Food & Drink Reviews
The Blonde Barrel Bar & Kitchen
I’m not really sure about the term ‘gastro pub’. It’s one of those phrases that seems to get thrown about and means very little to me except that places get to charge over a tenner for sausage and mash and start referring to gravy as jus. Which is why I was pleased to discover that Blonde Barrel, Newcastle’s latest offering of nice bars that serve nice food, didn’t follow suit and is sensibly referring to itself as a bar and bistro instead. Formerly, The Baron and Baroness and Twist respectively, Blonde Barrel has been given a complete facelift and is now looking like the trendy loft of some eccentric hipster complete with cosy leather booths, crystal chandeliers, top hat light fixtures and mirror ball skulls. It’s situated next to Digital, Newcastle’s largest night club, and they also cater for dirty stop-outs with food served every night until 8pm and then drinks until 1am through the week and 3am on a Friday and Saturday when they have music from DJs. Plus they’ve got a lovely big outdoor terrace that will be perfect for food (or drinks) when the weather starts perking up a bit. Ran by the folks behind No.28, Blonde Barrel has the same ethos for using fresh food (where possible) and locally sourced ingredients. I visited through the week when they were a little quieter for tea with a friend after work. Having already managed to spend the entire day stuffing my face (despite planning the review…) I thought the best bet would be to order something little to pick at, and to give me a general feel for the place. When I actually got hold of one of the menus though, I had other ideas… After being greeted by Paul, the manager and self-proclaimed waiter of the year for 2011 (I’m not sure how he fared in his own self assessment for 2012 and I thought it best not to press the subject), we sat down in one of the leather booths and ordered some drinks while Paul talked us into trying out one of the sharing platters for our starter. With greediness overtaking us we opted for The Barrel, an enormous platter of smoked haddock and crab fish cakes, terrine, chicken goujons and potato skins served with a selection of dips, (£11.95). For my main course I opted for the grilled tiger king prawn skewer, marinated in coriander, garlic and chilli, and served with fragrant rice, (£8.95), while my friend chose the roast butternut squash risotto cooked with burnt sage butter (£5.95). And my considered three word verdict? Absolutely bloody delicious! With friendly staff, huge portions and reasonable prices this new joint offers a trendy (and unpretentious) setting that is sure to be a new Blonde highlight on the Newcastle bistro scene.
Blonde Barrel, 5 Times Square, Newcastle. 07886 126 409. You can also find them on Facebook.