22 July 2014
Most stag dos to Newcastle involve three things.
1) Being forced to drink a bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale at pace during which a jubilant crowd of Newcastle Dog Track attendees screams “Down it! Down it! Down it!”
2) Sleeping on the stairs outside your hotel room because your mate has passed out inside, having gone home earlier with the key.
3) Having a Geordie bloke suggesting you should “step outside” with him because you decided to wear a coat.
I witnessed all of these events last weekend. But more than that, my particular group, which included a chef of some stature, also witnessed an excellent meal.
Having filled up on cheap drinks and takeaways for a couple of days we rolled out of the cab at The Broad Chare.
Unannounced, the seven-strong group – probably looking like absolute scoundrels – arrived at the pub which sits just a street back from the Tyne.
It is set in an old brick building, but with a modern-rustic interior. As one of restaurateur Terry Laybourne's 21 Hospitality Group, the pub features stripped back tables and a plethora of brass fittings and frosted glass.
Keeping to current trends, the day’s specials were scrawled on the mirrors – another look that so many are going for. And why not, it’s pleasant, if a little derivative of the front runners.
Chef Chris Eagle heads up the boozer’s nosh and offers exactly what it says on the slogan – “Proper pub, Proper beer, Proper food.”
A proper British picnic, upliftingly simple but beautifully crafted.
In a tapas-style frenzy, the hungry group took on 12 Lindisfarne oysters – au natural – at (£2 each), deep-fried monkfish cheeks with tatar sauce (£3.50), sumptuous warm scotch eggs (£3.50) arguably the best Middle White’s pork crackling and Bramley apple sauce I have ever tasted (£2.80) and the most picturesque hand-raised pork pie (£3.50) I’ve ever seen (pictured).
Two pints of Scotland’s finest St Mungo lager was hair of the dog for me while various ales and craft beers were quaffed to much cheer.
Beginning to feel human again, no less than five of the team chose the roast beef Sunday special (£12.50).
But when it arrived featuring a giant Yorkshire pudding, three generous slices of beautiful beef, plus all the trimmings, you could hear the mixed sighs of intestinal apprehension and visual joy.
Despite the spacing worries, the meals were polished off with aplomb.
I personally chose the crispy duck leg, sat on an embankment of braised lettuce, peas and bacon (£15). More juicy than crispy – just how I like it – the meat fell from the bone, was light and tasty and set off by the tang of the lettuce and salty bacon.
The Broad Chare was one of just two North East venues to receive a Bib Gourmand in the 2013 Michelin Guide – its mouthwatering yet inexpensive snack selection tells you all you need to know.
The service remained excellent, despite the group of hung-over herberts who turned up for a lunch session unannounced. I wouldn’t have wanted to serve us, let alone smiled and chatted – all the while ignoring the obvious smell of Sambucca.
From its mutton masala to the spicy black pudding and beer mustard, there is an air of unashamed but spectacular dumbing down in the menu – as though a genius is teasing us, just letting us in on a hint of the magic he has in his locker.
Using just British classics, Eagle has spun a magical trap of pub fodder you might have once eaten from a paper plate or atop a soggy beer mat.
Now just stick me in a corner, pop the dunce’s hat on me and feed me more.