Battle of the burger at The Tyne Bar

Who makes the best burgers in Newcastle? This weekend the battle of the burger commenced at The Tyne Bar. Five vendors took on the challenge to create a  signature burger. The burger had to cost £3.  They faced  three judges and the public over two days. The battle to see to who would be crowned champion commenced. There were barbecues at noon, tunes, sunshine and views over the Tyne. My son and I went along to find out what it was all about.
The Tyne Bar
The Tyne Bar is situated between two rivers, the river Ouseburn and the River Tyne. The Ouseburn valley is home to several interesting places to visit, including Ouseburn Farm and Seven Stories – a museum celebrating children’s books. It is an interesting walk along the Ouseburn valley down to the quayside to find the river Tyne and the Tyne Bar. The Tyne Bar is situated under a bridge with views across the Tyne. There are plenty of local ales on offer and bands often play there. When we went the Skyride was taking place  around the quayside so we had a great view of the people cycling past.
Tyne barIn the distance we could see the Millennium Bridge opening to let one of the cruise ships that go up and down the Tyne though. We wandered along the quayside a little way to watch. It is not often we see the Millennium Bridge swing and it is fascinating to watch the edges rise.

Newcastle QuaysideHungry after our walk we headed back to the Tyne Bar to enter the battle of the burgers. It was all very civilised, the sun shone down overhead and the five vendors had set up their stalls under the bridge waiting for the hungry customers. A tantalising smell of cooking wafted across on the breeze.

Battle of the burgersFood was purchased with tokens which were available inside the bar. I popped in to get some tokens and a couple of drinks then we had a wander to see what burgers were on offer. My son was very easily pleased, he decided instantly he was going to go for the Longhorns burger. They were offering a smoked beef and hogg double patty in a bun. It was cooked in the flamboyant Longhorns style on a big grill.  I ordered one while my son went and sat at one of the tables outside in the sun.

LonghornsI had a wander round the rest of the vendors trying to make up my mind which burger to try. It was a difficult decision, they all looked lovely. Jam Jar Jesmond offered a Jam Burger, 7 oz steak, crispy bacon, red Leicester and tomato jam.

Jamjar As well as hosting the battle of the burger the Tyne Bar were also in on the burger action. Facing the DJ they were cooking up their burgers in the kitchen.

Tyne BarQuay Ingredient are a coffee house based on the quayside. They had created an exotic sounding Brunch burger with a pork and leek patty, French brie, smoked bacon and white truffle oil served in a stottie.

Quay IngredientThe burger that got my attention was created by Lola Jeans, the Little California. A beef patty with smoked applewood cheddar, red onion marmalade, bone marrow ranch dressing and crispy pickle chips. Who can say no to ranch dressing?

Lola Jeans

We sat down in the sun to enjoy our burgers and enjoy them we did. The Little California was gorgeous, the red onion marmalade was really tasty.

Little California

The Longhorns burger was the perfect size for my son, it’s double patty filled him up.

Longhorns burger

So who won the battle of the burger? It was announced today, Lola Jeans ran off with the title. I had made the right choice. This was only round one though, there will be a round two soon and I can’t wait to see who turns up for that one.

A Visit to Jesmond Food Market

Jesmond Dene Park is an oasis of calm in the middle of the city centre. It is easy to spend a while there wandering though the woodland and visiting Pets Corner. Our last visit to Jesmond Dene was in the Autumn and the trees were full of colour. We took the dog and had a lovely time playing football. I have memories of visiting the Armstrong Bridge Craft Fair which used to take place every Sunday. It was always full of gorgeous paintings and crafts from local suppliers. It was a great place to source presents. Sadly it ended a while ago but recently I learnt that a new market was being held on the Armstrong Bridge. The Jesmond Food Market takes place on the third Saturday of every month from 10am to 3pm. The market brings together local food producers and street food traders and I was interested to see who would be there.

Jesmond Food MarketArmstrong Bridge is a stunning backdrop for the market, the ironwork railings and the view over Jesmond Dene Park set off the different stalls. The day was grey and rain threatened but the market was bustling and busy. We decided to stroll from one end of the bridge to the other and find out what was there before buying anything. There was plenty to choose from and the smell of food cooking soon made us hungry.

Zen BakerThere were plenty of bread stalls to choose from with a range of artisan bread and gorgeous looking pastries.  The Zen Baker displayed some gorgeous crusty loaves which would be perfect with a bowl of home made soup. The Sugar Down Bakery had a range of tempting looking pastries which would make a special Sunday breakfast. I was spoiled for choice and could easily have bought several of these pastries.
Sugar Down BakeryThe perfect partner for crusty bread is cheese and chutney and luckily both were to be found. The Northumberland Cheese Company had samples of their cheese made from cow, goat and sheep milk. They are really tasty cheeses and they would make a perfect addition to any cheese board.

