It's all gone a bit Iberian of late in Newcastle, as a couple of very worthwhile delis have opened up in the last few weeks, both of which are deserving of your attention. Almost overnight, the range of charcuterie in this fair city has lengthened and deepened quite considerably which is a very good thing indeed, not to mention some excellent cheeses and other bits and bobs not previously available.
"Rural" seems a bit of an odd name for a deli, and among the greasy spoons and bike shops at the top of Westgate Hill seems - how to put it charitably? - an eccentric place to put one. I'm not sure how many of the residents of Vallum Court, nor the folks browsing the bikes in M&S Motorcycles will also be in the market for some hand-carved jamon, but maybe I'm just being snobbish. There's also not anything immediately apparent about the place to indicate that everything in it comes from Portugal, which seems to be missing a trick.
Anyway, whatever they lack in clear markers of provenance they more than make up for in friendliness. I had a very enjoyable chat with the guy who I presume to be the owner during a recent lunch break; he was wholly enthusiastic about everything they stock, and having tasted a fair whack of it, with some justification.
The jamon was, compared to Iberico Bellota with which I'm familiar, lighter and slightly less dense in taste and texture, but still very, very good. Your man explained to me that a lot of Portuguese Pata Negra is typically less aged than the Spanish equivalent. I took his word for it.
I tried a few other bits and bobs of charcuterie, some delicious rosemary honey and some very nice cheeses, all of which were brand new to me.
As indeed does Rural. Please do go and check it out and buy some stuff, if only to prove me wrong when I say that I can't help thinking they'd have been better off setting up in the Grainger Market.
Which takes us neatly on to La Casa, who have done exactly that. They're opposite the new(ish) Pumphrey's tea place on Alley 1. I've clocked their stall on the Quayside Sunday market a couple of times and noted their fine range of cured pig and cow, so it's lovely to see them in a permanent home.
I was particularly impressed with their range of Manchego cheese, including soft varieties, smoked ones, young ones, old ones and even one studded with flecks of black Spanish truffle. I bought some lomo which was possessed of the mellow funk that signifies good charcuterie; completely delicious, and a nice change from jamon.
It's not just ham and cheese though; they're carrying a good range of quality tinned fish, oils, vinegars, honey, pimenton, jarred preserved vegetables, the lot. I now that mmm... have been doing this sort of thing brilliantly for years, but they don't - and can't - carry such an impressively full range of purely Spanish products as this, so hopefully there are plenty of customers for both.
Last but not least, they've a cracking range of booze, including Rioja, obvs, but also Priorat, Ribero del Duero and a smattering of sherries, brandies and ciders. Hurrah!
I wrote a whole screed about the Grainger Market over three years ago. What's so gratifying is that the range and quality of food available to eat and take home have continued to improve from what felt then like a high water mark. I honestly bloody love the place.
So, there you go: two new places to get interesting things to eat in Newcastle. Please do look in and support them, if only so that I can continue to be able to select from such a fine range of Iberian delicacies. ¡Salud! / Saúde!
281 Westgate Road
Newcastle upon Tyne
Unit 39, Alley 1
Newcastle upon Tyne
Website (Be warned- Twice I got the blue screen of death on my creaking PC when trying to access this)