Everyone has their favourite place to eat. You might love the food, the sociable atmosphere, the view or the simple fact that it’s your special place.
Here the team at This is Northumberland and the Borders presents a selection of their favourite eateries across the Borders, Northumberland and Newcastle-Gateshead.
Some are award-winning, others places you can blow the budget and the diet. But what they all share in common is their dedication to serving up not just the very best in local food, but a warm Northern welcome.
We’ve eaten at these places more than once so we know the quality is always first rate.
We hope you experience these places yourself one day – if you haven’t already done so. And please share some of your own favourites with us by leaving your comments in the box below, or by visiting our Facebook page.
Oscars, Kelso, The Scottish Borders
Thisisnorthumberland.com co-founder Sheelagh Caygill celebrated her birthday here last year and had a memorable time at what is officially known as Oscars Wine Bar and Restaurant in Kelso.
This is an award-winning restaurant that has cleverly and successfully combined Mediterranean dishes with local produce. The combination is reflected in the more laid-back European bistro look.
The food is reasonably priced and the menu is varied, creative and interesting . There is a good selection for vegetarians too. The owner is from the south of England and loves to chat without being intrusive.
Oscars is a real treasure in the Borders, has a great atmosphere and is a good place for a really nice lunch or evening meal.
Woodside Walled Garden Cafe, Jedburgh, The Scottish Borders
This is deceptive on first sight. It looks like an enormous wood-panelled garage from a distance, but step inside and you will be met with calming pale lemon coloured walls, down-to-earth wood tables and chairs, a wood-burning stove and a fabulous counter with home-made cakes.
Woodside serves freshly made soups and sandwiches too.
The coffee is excellent and freshly brewed and there is a wide selection of teas.
Woodside stocks magazines and daily papers, but if reading is not your thing you can enjoy the displays of local artwork or the view from the windows onto the walled garden and birds at the feeders.
Cafe Curio, Berwick upon Tweed
Cafe Curio is unique. Everything is for sale – including the cutlery and crockery you eat off – at this antique shop cum cafe in a narrow side street just a few minutes walk from the centre of Berwick.
Indeed, the owners themselves describe Cafe Curio as a French-style curiosity shop.
Each time you visit there is something different and fascinating to look at while you wait for your French-inspired, locally sourced food to arrive. Hearty soups, seafood platters, locally caught cod and capers and scrumptious homemade cakes and desserts feature prominently.
It’s a small, cosy place but that only adds to the pleasant atmosphere. The staff are friendly, chatty and knowledgeable about the area should you want to discover more about Berwick or north Northumberland.
This is a real gem in Wooler. Breeze is on the high street and calls itself a coffee shop, but it is more than that. The menu is simple but classy. All bread is backed freshly on site and food is made to order. There are daily specials to choose from and a good selection of wonderfully rich home-baked cakes.
The coffee menu is extensive and herbal teas are also available. Soft drinks are supplied by Northumberland’s own Fentimans.
Breeze lives up to its name and the interior is open and spacious with original art on the walls. The business also sells crafts such as glass, jewellery and ceramics and there is an online shop.
Bamburgh Castle Inn, Seahouses
The Bamburgh Castle Inn boasts beathtaking views of the north Northumberland coast.
The food is well cooked with plenty of choice and the portions are hearty.
There is a good mix on the menu, including daily specials, meat dishes, fish and vegetarian options. Local ingredients are used where possible.
There is a children’s menu and the Bamburgh Castle Inn also serves starters and light snacks.
One thing that stands out is that the staff are always friendly and want to make sure you’re happy and comfortable.
Mucho Gusto, Hexham
There is a lot going on at the stylish Mucho Gusto . . . breakfast, quick coffees, gifts, local foods, ladies who lunch, take-aways and cake orders, too.
You may have to wait, but it’s worth it.