Northumberland Cheese CompanyChutney is also a welcome addition to cheese and bread and Northumbrian Preserves have a lovely selection to choose from.  From red onion marmalade to plum chutney, there is bound to be something you will like. The only problem is deciding which one to buy.

Northumbrian PreservesI did end up buying some sausages from the Norththumberland Sausage Company and have to highly recommend them. We tasted their pork and pickled onion sausages on the stand which were really tasty. I bought some Northumberland sausages from them and these made a gorgeous Sunday breakfast. Two packs of sausages for £5 is great value considering they are really good quality. I was also tempted by the range of products on offer from the Northumberland Smokehouse and and range of wines and mead on offer from Spirit of Northumberland but my son was getting hungry. We went to investigate the food stalls.

northumberland smoke house

Spirit of NorthumberlandWe were spoiled for choice for food, many of our favourites were there. We watched the folk from La Petite Crêperie make crepes on large griddles. We have passed them in the Grainger Market but still have to pay them a visit. By all accounts the crepes are amazing.La Petit CreperieWe were also tempted by Longhorns, we loved the food in their restaurant when we visited. They have recently opened a new restaurant in Jesmond and we hope to visit soon.

LonghornsMy son decided he was going to try a sausage from The Feathers Inn. They had two types on offer, lamb or deer. He went for the deer sausage with mustard and a gherkin. We had to wait a while as they cooked, the lovely smell making us more hungry. It was well worth the wait, a really tasty and unusual sausage.

The Feathers Innsausage from Feathers InnAs we walked along the bridge we had noticed large queues forming at Di Meo’s who were serving gelato. We had to treat ourselves to a cone.

Di Meo'sThe ice cream was gorgeous, full of flavour and delicious. Served in a sugar cone it was the perfect treat to end our day.

Di Meo's

As we left it started to rain but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the people visiting the market. Umbrellas were pulled out, plastic sheeting used to cover produce and everything continued as usual. We had a lovely time visiting Jesmond Food Market and have pencilled the date in our diary to visit next month.

Dragons and Fairy Dust

Cupcake decorating at the Copthorne hotel

I love baking and making cakes but one thing I have never mastered the art of is decorating them. My attempts at piping often end with icing everywhere except the cake. When I was invited to attend a cupcake decorating class at the Copthorne Hotel in Newcastle  I was really looking forward to it.  It was a good chance to learn some new skills as well as meeting other bloggers.


Image Credit: Joe Bloggs Network

The Copthorne Hotel is situated on the Newcastle Quayside. Guests staying here can walk straight out onto the quayside and have a stunning view of Newcastle’s bridges. There are plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance. The Baltic is also within striking distance as is Bessie Surtees house. As it was a lovely day I took a short walk along the quayside before entering the hotel. I then entered the lobby and sat and chatted to some other bloggers before we got started. Before the cupcake decorating class began we were treated to a glass of prosecco and some nibbles, a great way to get everyone chatting.

Cupcake Decorating Class

After chatting for a while we were shown into the room where we were going to learn how to decorate cupcakes. The tables were set up with everything we needed to start cupcake decorating. It was a bit like school with rows of chairs facing the front. We found a seat and waited to get started.

cupcake decoratingThe cupcake decorating classes were taken by Julie, from Julie’s Cake House, a talented lady who produces beautiful cakes for all occasions as well as running cupcake decorating classes. We were shown the four cakes we were going to make. Would I be able to make my cupcakes look anything like these?

cupcake decorating

Image credit: Joe Bloggs network

 We set to work, the first cake involved snipping marshmallows, dipping them in sugar and adding them to the top of the cake in a floral arrangement. There was something relaxing about making the cake but  it took ages for the cake to be finished. It must take incredible patience to make a big batch of these cakes. The final result was very effective.

cupcake decoratingNext we were shown how to make this really cute bear cupcake. This one involved rolling out icing and shaping it into different shapes to make a cupcake that was almost too cute to eat. Julie was a good teacher with  plenty of patience. She was happy enough to walk round and show us individually what to do when we weren’t sure. We had great fun trying to copy the cakes and make the right shapes out of the icing sugar.

bear cupcakeI never expected to have to use a craft knife when decorating cupcakes but it was a very handy tool, although I did make a point of leaving the cover on when not using it as it was very sharp. The other two cakes we tackled were a cake with make-up on and a flower. My flower wilted a little bit as the room was quite warm by now.

cupcake decoratingAt the end of the session I had produced four cupcakes which I put into the box provided. I was very pleased with my efforts, although they are not quite as pretty as the originals. It had taken two hours to decorate these four cupcakes, admittedly with much chat and a lot of laughter. I was very proud to carry them home with me on the bus, hoping people would be impressed. Sadly when I got them home they did not last long, my son helped me eat them within minutes. I have to say they tasted gorgeous. What do you think of my efforts?

