A buzzy bar and restaurant, set across two floors in Newcastle’s Monument Mall. Popular with the city’s students, slickers and young professionals, it’s nearly always heaving – especially at the weekends. But with good reason; the fun, upbeat atmosphere is infectious, the inventive cocktails, crafted by resident botanists, flow constantly, the live, acoustic tunes are always on point and the panoramic views of the city centre, down towards Grey Street and beyond, are unbeatable.
A steel bar and winding staircase, industrial-style lighting, scuffed wooden tables, mint green walls and a now-famous sycamore tree, lit up with twinkling fairy lights. A place where antiquities and trinkets hang from the walls. You’ll also find a trendy rooftop terrace and an observatory-style conservatory upstairs, as well as an intimate mezzanine spot, overlooking the sycamore tree, which is available to hire for weekend shindigs.
Everything from speciality wine and gin, to craft beers and cocktails any way you like: long, short, sparkling or shared. Cocktails are made with, and showcase, the best flavours greenhouse herbs can offer, mixed and muddled with interesting fruit combos and of-the-moment spirits. In the mood for summery, easy-to-drink flavours, we opted for the apricot and peach smash (£7.50), which arrived ice-cold and sharp (in a plant pot), and a strawberry and cucumber breeze (£7.95), which muddles strawberry puree and liqueur, mint, vanilla and Tanqueray gin, served long with a good glug of apple, cranberry and lemon juice. Both super refreshing.
It appears spring has well and truly sprung in the restaurant’s kitchens. The new, lighter and brighter menu is packed with fresh tastes for the season ahead, from revamped nibbles and starters, such as whole camembert, baked in garlic and rosemary sourdough with a rather brilliant smoky apple ketchup, to new deli board additions and a handful of brand new mains and desserts. Stand-outs are the trendy ‘activated charcoal’ breads, served as a lunchtime speciality, topped with the likes of juicy rotisserie chicken, smoked bacon and more of that camembert with sticky fig chutney, hummus and sweet potato and sun-dried tomatoes with baby gem. If you prefer your sarnies, try the new flat iron steak number, with whipped garlic goats cheese and rotisserie gravy (£11.95). There’s also new vegan options, as well as plates suitable for gluten and dairy-free eaters, which we happily explored.
Eager to see how the chefs’ version of kale crisps (£2.50) would measure up against our own, homemade version (FYI: they’re pretty darn good), we ordered a bowl big enough for two. What was served didn’t disappoint; vibrant green, lighter-than-air and crunchy as-can-be and well-seasoned with plenty of sea salt, too. A little too much oil for our liking, but otherwise tasty. The new charred edamame beans (£3.95) were a hit with our dining buddy, though, again, a little on the oily side for us. Not a problem, though, if you like lots of sesame and garlic – which gave a nice kick as you squeezed the peas out of their snug pods. The curried hummus (£4.95) with veggie dippers was a good starter; a bundle of fresh cucumber and red pepper sticks for dipping and a nubbly, orange dip, spiced with tumeric and spring onions. For mains, we tried the new harissa aubergine steak (£9.50), which arrived deeply charred with a gorgeously creamy, mushy inside, served with fluffy couscous, infused with saffron for some heat and almonds for crunch. Topped with grilled baby gem and a spoonful of creamy, tahini dressing, it’s a surprisingly filling dish for meat-free diners that serves up some pretty good Moroccan-inspired flavours. Our chum opted for the vegan-friendly burger (£10.95); essentially a falafel patty, joined by a tangle of spiced onions, a slick of harissa jam and a little tahini dressing. Desserts were fun and oh-so indulgent; vegans need to go for the new homemade banana doughnuts, served golden brown with thick salted caramel sauce (heaven in a pot) and a dainty peanut milkshake (£5.75). The new-and-improved brownie (£6.95), now with the addition of chewy peanut butter, peanut crumb and salted caramel and vanilla ice cream, is a wedge of heaven, sent straight from the pudding gods. If only it was served hot, we would’ve ordered three portions to takeaway.