The Bottle Shop is the first of two/three places I have handpicked to showcase for NE1 Restaurant Week. We visited last Saturday, but some of the dishes we ordered are available on the bar’s Restaurant Week menu.
I’ve not been writing as many posts recently for a few reasons. First of all, I started a new job a few weeks ago doing PR inhouse for one of the North East’s biggest companies. It’s very exciting but means long days out the house and many hours in traffic every day driving to the dreaded Team Valley, so all I’ve wanted to do when I get in from work is eat chocolate and speculate about whether Steven Avery really did kill Teresa Hallbach.
The other reason is that eating gluten free in Newcastle is a bit of a nightmare. I have been avoiding all gluten since October and, in the last few months, we have found ourselves less inclined to try new places and, instead, we have been frequenting all the old faves – Coop Chicken House, Zapatista and Moti Jheel – Gosforth’s best Indian take away. I’m finding that many independent places are less accommodating for different dietary requirements and often they don’t know whether there is gluten in their food at all – I’ll never accept ‘we’re 99 per cent sure’ as an answer again (I’m looking at you, Brandling Villa.)
I digress. The Bottle Shop caught our eye because of its wide range of beers (wide is an understatement) and small but quirky tapas menu with a selection of clearly marked gluten free (hallelujah) dishes. The Bottle Shop’s bar manager, Gary Robson, is an old friend of Craig’s from back when Osborne Road was our whole world and weekends began on a Monday. He insisted we go along and try the food (and the beer) to see if it lived up to our (not particularly high) standards.
I tend to avoid ‘bottle bars’ nowadays – Tilleys, an old favourite of ours, is not a regular drinking hole for us anymore as I just get frustrated when I’m surrounded by nice beers I can’t drink. I was over the moon to see that The Bottle Shop had not one, not two, but THREE gluten free beers to choose from! I went for Bohemian Rhapsody from Westerham Brewery, which Gary described as comparable to good quality, European lager – we all know how much I love my Estrella Damm. Craig went for a non-carbonated lighter beer from the 12 (yes, 12) taps behind the bar.
I’ve already started talking about the beer and neglected to mention the awesome interior of this place. All exposed metalwork and ‘shabby chic’ furniture, this bar is what a lot of other bars in Newcastle are trying to be, but without the pretension. I loved it… particularly the Tolkein quote painted on the wall:
‘If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.’
To eat, we went with the tapas deal – four dishes for £14 to share. This is even better during restaurant week, as The Bottle Shop is offering any 3 small plates, served with matched taster beers for £10pp. Around half of the dishes were gluten free, so I didn’t feel restricted at all. We went with two portions of pork with apple wedges, plus mussels cooked with pancetta, sage & red wine baby onions and pan fried coley with raisins, almonds and coriander rice.
The food was second to none. Normally when we eat out, I find myself staring longingly at Craig’s lovely gluten-filled meal while I eat something reasonably flavourless but this wasn’t the case at all. A particular stand out for us was the pan fried coley, which was cooked to perfection. Surprising since we did have to Google ‘what is coley’ before we ordered.
I couldn’t recommend The Bottle Shop more highly and we look forward to returning to try the other GF beers and whatever the chef has planned for his next menu. The menu changes regularly and if the quality of food remains as high as it was last Saturday then we’ll definitely be back in a hurry.