REVIEW: Hop and Cleaver, Sandhill, Newcastle

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IT’S become the latest hipster hangout in Newcastle, regularly frequented by lovers of beards and craft ales.

Is it a fad? Or has Hop and Cleaver got what it takes to become a permanent fixture on the Toon’s Quayside?

Once the area of choice for stag and hen parties, and the place to avoid for anyone not wearing fancy dress, this stretch of the Quayside in the shadow of the imposing Tyne bridge has undergone a renaissance of late.

The arrival of Kenny Atkinson’s swanky House of Tides restaurant and a string of trendy bars and pubs has fast made this the place to be over the past few months, and Hop and Cleaver has become a cornerstone of the area’s re-branding.

It’s perhaps the most popular new kid on the block and I’d tried twice before to book a table to no avail. Third time lucky, and we were seated in the rear restaurant area which retains all the atmosphere and charm of this 17th Century Jacobean timber framed building. Think moody lighting, chunky wooden tables, exposed beams, stone walls and uneven flagstones.

There’s also various shiny vats and pipes that catch your eye thanks to the craft beers brewed on site. The venue smokes its own meat too and the heady aroma of the smokehouse fills the air. It makes the meat options on the menu all the more appealing.

It’s a concise menu that’s heavy on meat and finger-licking options such as chargrilled buffalo wings (£8.95), served smothered in a spicy sauce in a bag you have to tear into, for added messy digits.

While my friend tackled the bulging bag of meat, I chose one of the veggie options to start: apple and onion fritters (£3.95).

I didn’t get a bag, but the hunks of battered fruit and veg did arrive on a skewer in a tin mug with a side of gooey mayo. You don’t need the skewer or mug, but it looks ‘cool’ if you’re one of those annoying people, like me, who likes to Instagram their food.

More importantly, it tasted as good as it looked. Deep fried in a tangy batter, it was sinfully good. This certainly isn’t food for weight watchers, it’s all hearty, heavy grub.

For mains, choose from crates or plates. The former includes options such as a 14-hour chopped brisket, served with BBQ gravy, Texas toast and butter pickles (£13.95), served in, as the title would suggest, a chunky crate.

I chose a good old-fashioned plated meal – an 8oz flat iron steak (£12.95).

I swerved the fries it comes with for extra salad and was presented with a never-ending mound of greens. Meat is sourced locally and the steak, which I’d asked for medium rare, was beautifully tender and had just the right amount of pink. It’s a shame the only sauce option is blue cheese, which is not everyone’s cup of tea, but the steak was so succulent it didn’t need smothering in sauce.

Like the food, drink is American-themed with an impressive range of bourbon, ranging from £2.50 to £11, that isn’t for the faint-hearted, with beers starting from £4 a bottle.

New it may be, but this is a venue that transports you to the good ol’ days of the Deep South.