Alongside Tynemouth’s two devastatingly-beautiful beaches, Spanish City is, and always will be, the place of my childhood. Back then, it was a big, white, dome-shaped land of fairground rides, sticky carpets, arcade thrills and soft-play fun. I can’t tell you how many hours of my life as youngster were spent hurtling myself into its ball pools.
I remember all the cake and jelly-fuelled birthday parties I had there, the countless plates of smiley faces I consumed, and the sheer joy of finally conquering my fear of the ‘big slide’. It was pure, by-the-sea paradise for kids. So you can imagine my delight when plans to revive it were revealed.
The process was a long one – years and years in fact but in July of this year, almost 20 years after shutting up shop, the iconic coastal landmark finally reopened its doors, ready to welcome a whole new generation – and the child in me couldn’t be more chuffed.
Spearheaded by North East hospitality group, Kymel, the £10 million makeover has seen the venue transform from children’s playground to a premier wine-and-dine destination. A unique, upmarket place for feasting, sipping and celebrating life’s big moments.
“We wanted to give Spanish City a second chance at life – a chance to start a new chapter,” says CEO, Kyle Macking.
“Our vision was to create a place for those who once loved it – those with fond memories of how it used to be – and a new, younger generation who have never seen it open.”
“We really tried to consider what each and every customer would like to see, making sure that the venue’s offering was as varied as possible. We wanted Spanish City to appeal to everyone.”
Looks-wise, it’s a thoughtful mix of old and new. Original features, such as the famous ‘dancing ladies’, which have graced the top of the Grade II listed building for over a century, have been lovingly repaired and restored, while new features include extensions to both sides of the building and full-height, seaward-facing windows, providing jaw-dropping views towards St Mary’s Island.
The famous dome has also been perfectly preserved and given a fresh lick of paint, though head indoors and you’ll see that the ceiling of the central space has been removed from the ground floor, allowing visitors to see it from inside, in all its glory, for the first time in over 100 years.
“It was massively important to us that we found a balance between preserving Spanish City’s original features and adding new, modern extensions,” says Kyle.
“The building is a treasured piece of history that the locals hold dear to their hearts, so, for us, it was more about restoring than removing wherever possible. And I think we achieved that goal.”
“People who were visiting the original Spanish City, back in the 1950s, have told us that it’s like stepping back in time to their youth when they visit now. To get that kind of feedback is amazing.”
At the heart of the building’s brand new look is a polished gang of restaurants – serving up everything from fish and chips and champagne and nibbles, to ice cream sundaes, surf and turf and afternoon tea.
“We took inspiration from the exceptional food and drink destinations we manage as a hospitality group,” says Kyle.
“For example, Spanish City’s new fish and chip restaurant and takeaway was created with Trenchers of Whitby in mind – a venue that’s been open for almost 40 years and famous for its award-winning fish and chips.
“Meanwhile, over in Spanish City’s new fine-dining restaurant, guests will discover stunning seafood, very similar to the kind served at Crab & Lobster in Thirsk.
“Our aim was to bring the same quality food and great customer service to Whitley Bay.”
The addition of a new, flexible function space – St Mary’s Lighthouse Suite – means Spanish City is also a new place to say ‘I do’ and celebrate special occasions. The private-hire space is blessed with serene out-to-sea views – perfect for wow-weddings or a big birthday bash. “Spanish City is such a unique and inspiring venue for special occasions and events – especially weddings. There aren’t many places out there that are home to so much history, so close to the beauty of the coast,” says Kyle.
As we head into autumn/winter, there’s plenty to look forward to at Spanish City, including the promise of seasonal markets, intimate cinema screenings, exclusive party nights, fun festivals and exhibitions.
“We’ve already kicked off our series of exciting events with live music every week at the new champagne bar and fish and chip restaurant, but there’s plenty more to come,” says Kyle.
WHERE TO GO…
For fresh, from-the-sea finds…
Following almost 40 years of success in the heart of Whitby, Trenchers Takeaway & Restaurant bring their fish-frying skills to the coast, ready to spoil Spanish City visitors with their bubbly battered delights. Go traditional with cod and chips, or try homemade fishcakes, wholetail Whitby scampi and the freshest prawns. Eat inside, under the dome, or treat yourself to a takeaway.
Toast to birthdays, date nights and weekend get-togethers at The Champagne Bar – a chic, intimate bar, serving the finest fizz, spirits, wine, beer and lager.
For comfort food…
Settle in at Valerie’s Tea Room for hearty breakfasts and brunchy bites, speciality sandwiches and fresh-from-the-oven pastries, served with the finest traditional, herbal and fruit teas. The afternoon tea is top-notch, bringing together cheese savoury and honey roast ham finger sandwiches, veggie quiche and posh sausage rolls, with fist-sized scones and a mouthwatering selection of dainty desserts. There’s even a gents’ version, promising pork and black pudding pie, mature cheese scones and sticky toffee pudding macaroons.
For fine-dining fun…
For special occasions, it has to be 1910 Steak & Seafood – Spanish City’s most opulent dining space – in tribute to the year in which the venue first opened. Headed up by renowned North East chefs, Alan O’Kane and Mark Percival, it showcases the finest local seafood and meat. Feast on whole grilled lobster, fillet steak with chips and truffle hollandaise, cod cheeks and seafood fritto misto.
For sweet treats…
Satisfy your sweet tooth at Spanish City Waffle & Pancake House – a family-friendly parlour/diner, perfect for weekend brekkies and the place to be after a hot and sticky afternoon on the beach. Indulge in ice cream sundaes, topped with candy, fruit and other luscious sauces and toppings, stacks of hot waffles, crêpes and American-style pancakes, along with artisan ice cream.