Twenty years ago a humble shipping container would have been the last place you’d want to eat your tea. But fast forward to the hipster age and it’s all the rage.
Pop up restaurants and shops housed in old containers have become a cost-effective, and eco-friendly, way of injecting life into tired areas and for diners and shoppers it gives you plenty of variety all on one spot.
Box Park in London’s Shoreditch is a prime example of this recycling success story, and now the trend has crept north to Newcastle in the form of Stack. (It’s also a millennial architectural model which could soon be seen in Seaburn after plans were approved earlier this year for a series of containers on the site of the funpark and Pullman Lodge Hotel).
With a focus on North East retailers, Stack has been constructed on the old Odeon Cinema site on Pilgrim Street, a short walk from Monument Metro. We visited on a Friday night where it offers a much more chilled environment than some of the loud and lairy bars elsewhere in town. Just make sure to wrap up: there’s heaters and some cover but a lot of the seating is exposed to the elements.
It’s a casual ethos that lends itself perfectly to getting your hands dirty with some street food. There’s a global array of tastes to tuck into, with offerings from the Far East, Deep South, South America, Italy and beyond with plenty of bars for in-between courses.
We headed to Los Cocos first, which specialises in Mexican street food. If all the cactuses and Our Lady of Guadalupe motifs aren’t enough to transport you to the heat of Mexico, the tacos will. There’s a small choice, but they’re big on flavour with options of chicken fajita, steak, pork and pineapple and chorizo. (More vegan and vegetarian friendly foods are available at the other stalls).
Prices are fair at three for £9.50 and one for £3.50 and one of each was more than enough to share between the two us. The steak version was beautifully juicy and tender while the tart of the pineapple complemented the heavy pork perfectly. You can judge a good Mexican on the quality of its guacamole and we couldn’t get enough of this chunky one, which is satisfyingly dolloped on most of the tacos.
To wash down your tacos you can order drinks from one of the bars elsewhere on the second floor, but security on the stairs between the levels means you can’t take your drinks between the two.
We’d left just enough room to try one of the most popular places on the ground floor, Eatili, where super hot pizza ovens whip up fresh pizzas and piadina (folded flatbreads) at super fast speed. I chose the Roma (£5.50), a piadina, made from that day’s dough, which is stuffed with plenty of Parma ham, gooey dolce cheese and rich sundried tomatoes. It was an authentic slice of Italy and a great place to line your stomach for the bars, which include a rum bar and an enchanted garden-themed gin bar.
With stacks on offer it looks like these portable containers are here to stay.