Rewind 250 years ago and you can imagine Jane Austen-esque scenes of balls and social gatherings at The Assembly Rooms.
A stone’s throw from Newcastle Central station on Fenkle Street, it still retains that air of grandeur with its imposing columns.
Inside its bar, Bonbar, it’s a case of old meets new as elegant 18th century plaster work gels with moody lighting and an impressively-stocked bar which serves up everything from vintage cocktails to premium spirits such as Ciroc and the poser’s tipple of choice, Grey Goose, to draught and bottled beers.
Everything about it screams that this is a bar where you should dress to impress on a Saturday night whilst supping from a long stem Martini glass. A bit like Regency times, but with much less demure hemlines.
Not the obvious place to go for a leisurely lunch, then. But, it works. Instead of going down the average pub grub route, it raises the bar with menu features such as grilled mackerel and duck and apple rillet.
We chose one of the sharing platters, which is reasonably-priced at three options for £7.50; six for £14 or nine for £18.50.
Tummies rumbling, we went with nine: mini Cumberland sausages with black pudding cubes and mustard; belly pork cubes with apple sauce; sweet potato fries; crispy flatbreard with dips; Italian Mortadella with Parmesan cubes; selection of salami, salmon mousse, scotch egg with piccalilli and duck and apple rillet.
“Brendan Healy used to call this Geordie tapas,” said our cheery waiter as he served our platter which almost buckled under the weight of its bounty - and it’s easy to see why the late comedian was so impressed.
The sausages and black pudding were a meat feast triumph: succulent, dense, black pudding punctuating plump sausages. Meanwhile, the Scotch egg was perfectly executed with a runny centre and complemented well by a satisfyingly chunky piccalilli that knocked socks off the shop-bought stuff in jars.
The belly pork cubes also made a sometimes overly rich dish much more manageable with its bite-size fatty chunks.
The day time atmosphere is dimmed somewhat by the absence of windows, but you can’t fault the food. Bonbar appétit!