Review of Proven People as it proves its worth on city's flourishing dining scene
After a trying time for hospitality, new restaurant Proven People is certainly proving its worth in the city’s flourishing dining scene.
There’s not many wins to be had from the pandemic, but if there’s any good to be had from 2020 it’s that it’s created a huge demand for supporting local.
And plenty of new businesses have risen from the ashes of a disastrous year to meet the demand, creating a quality dining experience for Wearsiders as we get back to drinking, dancing and dining.
In the city centre alone, 2021 has seen a surge in new food and drink businesses – Spent Grain, The Sweet Petite, Cafe 1851, Street Bar and Victoria’s Loft to name just a few.
Proven People is up there as one of the most talked about new openings. The former Victorian railway manager’s office in Burdon Road, directly opposite the entrance to the museum, has had a number of guises over the years, most recently as Divino Pizza.
But its grand period features, including original parquet flooring and wooden panelling has been unloved for a number of years – until Proven People came in and gave it the TLC it deserves.
It really is a great spot with its large open plan seating area and period windows overlooking the park entrance and busy main road outside, where there’s plenty of people watching to be had.
Friends and business partners Lee Forster, Paul Stewart and Elliot Towsey have worked with the existing features of the building and complemented them with a modern colour palette of pink and blue hues, pizza bar, drinks area and DJ booth to create something completely new for the city. Not only can you enjoy hand-stretched pizzas, you get to do so with arguably one of the best cocktail lists in the city, all washed down with live DJ sets.
I visited on a Wednesday evening where I sloughed off the stresses of the day to a carefully-curated playlist, supplied by the owners’ DJ friends from around the country.
But visit on select evenings, the venue is open until 2am at weekends, and you can look forward to live DJ sets from some of the best on the local music scene, spinning everything from disco and funk to Balearic beats. It’s loud enough to make an impact, but not so loud it intrudes on your meal – a fine balance has been stuck here.
It all helps to create a relaxed, hybrid dining experience where music is just as important as the menu.
Talking of which, food choices are primarily pizza based but toppings are more inventive than most with choices such as sausage & fennel, crab & chilli and roast duck.
While there’s been a number of new pizza businesses to open in the city in recent months (the more the merrier when it comes to pizza), the open pizza bar means you can see your pies being made before your eyes, which is a great touch and all adds to the experience.
We chose one of the more traditional options, a good old ham and mushroom (£12) and one of the more fiery options, the nduja (£13) to share between us.
The base had just the right amount of bubble and bite and we were really impressed with the quality of the toppings, with a creamy fior di latte cheese and copa ham on our first choice. The nduja option, meanwhile, had our lips tingling thanks to the sausage and chilli. The latter also comes on a deoxidising charcoal base, meaning it’s black – not burnt – which adds some drama for your Instagram pics.
There’s also a range of pizza by the slice for £3.50 and garlic breads from £5, as well as small plates and salads.
Down to the drinks – where to begin!
In terms of cocktails and wines, this has to be one of the best quality offerings in the city.
Bar manager Jordan Crulley is formerly of Newcastle’s No 28 bar which is well-known for its creativity, and he’s taken the imaginative drinks up a level here with a cocktail list inspired by music tracks such as French Kiss, Little Fluffy Clouds and I Feel Love.
I can highly recommend the French Kiss (£8), fast becoming a favourite at the bar and rightly so with its slick blend of sloe gin, lemon juice, apple juice, gomme and strawberry jam and a rich red wine foam which is so moreish I could eat it by the spoonful.
Special mention too for the wine list, which as well as some regular options features a natural wine list from Kork Wine & Deli in Whitley Bay, priced around £4 a glass. Our server, Daisy, was really helpful at helping us navigate the options and advising what would best complement our food.
The list changes regularly but on our visit the natural white option was a Tule Bianco Catarrato, a perfect summer’s evening drink from Sicily with a slightly chalky taste with fruity notes that made it incredibly drinkable.
Draught and spirit options are also available at the well-stocked bar, such as Stella, Corona and Camden Hells, starting from £4 a pint.
You can also enjoy a decent range of bottles and cans with your pizzas, such as Dos Equis, Peroni, Orchard Pig Cider and Old Mout. Prices start from £3.50 for a Heineken.
Make sure to enjoy a post-dinner drink al fresco in the new outdoor area created at the rear of the site, a real hidden urban gem where the good beats continue long into the night.
For which DJ sets are upcoming make sure to tune into the Proven People social media channels.