Sunday, 18 December 2016

Lovely things to do #6: Go to Jesmond Food Market

Today's #lovelythingtodo comes with a side order of mea culpa and is recommended to be enjoyed while wearing thermal undies, multiple layers or whatever your favoured personal tactics are for keeping warm in circumstances which can described as nippy.

First, the guilty admission/apology: this was the first Jesmond Food Market I've ever been to. I know. As someone from round these parts with a healthy and ongoing interest in the local comestibles scene, this isn't good enough. Hopefully the following enthusiastic words, and encouragement that you yourself head along will go some way to rectifying the situation. Stood on Armstrong Bridge yesterday, enjoying what meagre heat the milky afternoon sun was kicking out, I tried to figure out why I'd never made it before.

In a word: Jesmond. I think I'm just not really a fan. Having formed an opinion of the area when living here as a student - ironically, the only time in my life I'll probably be able to afford to - as full of massive, expensive houses with no gardens, Chelsea tractors which cause interminable carnage on the narrow lanes and comically rubbish bars marked by - especially on bank holidays - a way higher than average twat/non-twat ratio, I've seen little since moving out west to change this view. Plus, *reverse snobbery klaxon!* still full of annoyingly posh students innit. Against this, you have the loveliness of the Dene, the fabulousness of Jesmond Dene House and the general leafy demeanor of the place. And, best of all I reckon, the monthly food market.

This is the doing of Anna Hedworth, who is a bit of an all round hero of the local food scene. From her supper clubs and events, to the estimable Cook House, everything she puts her name to displays unerring good taste (you can hear Anna being interviewed for Radio 4's The Food Programme here), and the market yesterday was no exception. Let's have a look around, shall we?

Ouseburn Coffee Company
After getting on the wrong bloody bus from Monument (pro-tip: the 39 will not sort you out) and thus walking further than we'd planned, I was in need of hot liquid refreshment by the time we arrived. Hurrah then for Ouseburn Coffee Company who, for my money, make just about a perfect flat white.

Flat white
It's rich and powerful, just like that prick the Americans have recently elected, but much more pleasant to be around and less likely to (allegedly) sexually assault you. The machines they use have big handles to pull down in order to extract the espresso. I've no idea if these are an advantage over non-handle machines, but they add a nice manual element to the process. I've bought their beans before a few times, and they've always been first rate.

After casing out the full range of eatables we got bang into it, like a right pair of hungry idiots.

Geordie Banger Co
The smell of sausages compelled us to join the queue for the Geordie Banger Co. We've eaten their links in the past and they are absolutely solid. They were offering a sausage called "Secret Santa" or something, with apricot and stuff in it, but this sounded to me like a potentially unsound seasonal affectation, so we stuck with their core sausage which involves leek, mushroom and onion. I was intrigued by their sausage delivery format: for three quid you got two sausages in a squidgy white bun, the bottom half of which was coated in pease pudding and the top half of which had been dipped - cut side obviously - in some nostalgically smutty chip shop style gravy. Well, let me tell you now, this made for altogether one of the more compelling mouthfuls I've had in recent memory. Fine work, gents.

What a lovely view
Kasia vs Geordie Banger Dip. Kasia won, after a violent but mercifully brief struggle
While I'm fessing up to not having done stuff I ought to have, I should say that I've never had anything from Papa Ganoush, long term expounders of the street food vernacular. Or rather, I hadn't till yesterday.

Papa Ganoush
Their long-anticipated restaurant in Whitley Bay remains in the "not-quite-ready-yet" category, but based on the extremely delicious chicken shawarma wrap (£5) we had yesterday I'm looking forward to it. I guess part of the challenge in moving from the street to an actual building will be in deciding how big a menu to offer and what levantine delights to flesh the core offering out with, but I'm sure they don't need me to tell them that. The chicken was marinated in who-knows-exactly-what, but it was certainly a lovely thing. Most impressive was that they were making the flatbread wraps - and falafel, for those that way inclined - to order; no shortcuts here.

Have you ever wondered what sort of face I make when it's  full of shawarma? No? Fair enough. Well, here it is anyway.


I've seen Mike, AKA the Doughnut Guy, at the Quayside Market a couple of times and need to admit to having been a bit dubious about £3 for 3 doughnuts, even if they do have that word we all love so much "artisan" sitting next to them. 

The Doughnut Guy
Such antipathy is probably borne of too many crap portions of "Dinky Donuts" and the like. Well, these doughnuts, properly yeasted and proved, are an entirely different proposition, and come highly recommended. They were gloriously crisp without and yielding within. Bonus points for the salted caramel sauce being home-made and compellingly delicious at that.

All told we spent something like £14 on what amounted to a three course meal, with drinks, for two. Brilliant.

We also picked up some really great (and actually sour!) sourdough from Pink Lane Bakery, who I think are The Bakery Formerly Known as Sugar Down. Also, a rich and cinnamonny Portuguese custard tart.

There were a bunch of great stalls flogging last minute Christmas gifts and other food related delights. I have to give a mention to The Feathers Inn stall for having just the most sensational looking pies and sausage rolls - we'll be back for those next time - and The Northumbrian Smokehouse for his excellent range of intriguing products, all of which use smoke to enhance, rather than than mask the flavours of the things that bear its lingering taint.

Altogether an excellent way to spend a wintery afternoon. Can I just offer thanks to, and solidarity with, the stallholders and everyone else who makes this thing work as although it wasn't as fiercely cold as Newcastle in December can be, they must still have been properly brassic. Which is all the more reason why we'll be back for the next one of these in January to lend our support and appetites to what is a really great market full of excellent food for now, and food for later. See you there.

Lovely thing to do rating: 9. I'd have probs given it a 10 if I hadn't had to trek all the bloody way from Benwell to Jesmond on public transport for it.


  1. Oh man, I had it in my calendar to go to this yesterday and we didn't make it (due to my fella being ridiculously hungover) and now I'm full of regret. I'm reading this wondering why I've never considered using pease pudding with sausages. Clearly it would work. Really well written Lee, you've convinced me to get down next time!


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