The food is top notch and the presentation exceptional. For example, with a poached egg and toast the angle of the toast and position of the eggs is almost art-like! The coffees are amongst the best you will find in Tynedale. All the cakes are baked by Mucho Gusto and if you are in a hurry there is a take-away option.
The cafe sells some local and regional foods, gifts, local beers and the La Cafetiere range.
The Rat Inn, Anick, near Hexham
It is the collection of things all coming together perfectly that make The Rat Inn so special.
The location, old-world atmosphere, warm fire on a chilly day and the sense of care that goes into the cooking all make The Rat Inn a truly great pub.
This is pub food at its best – acknowledged in The Good Food Guide 2012 – and you will need to dig a bit deeper into your pockets for a meal, but it is worth it.
The menu changes regularly but always features British classics using, for the most part, local produce. With pubs closing at an alarming rate across the UK, The Rat Inn is a place to be treasured.
It has a beautifully carved wood bar, roaring fire, excellent food, great ales and carefully chosen wines. It is, as its website says, a “charming and characterful pub.”
David Kennedy’s Food Social, Newcastle
Former North East Chef of the Year David Kennedy has created an experience to remember at his self-styled David Kennedy’s Food Social.
Located in the Biscuit Factory – the UK’s largest independent commercial art gallery – in Shieldfield just a few minutes walk from Newcastle city centre, David prides himself on using the best and freshest local produce.
But going local doesn’t have to mean expensive. There’s a set lunch menu at £10 for two courses (the Northumberland cheese souffle with a pear, walnut and chicory salad is sublime), while the a la carte choices start from 12.50.
Fish features heavily, reflecting Dave’s love affair with the nearby North Shields Fish Quay from where he gets the daily catches of the day. So keep an eye on the specials.
Sunday roasts with a difference, personal feasts and seasonal foodie evenings are all part of the Food Social experience, along with a mouthwatering Northumbrian inspired tapas-style menu.
Combined with the overall atmosphere of luxurious leather chairs, soft lighting, low music, art covered walls and attentive staff, and Food Social offers something very special at credit crunch prices.
Pan Haggerty*, Newcastle
How times have changed. It’s not that long ago when the phrase “rustic British cooking” would have raised an eyebrow and produced derisive laughter.
But things have moved on and Pan Haggerty – one of Newcastle’s most popular restaurants which takes its name from a traditional Northumbrian dish – is vociferous in its championing of rustic British food.
On Queen Street – in the same spot once occupied by iconic North East chef Terry Laybourne’s original 21 restaurant – just yards from Newcastle’s bustling Quayside and the River Tyne, Pan Haggerty is referenced in the Michelin Guide, and deservedly so.
The food is consistently delicious and creatively presented. For Sunday lunch consider the roast loin of Durham pork with all the trimmings, confit chicken leg, or butternut squash and sage risotto followed by apple and berry crumble or a selection of cheese (British, of course).
As you would expect, Pan Haggerty is popular with diners, so be sure to make a reservation.
*Wondering about the name? Pan Haggerty is a Northumbrian dish of onions and cheese with a layer of sliced potato on top. It’s cooked until it’s golden brown. The recipe is here.
Cafe 21, Newcastle
Standing at the heart of Newcastle’s picturesque Quayside in Trinity Gardens is Cafe 21, run by top North East chef Terry Laybourne.
His locally sourced food has been a long-time favourite with diners and over the years Terry has won a plethora of top awards, including a coveted Michelin star for his justifiably famous former eatery, 21 Queen Street.
Cafe 21 offers stylish bistro-style meals that combine culinary excellence with a contemporary twist – as one would expect of a former Michelin standard chef.
Prices reflect the exceptionally high standard of cooking on offer – expect to pay up to £29.80 for the 8oz fillet steak au poivre from the a la carte – but the stunning Asian-spiced pork belly with bok choy and steamed rice comes in at a more reasonable £17.80.
There’s an extensive vegetarian menu too.