A sense of unreality sets in as you try to handle morsels of roe deer carpaccio on a dining table that’s quivering in the breeze suspended 100ft above the River Tyne. Those mirrored tiles that form the shell of Sage Gateshead are so close they might as well be your bathroom mirror. And you do get a very literal bird’s eye view of the blinking-eye bridge, not to mention a wave from an enthusiastic paddle-boarder on his watery meander up the Tyne.
“Can I get you more wine?” asks one of our hosts, as you’re brought back to the civility of everyday restaurant dining. This is life aboard Dine by the Tyne, the suspended restaurant that is the very literal version of the trendy ‘pop up’ eating experience. Organisers are inviting diners to join the 100ft-high club for daily flights which take in everything from Asian breakfast to “Pie in the Sky’ to champagne afternoon tea, specialist gin flights and evening cocktails.
Flights operate throughout the day and until Sunday there will be nine restaurants and bars involved in the experience, including Bob Arora from Sachins and Luxe columnist Dave Coulson of Peace and Loaf in Jesmond.
So what can you expect? Well, you’re very firmly strapped in to chairs attached to a platform – your legs dangle and chairs swivel, which can be a bit of a fright. The platform is slowly raised and in the centre a team of four people go about their restaurant business seemingly oblivious to the fact that they are dangling above Gateshead’s Performance Square.
There is much selfie-taking and view admiration. Our dinner was prepared by the team at Hawthorn’s based at Newcastle Crowne Plaza. An appetiser and two courses were cold starters – a fish course included Craster salmon, scallops and lobster was delicious. They manage to get a Smeg oven on board too, so a main course of guinea fowl breast with a confit leg bon bon and fondant potatoes on side was a remarkable achievement.
You dip back down as plates are cleared on terra firma and you get one journey back up to the skies as you eat your dessert. Obviously it’s not one for those fearful of high things, but it’s great, unique entertainment. Tips if you’re heading up: get wrapped up, fingerless gloves help with the cutlery and think about a wrist strap for your phone.