The Copthorne Hotel

After our hard work we were taken on a tour of The Copthorne Hotel, a great chance to stretch our legs and see inside the rooms.  There are various different sizes of rooms from the standard room to the bigger club room and the executive suite. All of these are a good size with the facilities you would expect from a four star hotel. The rooms are tastefully decorated and I felt I could relax in them.

Copthorne hotelWhat is nice is that each of the rooms have stunning views across the riverside and the space to sit by the window and watch the world go by.  It must be lovely having a cup of tea looking at this view.

Copthorne hotel Newcastle

Image Credit: Joe Bloggs Network

I also liked the way the Copthorne hotel has a central atrium which each floor surrounds. It gives a really light and airy feel to the hotel. It also makes an interesting photo when you look up.

Copthorne hotelAfter our tour of the hotel we were treated to a lovely afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and plenty of cake. Just what we needed to refresh ourselves after all that hard work decorating cupcakes.

Copthorn afternoon tea

Image Credit: Joe Bloggs Network

Thanks to the Copthorne hotel and Julie’s Cupcakes for a lovely day. I will be trying to decorate my own cupcakes to this standard in the future.

Vikings at the Great North Museum

Great North Museum

During half term we found out that there were going to be Vikings at the Great North Museum. We had previously visited the Vikings at Lindisfarne and really enjoyed the day so we decided to go. The Great North Museum is worth a visit, it is a free museum near the centre of Newcastle which has fascinating exhibits of natural history, dinosaurs and different world cultures. It is easy to spend a couple of hours wandering around the Great North Museum exploring the different rooms. There is plenty to capture the imagination from a scale model of Hadrian’s Wall to artefacts from ancient Egypt, including mummies and displays showing the diversity of animals around the world. We find something new every time we visit.

Great North MuseumThe Great North Museum is situated in Barras Bridge, near the centre of town. It is a short walk from the Haymarket.  As you approach the museum there is a statue of William Armstrong who was one of the museums benefactors when it opened on this site. Armstrong is well known in Newcastle, an industrialist responsible for the Armstrong works in Elswick which produced hydraulic machinery and armaments. He also build the first house in the world to be lit by hydroelectricity, Cragside in Northumberland.

Statue of Armstrong outside Great North MusueumVikings at the Great North Museum

As we approached the Great North Museum we could see the Viking camp on the lawn outside. There were a number of tents and people dressed in the Viking costumes, each demonstrating different aspects of Viking life.

Vikings at the Great North MuseumIt was strange seeing the Viking figures against the city background. The Vikings were very knowledgeable and happy to explain what they were doing. Plenty of people had come to see them and the children were fascinated. It was really interesting seeing the different types of utensils and equipment that Vikings would have used.

Vikings at the Great North MuseumWhen I think of Viking culture I tend to think of long ships raiding Britain and attacking monasteries. The Viking camp demonstrated different aspects of Viking culture. This lady showed the different foods that they ate and the utensils used to prepare it. I love the artwork on the side of the tent.

Vikings at the Great North MuseumThe Viking culture was complex and diverse with every member of the community having their jobs to do. Many of the Vikings ran farms and had a lot of work to do to keep the community running smoothly, flour had to be made in order to make bread. Fish had to be caught and the livestock looked after. Extra meat was gather from hunting. Clothes had to be made scratch, the wool woven after being sheared from sheep.

Vikings at the Great North MuseuemThis Viking demonstrates how the wool was spun and made into balls for use in weaving. It looks like a task that needs a lot of concentration.

SpinningAs well as the peaceful farming side of Viking life there was also the military side. The Vikings had to be good at fighting and also sailing their ships. Viking weapons were on display and we were given a talk on exactly how these were used.

Viking weaponsIt should be noted that none of the helmets have horns on them. This is true to what historians know about Vikings, horns on the helmet is a myth that has grown up over the years. Vikings at the Great North MuseumThere were plenty of drinking horns around however, in case the Vikings needed refreshment after fighting. I would think carrying all that chain mail around is thirsty work.

Hancock-13My son was happy to grab the chance to try on some armour. Do you think he looks like a Viking?

Vikings at the Great North MuseumWe really enjoyed our visit and learnt a lot about Viking life. It is worth keeping a eye on the Great North Museum website as they have different events though out the year. It is an ideal place to take your children in the school holidays. The Power & People exhibition at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend is also worth a visit, it is only there until September. When we visited the Romans were also there.

