Get North and Get Fed: Independent Coffee Houses in Newcastle

Have you ever visited Newcastle and Gateshead, the capital city of the North East? No? Tsk. You’re missing out.

NewcastleGateshead is currently hosting the Great Exhibition of the North, an event that’s literally taking over the entire city. New interactive exhibits, installations and events are being superimposed onto existing cultural sites and re-imagined displays to create the wonderous feeling of a new museum breaking in, phasing itself onto the existing city like it’s caught in a Star Trek transporter beam (but with better 3D graphics). It’s possibly the largest event in England this year and is a huge celebration of the whole of the North’s past and present contributions to design, art and innovation. (The north’s being defined as anywhere north of Sheffield but south of Scotland, to try and avoid arguments!) If you’ve never visited the city before, then summer 2018 is the perfect time – not only are there the usual attractions to look at, but there’s a changing programme of daily events including concerts and interactive activities continuing until the 7th September.

But this post is not really about Get North. That’s just a tie-in. Year round, Newcastle is also home to a lot of fantastic independent coffee shops and eateries. This post is about the local places you need to go to while you’re here – man cannot live on art alone, and all that. So, here’s my pick of the independent coffee shops and eateries for whenever you’re in Newcastle, be it for the exhibition, or another occasion.

(I’ve written more about the official Get North attractions in this article for culturised.com, so I’d suggest reading that for an overview of the event and my highlights.)

Water sculpture rising into the air on the NewcastleGateshead Quayside

The impressive Get North Water Sculpture on NewcastleGateshead Quayside. Photo from getnorth2018.com

Three trails connect the different Get North venues. Each trail focuses on a different theme – art, design and innovation – but they all start at the Great North Museum. Once you’ve had a good nosey round here, go for a cup of tea at Quilliam Brothers (NE1 7RD). A favourite with hipsters and uni students, they have over 60 kinds of loose leaf tea, each brewed to perfection, and cakes and scones to go with them.

Inside a warm and inviting tea house with a wall full of tea canisters.

From NewcastleGateshead.com

In the centre of town you’ll find Grey’s Monument (yep, it’s that Earl that the tea’s named after). Follow the Earl’s gaze down Grey Street and you’ll find Blake’s Coffee House (NE1 6EE) just down from the Theatre Royal. It’s cosy, the coffee’s good and the atmosphere is top notch. It’s the sort of place you can park yourself with a newspaper for hours and just people watch. I’ll usually make an appearance here when I’m back in Newcastle.

Further back up the street and past Grey’s Monument and you can help yourself to a slice of amazing cake at Olive and Bean (NE1 5PN). My friend took me there and I had a slice of cinder toffee tiffin and honestly, I thought my heart was going to explode with joy, I’ve never tasted anything like it. They’ve got a mouthwatering daily selection of cakes and traybakes covering all desires, and their proper food looks scrummy too, but I was there for the cake so wasn’t really paying attention to the savoury. (Their afternoon tea appears to have an unusual and awesome sounding selection of sandwiches and cakes, which I’ll have to try when I’m next back up.)

Grey's Monument, Newcastle, covered in large ribbons as the Worker's Maypole as part of Get North 2018

Grey’s Monument as the colourful “Workers’ Maypole” by Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich. Part of Get North 2018. Image from Baltic.art

Near to Olive and Bean you’ll find the Grainger Market, a Grade 1 listed covered market built in 1835. You can buy almost anything here, but my recommendation is for lunch: get proper Italian pizza by the slice at Slice, in aisle 4 (NE1 5QW). It’s a very generous slice of pizza, and will only cost you between £1.80 and £2.50. Get there prompt though, as they’re very busy over lunchtimes.

While you’re in the Grainger Market, go to Pumphrey’s Coffee Centre and Brew Emporium for a caffeine injection. Pumphreys is a Newcastle coffee firm that’s been running for over 200 years. They’ve a huge selection of coffees at this café and shop and I’ll always pick up a packet of beans to take home from here. I recommend their Café Blend – it’s a classic for a reason – but they have over 50 varieties to choose from and their staff are happy to talk about what sort of flavour you’re after.

If you’re seeking a larger lunch, then the Tyneside Cinema Coffee Rooms is a real hidden gem that will satisfy your rumbling tummy. Tucked away on the second floor of the city centre’s beautiful independent cinema, the Coffee Rooms serve light meals and proper comfort food well into the evening. Their chips are some of the best in Newcastle, and that is not a sentence I say lightly. The atmosphere’s great too, as you’re surrounded by old film posters and art-deco luxury. This is one of my favourite Newcastle places (and it is not expensive at all, either).

Inside Tyneside Cinema Coffee Rooms

Image from Tyneside Cinema website.

Finally, seeing as you’re in the area, take a wander down Grey Street and Mosley Street to Newcastle Cathedral and say hello to my favourite venomous chap, the Vampire Bunny of Newcastle. He’s lurking right around the back of the cathedral, as described in this recent blog post. Newcastle Castle is also definitely worth a visit, and the view from the top of the keep across the city is superb.

So there we have it – a whistle-stop tour of some of Newcastle’s finest coffee shops. I was originally going to do a much broader post, but there are so many other fine eating establishments in Newcastle that we’d be here all day! What’s your favourite? Or are you planning a trip to my favourite city in the UK? Drop me a message in the comments below!

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