Salt Market Social on North Shields Fish Quay
The latest addition to the North Shields fish quay, Salt Market Social opened it’s doors at the weekend and although it was supposed to open back around Easter time, I think it was worth the wait. Created by a couple of locals – Barney and Jim over a pint one night, Salt Market Social brings together food vendors, craft beers and music from across the region under one roof in the old Cosalt Building By the river.
Disclaimer: I was invited to Salt Market Social and provided a table with a tab for our visit.
The industrial factory heritage is still very much present, but it forms the background or blank canvas if you like to the colour, graffiti, murals, bunting and lights that create a much more sociable and festival feel to the place. There’s a lot going on, but what else would you expect from a North East venue?
The concept was originally designed to be a pop up, and it’s going to be very much that with events running once, sometimes twice a month. It’s not somewhere that will be open all the time, so you need to be on the ball to book a table as if the opening weekend is anything to go by, it’s going to be very popular.
The entrance is off Liddell Street, and there’s plenty parking around the fish quay including a free car park if you’re driving. My advice would be to leave the car at home though, so you can get stuck into the range of craft beer, extensive spirit or wine list. As you arrive there is someone there to check your booking, make sure you complete the track and trace form, and to take your temperature.
There were a few people trying to get in without a booking, and although there are some walk in spaces at opening around 12pm, the lass on the door said they were snapped up quickly and fully booked for the rest of the day. Best not to risk it!
After getting the formalities out the way you head up the stairs to the main floor – there is a lift available too for full accessibility. You literally step into the warehouse floor and are instantly thrown into the atmosphere. We were escorted to our table which was one of the big picnic benches that seat up to 8, but there are high tables available too, and took it all in.
Tables and barrels were filled with people enjoying bottles of wine, or pints of beer surrounded by quirky decor, photo opportunities on the wall, dogs lapping up water from the provided dog bowls, and the distinct smell of five different food stands coming from one side of the room. The occasional woof would bellow out as dogs meet and greet pooches from other tables.
There’s a one way system in place to walk around, plenty of hand sanitiser about, and lots of staff on hand to help you with any questions, orders or to help you navigate the token system.
There are two menus on your table, one for drinks which we were pleasantly surprised to see was extensive. I find that some craft beer places can be quite limited in choice for anything other than beer, but there were a lot of alternatives on offer. Some of the beers you’ll find are from familiar breweries, including Wylam, Two by Two and Northern Alchemy. I wanted to try one but didnt have a clue where to start so asked for advice and our waitress was happy and ready to give recommendations.
If beer isn’t for you then there’s a two page list of spirits, multiple wine options and soft drinks available too.
Drinks orders are taken at your table, and added to your bill. Food works on a token system, so you purchase tokens with each one worth £3. The street food menu details all the vendors on offer that day, with a few options for each and how many tokens each dish will cost you.
So you ask your waiter for however many tokens you need, and the value is also added to your bill. There aren’t any cash transactions involved until the end of your visit when you can cash in any unused tokens, your table deposit of £20 is taken off the bill, and you pay the total of what you’ve spent after all deductions.
I actually think this is a lot better than most other places at the moment where you have to pay as you go, and it can be quite tedious and difficult when it comes to splitting the bill amongst a few people. This just takes away all the admin hassle until the end, but obviously keep a rough tally of what you’re spending so there are no surprises. I doubt there would be actually as it was all very reasonable.
We struggled to choose our food as the vendors were all offering a decent selection of their usual wider menus, and it all sounded good. You could get things like pizza and fries from Medhead, Asian choices from Pan Asia, duck wraps or boa buns and loaded fries from Hatch 76, and nachos and tacos from my favourite place on the fish quay – Lobo Rojo. We went for the duck bao buns – not my favourite but my sister likes them and I know they’re really popular at the moment, and some beef tacos with a side of nachos, salsa and guacamole.
One person from your table goes up to order and hand over the tokens to avoid crowds at the food stations, but there weren’t queues at all so it was very quick. Make sure you know your table number as you need it to order, and they bring it all over to you when it’s ready.
The food was obviously great as it was gone very quickly, and we finished it off with a crepe each from the Petite Creperie.
Food vendors are set to change with each weekend they run a social, and so are the DJ’s which start at 5pm so it’s worth having a look on their site and following them on instagram to get all the information for each weekend they’re open.
We had our table for 90 minutes which was a good amount of time, especially as the food and drinks all come really quickly. I didn’t feel rushed out like I have at some other places recently with that time limit, and I think the speed the food and drinks arrives is a big factor for that. At the end of your visit you pay your bill and away you go through the one way exit doors. Make sure you take in some of the art work and crazy instagram able corners as you leave.
Overall I was really surprised with how good it was, and with it being an indoor space I think it made the atmosphere a lot more present than in some of the open air spaces across Newcastle. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard it was basically a warehouse on the fish quay, but it’s so well done that you don’t see it like that at all once you get inside. It really felt like a social spot rather than a secluded table by yourself, even though you were still fully distanced from everyone else.
We had a quick chat with Barney, one of the brains behind it, and you could tell how much time and effort has gone into creating the space and making it somewhere people want to keep going back to. He just wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time you could see him flitting between tables making sure everyone was happy.
I almost wish they were open every weekend, and maybe they will be in future but for now it’s once or twice a month, and you can find more details or book a table directly on the Salt Market Social website here. We left saying we need to arrange to go back with more people, and having not been for a long time my sister was really impressed with how much the fish quay has changed.
Salt Market Social is another great addition and one I think will be here to stay.
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