Power & People Exhibition at Segedunum Roman Fort

Last weekend we visited Segedunum Roman Fort. Segedunum is located in Wallsend, literally at the end of Hadrian s wall. The fort itself is the most completely excavated fort in Britain and was a garrison for Roman soldiers for around 300 years. There is also a museum and a reconstructed Roman bath house on the site. We previously visited a few years ago when the Connecting Light Exhibition was on and messages were being transmitted via large lights along the length of Hadrian s Wall. We used to go all the time when my son was younger, I have some lovely photos of him practising his archery with a Roman soldier. This time we went to see the Power & People exhibition which is the UK’s largest exhibition of Roman artefacts. It is on loan from the British Museum and had been touring the country. It finishes its tour in Segedunum and will be there until the 15th September. To celebrate the launch this weekend there was a Mercatus – a Roman Fayre along with Roman soldiers, cavalry and belly dancers, so it was an interesting visit.

Entry to Segedunum

Segedunum is easy to access, it is just off the main road and three minutes walk from Wallsend metro station and bus station. There is car parking in front of the museum. Entry is £5.95 for adults and children under 16 are free.The museum is dominated by the viewing platform towering over it which overlooks the Roman site. The remains of the fort can also be seen though the fences as you walk towards the museum, with the River Tyne and the Wallsend shipyards in the distance.

Segedunum roman fortEntering though the doors leads you into a gift shop with access to the museum and fort site. We were greeted by a very tall lady offering us grapes. After paying for entry we decided to visit the fort and the mercatus first as the Roman cavalry was about to arrive.

Segedunum roman fortSegedunum Roman fort

The fort is accessed by entering the museum and then going outside. There is a short walk to the Roman excavations. On the way to the fort there is this stone which marks the easternmost point of Hadrians wall as well as other small sections of the wall.

SegedunumThe remains of the fort are easy enough to walk around and cover quite a large area. Each of the different sections are labelled so it is easy to tell what all the different sections were for.  There is also information about what the fort must have looked like when the Romans were in occupation, which was really interesting. My son was fascinated and kept telling me which part of the fort we were in and what it was used for.

Segedunum Roman Forst

Segedunum Roman fortThe Roman bath house is situated at the corner of the fort and is worth a look in. When we visited part of the Roman fayre was taking place inside so there were lots of stalls.

Segedunum Bath houseMy son was really interested by the Roman toilets. The bath house is a full reconstruction of the bath houses used in Roman times and was fascinating.


The mercatus – Roman fayre

The mercatus was set up along the side of the Roman fort and in the bath house itself. It was a mixture of stalls selling Roman costumes, shoes and weaponry and food and cake stalls. Romans tended to the stalls encouraging you to buy their wares. We bought some fudge, there were plenty of different flavours available making it hard to choose.

Segedunum fudge stall

The Roman soldiers congregated at the next stall, checking out the sandals and other goods deciding if they should buy.

Segedenum roman fayre

My son was fascinated by the hog roast, amazed that a whole pig was actually being cooked. I had to buy him a hog sandwich which he really enjoyed.

Segedunum hog roastI was fascinated watching the potter at work. He turned the wheel with a stick every so often and then formed the pot with his hands. The pottery he made was in authentic Roman style.
Segedunum pottery

We had arrived in time for the Roman Calvary and we listened to a fascinating chat about the different armour and weapons used in Roman times. The different styles of helmets and weapons were demonstrated, it was really interesting. Just as we were leaving the belly dancers arrived so we stopped for a bit to watch them.

Segedunum soldiers

Segedunum calvary

Segedunum calvary

Segedunum belly dancers

Roman Empire: Power & People Exhibition

We then went inside the museum to visit the Power & People exhibition. As well as this exhibition Segedunum has a number of other exhibits which show life in Roman times. There is also a whole gallery devoted to the industrial heritage of the area with artefacts from the ship building and coal mining days. It is fascinating to wander round and look.

The Roman Empire: Power & People brings together over 160 pieces from the British Museum. There are sculptures, coins, jewellery and writing tablets. There were even some examples of Roman clothing which were really well preserved. As well as the artefacts there are interactive exhibits showing how the Roman empire moved across Britain. It is a really fascinating exhibit and well worth a visit.

Segedunum Power & PeopleSegedunum Power and PeopleSegedunum Power and PeopleSegedunum Power and PeopleBefore we left Segedunum we had to go up to the viewing platform to see the fort from above. I recommend taking the lift up, there are rather a lot of stairs. The view is worth it, as well as the views of the fort below you also get to see the Wallsend shipyards and the river.

SegedunumWallsend shipyardsVisiting Segedunum was a lovely way to spend a day and my son really enjoyed the visit as well. He learnt lots of facts about the Romans and is still telling me things he picked up while he was there. It is worth checking the website before visiting as they have plenty of events on and you can plan your visit to coincide. It is also worth a trip along Hadrian’s Wall to visit the many forts along its length. We visited Housesteads Roman Fort a while ago and it was fascinating.


Dragons and Fairy Dust