Where have I been?! What have I been doing?! It certainly hasn’t been writing things on here, that’s for sure.
Ah life. Life is so busy sometimes and then, just when you don’t think you have time for anything extra curricular, you get a stomach bug, then you’ve to work longer hours at work, you have to drop your car off for a service, get your hair cut, do some DIY, organise tradesmen, keep people happy, and then you have to be a million places, doing a million things all at once…
But for those times when you just have a minute or two to sit in one place, perhaps in the sun with a little bite to eat and some great coffee, and enjoy the bustle of Life going on around you instead, maybe then you might like to head for 9Bar Coffee on Grey Street, Newcastle.
I did just that t’other weekend and was more than pleasantly surprised. I’d heard some hype. I’d spotted their World’s Best Cheese Toastie proclamations outside, and noted that upon visiting Newcastle for his latest tour Derren Brown had sampled said toastie and verified such claims. I had seen other reviews of 9Bar and wandered past it myself many a time, without ever going in. More fool me.
We stopped by on the bank holiday weekend and the little place was BUSY. We grabbed a table by the window, in the dazzling sunlight, and then suddenly we had to make a decision and placed a hasty, faintly panicked order for cheese toastie, pork ‘Slider’ and coffees.
The coffee house opened it’s doors in February 2012 and is a part of the De Giorgi family’s Newcastle-based reign which has over the years, included Don Vito’s, Secco, Paradiso, Pasqualino’s, Popolo, Intermezzo and Alvinos. An impressive list.
The decor, a collage of perfect Italian/Brooklyn-esque coffee house OTT, is the work of Reluctant Hero and Adrian Philpotts from Xsite architecture. It’s right up my street, even though I’m convinced that the chairs are the same uncomfortable bastards I sat on at school, but it’s perhaps a peculiar style for a bar essentially housed inside (albeit with separate doors) the Grade 1 Listed Theatre Royal. My inner voice is screaming that this is historically incorrect, I wanted it to feel wrong, but I still loved it.
The coffee was great. I had a lovely time supping it and can confirm that it was definitely tasty coffee. Of course, once I’d made a fast decision and ordered a latte I immediately started eyeing up the large glass of red vino on the adjacent table and knew I’d made the wrong choice, but the coffee was very nice. Wine next time then.
The World’s Best Cheese Toastie involved sour dour bread, some fancy aged chedder cheese (no shit) and an exciting mix of onions and leeks poached or sautéed in butter. Not bad. It certainly was delicioux. The only thing I would say is that it was a bit dry. It’s probably outrageous of me to suggest it but a thin layer of mayo between the bread and the cheese wouldn’t have gone amiss. I can only apologise to those that will offend but when making a World’s Most Adequate Cheese Toastie in the comforts of my own kitchen I slather the bread with a thin layer of mayo before adding cheese and toasting because it gives a nice creamy effect to the cheese.
The rest of the menu was a bit of a novelty for Tyneside. Cheese Toastie boasting aside, the other things on offer were more intriguing. Pulled Pork Sliders turned out to be little sweet (sort of like brioche) seeded type buns full of soft juicy shredded pork and a smudge of apple sauce. They do also offer a meatball and cheese version. Two thumbs up for this. I happily got these all over my face. There was also something called a Sweet/Spicy Sausage Spuntino which appeared to be a large sourdough sandwich filled with spicy sausages, buffalo mozzarella and caramelised onions. It looked delicious. Cue more buyers remorse and envy from our table.
Also on the menu was a thin crisp Piadina served with a little side salad and, what appeared to be the most popular order, from a glass cabinet at the counter, something labelled ‘Arancini’. Although it sounds like some sort of creature, it’s apparently not. After some research we deduced that they are in fact fried risotto rice balls, filled with cheese and either a vegetarian filling or a rich beef ragu. They come served with a tomatoey dipping sauce, unless you get them to take away, and look scrumptious. I need to go back and try these. ASAP. Along with the tempting array of cakes, also arranged provocatively at the counter next to the Arancini. Not sure about the fig and walnut cake but pear and polenta? Definitely something I have to try.
Anyone for a coffee date?