When Newcastle United’s highest pair of executives voiced their
balding, yellow-toothed minds on the aesthetic faculties of Geordie
girls, they couldn’t haven chosen a more incendiary sentence with which
to sum them up:
“They’re all dogs.”
Forever protective of the nation’s fairer sex, the News of the World
leapt with suffragette aplomb to castigate the cigar-toting directors
and rightly so. But let’s face it; they could have been talking about
any city in the country. Everywhere has their own pockets of visually
challenged boy and girl and Newcastle is no exception. But being
60-something, Arthur Daley look-alikes in charge of a football club
more synonymous with the front pages than their counterparts at the
rear, your pool of beautiful women isn’t going to stretch much further
than the pie stand at half time.
For the discerning young man making the three-hour trip up north,
Newcastle plays host to an increasing number of wincingly cool bars and
not so decadent lounges (think minimal style, not minimalist) crammed
with the sophisticated, the beautiful, the culturally informed, the
pass-out specialist, the omnipresent chav and the hen/stag combo from
Middlesbrough in no particular frequency or order, or order of
Each genre of hedonist casually goes about their chosen
debauchery, narrowly avoiding each other in the claustrophobic mesh of
streets of the city centre. The Ben Shermanators, cajoling one another
in accents thicker than the orange foundation their fantasies openly
yearn for are fortunately, easy to spot. They are the ones walking past
the glass-fronted bars with confused stares on their way to the Bigg
Market, a cobbled twilight zone of less-than-a-quid-for-a-treble bars.
Here they surge in their thousands, hoping to ply their
incomprehensible ‘charm’ upon the ‘canny lasses’.
A tip: don’t go anywhere near this area. It smells of vomit.
So that’s the bad bit taken care of. To its credit, Newcastle has
undergone a cultural epiphany in recent years, with the Quayside now
bearing a trinity of architectural excellence in the form of the
Millennium Bridge, the imposing Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery and the
impressive glass caterpillar that is the Sage music hall. Yet for all
its splendour, it is tragically bereft of any nocturnal atmosphere,
with Stereo, nestled into the elevated bank side, being the sole
representative of funky music and the ubiquitous hairdresser.
For many guys in the pursuit of satisfaction, the evening begins not in
the city but in one of the many terraced bars standing pillar to pillar
along Osborne Road in Jesmond. Lying on the outskirts of town, this
largely residential suburb accommodates a dichotomy of extremely
wealthy folk and university students. Judging from their accents, they
too are the property of extremely wealthy folk. While the bars
themselves are little more than polished hotel spin-offs, the
atmosphere is laid back and friendly, as is the clientele.
In the city itself, nominally ‘exclusive’ lounge bars are springing up
all the time, the latest being Tokyo on Westgate Road, a short walk
from Central Station while the similarly amber-lit Apartment lies just
around the corner.
From the granite brocade of Central Station,
pernicious chain-bars sting the otherwise pleasant architecture like
sporadic acne, making these two bars seem like oases in an otherwise
drinking wasteland. Saying that, The North Bar, the little sister of
its namesake in Leeds is one exception to this rule, hiding sheepishly
in the body of the Victorian station and often playing retro soft porn
flicks beneath a ceiling of mirror balls.
For any discerning drinker however, Popolo’s on Pilgrim Street is a
must, producing by far the best array of cocktails in the city. As a
result, the crowd is vibrant and knowledgeable. But here’s the best
bit; a mere stumble away on Carliol Sq is the eponymously named World
Headquarters; the only club in Newcastle worth visiting. No pretence,
no nasty doormen, no tools claiming to be Alan Shearer’s brother. Just
two floors of eclectic music
and effortlessly übercool fun. If you can’t have a good night in there,
you are a) better off spending the evening picking glass from your face
on what is affectionately known by Bigg Market diehards as ‘The Boat’
(a rusting hulk of disco stench moored on the Tyne) or b) a Bigg Market
regular yourself, but fear not because they won’t let you in anyway.