroll prior just to work up enough of an appetite! If you’re still not full (which is extremely unlikely) they’ll top up your chips, free of charge! The best part is, unlike your local, greasy takeaway – Colman’s fish ‘n’ chips are practically guilt-free. Their thick-cut chips make a healthier product, they only use fresh potatoes, wild fish, and vegetable oil which is free from additives, low in trans fats, and contains no hydrogenated fats. I’ve just given you the perfect excuse to break your summer diet – thank me later.
7. The Lamp Room
For my nineteenth birthday, my boyfriend booked us a table at this sea front bistro in Seaham, County Durham. It was so good that we have just celebrated my twentieth there, too. At first glance, the exposed brick walls and high-back leather seats exude contemporary luxury. However, the decor is enriched by touching tributes to the town’s heritage, including a chandelier of mining-lamps and framed art depicting colliery-workers.
For breakfast, you can enjoy a Miner’s Benedict with a glass of prosecco, or American pancakes with a nutri-smoothie. At lunchtime, whilst the Lamp Room Lasagne is often recommended, the Tapas Menu steals the show. From aranchini to haggis bon-bons, the bistro offers a mouth-watering selection of meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes. However, it’s Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings when the magic really happens. The Surf & Turf menu boasts Oyster Shots, lobster and the-best-fillet-steak-that-has-ever-graced-this-earth. I went to bed dreaming of the garlic and Parmesan sauce and I am yet to find a worthy competitor.
The exciting news is that they’re planning to expand their cocktail bar and kitchen – so watch this space!
With its origins dating back to 1239, Blackfriars is Britain’s oldest dining room. The building is rich in religious and political history as the Dominican Friars made it their home in the thirteenth century and often hosted King Henry III. The authenticity of the building has been rightfully preserved and they even offer a medieval-dining experience in their banquet hall – a unique way to celebrate a special occasion! Blackfriar’s ambiance is truly unrivaled.
Even in the main restaurant, you are guaranteed a memorable meal with exposed stone walls, candle lighting and traditional British food. Blackfriar’s set menu, which runs during lunch (Monday to Saturday) and dinner (Monday to Friday), provides guests with the perfect opportunity to sample their exquisite food for a very reasonable price. You can enjoy three courses for just £18, although I would wholly recommend paying the £3 supplement to enjoy a Northumbrian Hanger Steak. Served with creamy mash, mushrooms, and crispy onions, it’s the quintessential British dish like you have never tasted it before.
The menu changes seasonally but the quality of the food is withstanding. Blackfriars is a precious showcase of what this region has to offer; not only does it help to preserve our rich heritage, it also serves the finest local ales and produce. It is truly a privilege to be able to dine in such an atmospheric restaurant.
Whether you’re on the go or you’re looking for a quirky spot in town to go lunchin’, Zapatista is the place to be. They’ve went from being the first Mexican burrito bar in Newcastle to having two restaurants: one just off Northumberland Street (perfect for shoppers and students) and the other, on Grainger Street, just a five minute walk from Central Station.
My personal favourite is the Butternut Squash and Halloumi burrito with medium spiced Ranchera salsa, Pinto beans and plenty of cheese. If you don’t fancy a wrap, their nachos are world-class. I’m a self-proclaimed nacho connoisseur, so trust me when I say that their variety of toppings cannot be beaten.
Zapatista offers the creme de la creme of Mexican food – the service is always friendly and the décor is amazing. The exposed brick walls are covered with brightly coloured murals which, when combined with the rustic wood and colourful metal chairs, creates a vibrant yet cool feel.
Last winter, I was walking down Northumberland Street in the freezing cold and craving something other than a lukewarm pasty from Greggs. As I walked towards Haymarket, I was hit with the most amazing smell of katsu curry and I couldn’t help but peer through the steamed-up windows of Shijo. It may be small and not as well-known as super-chain Wagamama’s, but this independent Asian café is by far superior to any high-street restaurant. Think authentic Asian cooking with a street-food, contemporary twist.
Salads and sushi start from just £1.80 whilst Japanese hot dishes are reasonably priced at £5.50. My absolute favourite has to be the chicken katsu curry – the portions are beyond generous and you can watch it be prepared right in front of your eyes. You are served a bowl of rice, mixed vegetables, and several breaded chicken strips which are all covered with the most divine katsu curry. If you’re a sauce lover like myself, be sure to order an extra portion.
The staff are always super friendly and you feel right at home, sitting in the small, cosy café, whilst watching the busy shoppers hurry up and down Northumberland street. If you’re a fan of Wagamama’s, please give Shijo a visit. For half the price, you will be blown away at how tasty and fresh their food is. Better yet, their dishes are available to takeaway so if you go to uni or work in Newcastle, Shijo is the perfect lunchtime spot.
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Lauren and Rachel