Tally-Ho…jolly good show! take a trip to Colonel Porters you know

Since the birth of Geordie Shore, Newcastle’s reputation has changed, wandering tourists are keen to visit the ‘toon’ for hens, stags and a generally a good old night on the lash! We can of course always deliver a good night on the lash, however most visitors are expecting to bump into Gaz and Scotty T and hopefully the MTV crew. Having had many a night in Newcastle since I was a proper ‘bairn’ and now being a young lady in my 30’s, I now look to escape a night in Newcastle and usually travel further afield for a more civilised night in either Leeds or London etc. I did of course always love the revolving dance floor on the Tuxedo Royale and the Galleria in the Ritzy, but unfortunately these days are long gone.

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Nights out for me now are few and far between, and rather than trek from bar to bar – and a shot and drink in each one, I prefer to find a ‘destination’ bar/venue where you can reserve a table (not Livello or Aveika style where you show off with a ridiculous size bottle of vodka complete with fire and theatre), the type where you can sit, enjoy a good drink, hear the sound of your own voice, listen to some decent music and not have a full on scrap to get served at the bar…and plush toilets are always a bonus.

I visited a bar in London a few years ago called ‘Mr Fogg’s Residence’ in Mayfair. A friend of mine works in food and drink PR and knows the cool places to go, before they are actually cool. The experience was utterly surreal and was like walking back in time. Eccentric, fun and innovative, I came away always hoping that one day Newcastle could deliver the same concept with class.

Fast forward a few years and I was delighted and excited to hear of a new bar called ‘Colonel Porters Emporium’ that would soon be opening on Dene Street. Peering through the windows a few months ago, in a building that was once Oldfields and more recently Canteen & Cocktails, I wondered what this new exciting venue would bring. I imagined Charactacus Potts, the eccentric inventor of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, inside working his magic to unveil a big unexpected surprise.

First things first – who the hell is Colonel Porter??? I love a good old history lesson (which is a total lie, I spent most of my time in History GCSE class stood outside the classroom for class distrubtion). Anyway, I can always make up for it…

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Lieutenant Colonel James Herbert Porter originally created Newcastle Brown Ale in 1927. Porter had refined the recipe for Newcastle Brown Ale alongside chemist Archie Jones over a period of three years and was sold at a premium price of 9 shillings for a dozen pint bottles. The blue star logo was introduced to the Newcastle Brown Ale bottle in 1928, the year after the beer was launched. The five points of the star represent the five founding breweries of Newcastle. In the North East, Newcastle Brown Ale is often given the nickname “Dog”, alluding to the British euphemism of seeing a man about a dog.

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There have been no hints of grand VIP opening, instead they have opened reasonably softly and quietly on the last Friday in April, to be given the chance to get things right, before the press pounce and give their reviews – good or bad. Like most new ventures, I think it’s fair to give people a chance, everyone experiences teething problems so I think a soft launch is always a good idea.

By the powers of social media, I saw that the green light had been given and that the curtain had been raised. I was due to go to the theatre to see ‘Woman in Black’ and thought it would be a great opportunity to pop in for a spot of lunch, a few cocktails and most importantly a good old nosey about the place. I was desperately hoping it would give me a similar experience to places I had visited in London. It was about time that Newcastle had a new bit of bar totty on the scene, and most importantly something different!

Praise the Lord, it didn’t disappoint. Now admittedly you have to feel comfortable with a bit of taxidermy as on entry you are greeted by a large bear in a hat, and many more of his furry friends along the way.

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We were shown to a table, there was plenty of seating to choose from – private booths tucked away or more sociable areas which we opted for. I took my seat on an elephants foot and studied the menu.

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The entire place is fascinating, so many fun and quirky artefacts around and places to explore. I became so distracted by this I hadn’t even looked at the cocktail menu. Now I have to be honest at this stage, usually in drinking establishments that are not restaurants, I have low expectations of the food offering. You generally go to have a few drinks and a ‘bit of food’ but that’s about it. If you want a decent meal, you go to a nice restaurant in town. Looking at the food menu I was pleasantly surprised…

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We opted for a selection of picky bits – the lobster tacos, olives & houmous, smoked salmon, sprouting broccoli and scotch egg.

The cocktail menu was extensive and interesting and I enjoyed my blueberry spiced Mojito followed by a strawberry and basil Caipirinha.

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The food arrived and it was delicious served on beautiful colourful plates accompanied by traditional Kings cutlery in keeping with the bar styling. I am a big foody and hands down to the chef here, the food could quite easily have sat in a 5 star restaurant in Newcastle. Homemade houmous, homemade scotch egg with a perfectly cooked yolk, delicious smoked salmon and the tastiest lobster tacos with homemade guacamole, salsa and even the tacos were homemade! Hallelujah. We all wolfed it down and could have licked the plates clean.

Whilst finishing off our cocktails in time to get to the theatre, we had just enough time to have a proper nosey about…

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The posh loos and William Morris inspired wallpaper adorning the walls at every turn…

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Colonel Porters is indeed a ‘destination’ bar. One where you would meet up, plonk your bottom and handbag and be happy to stay there all night being served cocktails and listening to some great music. They plan to have live music playing regularly, the main music genre being ‘electro swing’, as well as having some ‘inspiring and intriguing events’ throughout the year in Archies Lab (their main private / function room – entered through the secret book case – of course!!). This will include guest speakers and rum / cocktail master classes which is something I will look forward to, as well as the opportunity to explore the botanical garden in the summer months.

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Until then I shall be back very soon to enjoy ‘Tipsy Tea’ (their take on afternoon tea – with lots of booze) and the buttermilk schnitzel definitely has my name on it 🙂

Toodle pip!

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