Not only are the Baltic and Sage two of the finest buildings in the North East, they also fly the flag for how former industrial areas can be reborn as culture hot spots.
A year ago, the By The River Brew (BTRB) development added its ethos of fierce individuality to the regeneration of this stretch of river that was once home to the Tuxedo Princess and Tuxedo Royale floating nightclubs.
The revolving dancefloors are long gone to make way for something much more Millennial. Following in the foot steps of Shoreditch’s Box Park – but doing it much better in my opinion – BTRB is a container village community of independent businesses.
Operating seven days a week in the shadow of the Swing Bridge is the excellent Träkol, which specialises in nose to tail cooking, the adjacent Brewery and Tap microbrewery and the Backyard Bike Shop, which serves drinks as well as carrying out bike repairs.
Then, at weekends, there’s Hawker Market – or HWKR MRKT as it’s called on site (took me some time to work out what it meant). The open air market emerged from its winter hibernation at Easter and is open Fridays, from 6pm to 11.30pm; Saturdays from noon to 11.30pm and Sundays from noon to 6.30pm with more than a dozen street food vendors and pop up restaurants.
Each is housed in a corrugated container, decorated in a mish mash of vibrant graffiti. The entrance is worth a visit in itself just to see a towering piece by Hush, whose distinctive merging of Japanese female figures and street art has gone global since his time as a Newcastle student.
On our visit on Sunday, food was being served by the likes of chicken from Fowl Play; Lola Jean’s who are fast building up a reputation for their burgers; Creole cooking from Shanty Town; Grumpy Panda vegan diner who provided serious temptation with their sign for deep fried Oreos; Fire & Dough wood fired pizza; Papa Ganoush Mediterranean and more.
You need to purchase tokens for food, presumably to cut down on queues while people wait for change, but unlike other places at least you’re reimbursed if you don’t use them all. They seem to roughly equate to one pound per token and my friend spent three tokens on a large slice of margarita pizza from Fire & Dough, a nicely bubbled base topped with plenty of stringy cheese. It didn’t take long to disappear as we took our seat under the outdoor glitterball at the bar area.
I spent six tokens on a halloumi wrap from Papa Ganoush. It was pricey for a wrap, but I couldn’t fault the quality of the ingredients with thick soldiers of grilled halloumi tightly packed with fresh as can be salad. Vistas, however, come for free at the site which overlooks the hustle and bustle of the Quayside’s Sunday market and the belly of the Tyne Bridge, making it one of the best places in the region for street food with a view.