When I wrote this post I was sat on the train heading down to London, with a horrible hangover and it was all thanks to a lovely evening that I spent at Bonbar Newcastle the night before. I was invited along to sample the new cocktail and sharing food menu that they have recently launched. I’ve been to Bonbar a few times, including a work Christmas party in a private room, and just for drinks as part of a night out. I’ve never ate there before, so was looking forward to seeing what it was like. A friend had previously told me their King prawns are pretty good, and as a sea food fan I was keen to try them.
Before the event, I had no idea what would be on the menu, I just knew the plan was to try out a few different things from both the food and cocktail menu. I was given a time slot of 8pm, so Kieran and I rocked up just as the previous sitting were finishing up. We were given a welcome glass of champers as we went in, and directed to the bar while we waited for our table.
The bar staff were busy mixing up plenty of cocktails, and dishing them out into sample glasses. When passing them round they explained what the cocktail was, how it was made and why, and how it was served. This might all sound like a load of pointless info when you’re wanting to just get it down you, but actually, based on my experiences of cocktail making before Christmas (AND a cocktail making kit I got myself for Christmas), how they’re made really affects the taste.
I like hearing about what they do, and how they come up with the names. Stood at the bar we sampled The Novelist, made up of Hendricks gin, Fino sherry and lemon sherbet, inspired by northern novelist Catherine Cookson. It was pretty good!
As more people arrived for the 8pm sitting, the hosts started to seat us. We were told that once everyone was seated we would be given a selection of appetisers, followed by mains on sharing platters, so we could try a bit of everything new on their menu. They asked if anyone had any allergies so they could keep this in mind for serving.
The second cocktail we tried was sold to us by the waiter as a ‘fruit, root and flower’ mix. I didn’t catch the name of it but it was very fruity! Our appetisers arrived, mixed seasoned nuts, edamame and mixed olives. I LOVE edamame, and it was served warm with sea salt. I prefer them cold with a bit of soy sauce for dipping, but they were pretty good warm too. The olives were really delicious, very moreish for those that like them!
The starters were brought out next, served on big sharing planks. We were given glazed pork ribs, stuffed mushrooms, char grilled halloumi with sweet chilli sauce, chicken liver pate with toasted brioche, humus served with flatbread, and salmon mousse. The ribs were good, not too much fat and they weren’t that messy either which is often what puts me off them. These were flavoured but not swamped in sauce.
It was a close call choosing a favourite between the humus served with chunky flatbread, and the halloumi. I hate it when you get tiny little bits of halloumi, these were good and thick, with a lovely sauce but as is often the case it needed eating fairly quickly before it went rubbery. If you go for it as a starter then just be a pig and dig in quick. I tried the salmon mousse which was nice, but very fishy so might not be everyones cup of tea, but the pate was really good spread over the brioche and bread.
Before our mains arrived we ordered more drinks, this time I went for the Mystical Garden cocktail which with a mix of gin and elderflower sounded like my dream combination. They came presented in a flower pot box, and the waiter poured dry ice over with a watering can that really did give it a ‘mystical garden’ look that billowed out across the table. I’m also really pleased to confirm that the taste lived up to my hopes and the presentation. There’s nothing worse than getting a beautifully fancy cocktail that tastes rubbish – but this definitely didn’t. The name ‘Mystical Garden’ is a tribute to the beautiful local Jesmond Dene landscape. I love this, and it reminds me of my friend Vickie as it’s where she got engaged!
Our mains arrived on big sharing planks, a combination of prime Northumbrian aged sirloin steak, griddled roast chicken, slow cooked pork belly chops and char grilled fresh tiger prawns (yes!). We were given a variety of sides to go with it – roast potatoes, broccoli and dauphinoise potatoes, as well as four different sauces. Teriyaki, parsley and tarragon, sweet chilli and Indonesian (lemongrass, coriander and coconut milk). All really were delicious, but the teriyaki was my favourite. The prawns completely stole the show for me, they were huge, chunky and full of flavour.
I tried everything except the pork, as I’ve never been a big fan. Kieran is though and said they were good – he polished them straight off. After dinner we tried a few more cocktails, including the Locomotive inspired by George Stephenson and mixed with Newcastle Brown Ale, and Coal House Punch in tribute of the coal mining industry up here. Both were strong, but tasty and I really love the way they’re linked to the local area. Anywhere that incorporates the local culture in Newcastle gets the thumbs up from most Geordies I think (remember the Benitez Burger twitter trend?!).
Overall we really enjoyed the food, if I went back I could see us having a range of options from the menu. As a basic guide we would go for edamame and olive appetisers, a starter of halloumi and humus with flatbread, and sharing the prawns and steak for main between two of us. The total cost for our evening would come to around #60 for food, and then drinks on top of that.
All the cocktails were impressive, but I think for presentation purposes, and the gin and elderflower mix the Mystical Garden would be my go to. At between £8 – £9 quid each I do think they’re on the slightly more expensive side, but they’re strong and full to the top so it wouldn’t put me off. I think the prices are very reasonable, and compared to places I’ve been lately that are much more expensive, with poorer quality food I would be happy to pay it.
Like many places in Newcastle now, you can get a selection of the smaller dishes at £3.75 each, or you could make your own sharing platters that vary from 3-9 dishes for between £10 – £24. I love this option especially for a lunchtime visit, or shopping snack! The full menu, platter combinations and prices can be found on the Bonbar Newcastle website.
Disclaimer: We received complimentary food and drinks at the Bonbar Newcastle menu launch night, but all opinions are genuine.