Finally. Somewhere to go in Newcastle City Centre that isn’t chav, uber pretentious or confused. From the moment I walked into Bonbar I instinctively knew that this place had got it right. The decor is high end but not too in your face, the drinks menu is extensive AND inventive, with the bonus of extremely friendly staff who are genuinely excited to be there.
Bonbar boasts a main room, a VIP area with twelve booths, and a terrace perfect for summer cocktails. It’s free entry all night until 3am, and is perfectly positioned on the ground floor of the Assembly Rooms, a short walk from the train station and the town centre. Fridays see the Northern Project DJs kick off proceedings at 5pm, facilitating a perfect transition from work to play. Every Saturday there’s live music starting at 9pm with the Ad Libitum Project, with a DJ-provided mix of hip hop and R & B afterwards.
Where else in Newcastle can you see the bar manager prepared to put himself at risk of physical harm whilst making a cocktail? The Locomotive involves a square block cut from a whiskey barrel set alight, then the glass placed over it is smoke infused it before the alcohol is added to accentuate the flavour. The poor guy had his thumb on ice after accidently burning himself to make the perfect drink. The Novelist, my personal favourite, is a mix of Tanqueray gin, sherry, lemon sherbet, red wine reduction and tea pot bitters. It also involves a perfumed origami pigeon made from the page of a Catherine Cookson novel, which is on wire wound around the glass. These people seriously know their stuff. I’ve never seen so many flavoured bitters and specialist ingredients. Some cocktails are named after North East greats – The Locomotive (after George Stephenson), Bitter Sting (after Sting, of course). The Communal Punches sound pretty damn good as well – Coal House Punch involves rum, ginger, cola and Newcastle Brown Ale syrup.
Your loyalty is rewarded with a variety of membership options available depending on how much you’ve got burning a hole in your pocket. You can sign up for the newsletter, to get the latest offers and news, or the B Loyal package which includes a free booth and bottle of bubbly on your birthday, and allows you to build loyalty points every time you spend at the bar (both of these options are free). Membership to the 467 club includes a bottle of Tattinger for every paid member you refer, and access to the 467 VIP area for you and three others for £1000. If you’re feeling continental, private booths holding up to ten guests can be booked between 11pm and 4am for a sophisticated end to the evening, with hostess service and bottle to booth menu. Bonbar is also available for larger functions.
Stepping through into the sumptuous restaurant, it’s easy to sense that this is the new place to eat. The menu is simple and diverse – the sharing platters are well priced at £7 per person (choice of meat,fish or veggie) – I always judge somewhere based on its offering of sharing plates – food is made to be shared! Starters include Asian salmon fishcakes, chickpea and pancetta soup and chicken liver parfait. Mains cover all bases with Northumbrian steak, catch of the day, chicken and beef cheek ragu paperdelle and BFC – Bon Fried Chicken. I can’t wait to try the chocolate and beetroot brownies and the Italian cheeseboard (accompanied by honey, walnuts and salami). The bar snacks are by far and away the best in town – anywhere that does Haribo by the bowl, scotch eggs and sausage rolls is fine in my book.
I always rate a venue placed on the attention paid to the ladies’. There were no concerns to be had here – designer feathered wallpaper was enough to ensure that the bathroom didn’t need to be anything but minimalist. What with the most covetable floral fabric covered chairs I’ve seen in a long time, and giant sized vodka bottles on display – those that have been waiting for somewhere with a certain je ne sais quoi have finally got what they wanted – laid back sophistication. I get the impression that this place is determined not to succumb to the banalities which have befallen other bars in the city centre. A club is next on the agenda – desperately needed in terms of nightlife in the city and sure to be a hit.
Food served until 9.30pm