I think it is fair to say that Newcastle is not famous as being a gastronomic destination. The popular portrayal of Newcastle in the media is of a city full of binge drinkers where eating out doesn’t get more sophisticated than a kebab or a bag of chips.
The stereotypes about Newcastle are one of my real pet peeves. This weekend, Newcastle showed off its culinary credentials with the Big EAT weekend, the highlight of the annual food festival in the city.
I went along to the Robert Stephenson’s boiler room to check out some of the best street food that Newcastle has to offer.
The space is an old industrial building which has been stripped back but retains a very trendy, industrial feel with bare brick walls and steel girders. Street food is currently a hot gastronomic trend. Throw in some live music, art made from concrete and a rack of 1950s style dresses and you have hipster heaven.
Entry to the festival cost £3, and each portion of food also cost £3, which was exchanged for tokens. Stepping inside was an immediate assault on the senses. Food sizzled on hot plates, there was a smoky haze in the air from vats of hot coals, and the air was filled with the aroma of spices and tastes from all over the world.
There was a huge variety of different cuisines on offer including Thai, Indian, Italian, Greek, British, Caribbean, middle Eastern and Maltese. Drinks were also on offer from local bars, coffee houses and breweries.
The space was absolutely rammed full of people and it was a bit chaotic trying to figure out which stand I was actual queuing for, but everyone was in really good spirits and enjoying themselves in spite of and maybe because of the chaos.
After doing the circuit of the available eateries, I settled on trying a Beef Redang Curry from Electric East and Jerk Chicken with rice and peas from Heavenly Manna.
I’m not going to post a photo of the Beef Redang Curry as I haven’t made it look very appetizing, but it did taste delicious. The beef was very tender and the sauce was full of flavour. I definitely will be eating in Electric East in the future based on this dish.
The star of the show for me was Heavenly Manna’s Jerk Chicken. It was served with deep fried bananas, which I didn’t think I would like but I absolutely loved them and they really complimented the dish. The sauce didn’t look like much but it packed a real punch.
Although only small portions were served, they were big enough to be very filling so I just stuck with the two dishes. However, everything on offer looked so good that my list of restaurants to visit in Newcastle has a few new names!
In addition to the street food festival, there were loads of other events going on across Newcastle and Gateshead, including a food market, a “cake city” in which North East landmarks were recreated entirely from cake, and pop up restaurants serving uber-trendy Norse cuisine and raw food.
An event like this is a brilliant way of showcasing what Newcastle has to offer foodies. It was great to see such a big turnout for this event. It created a really good atmosphere and everyone seemed to be really enjoying the food. This is the first time that I have visited the food festival, but I am definitely going back next year.