It just goes to show the effects of lockdown and not going out very much. I arrived at the entrance to the Guildhall on the Quayside, the new home of the Hard Rock Cafe Newcastle and thought that the staff were just inside the doorway, singing. “Okayyy,” I thought. “There’s a high chance that the staff sing here.” Then I gingerly walked in, was presented with a lovely looking pineapple-based cocktail and realised there was a guy with an acoustic guitar i.e. live music happening. I found out later on that the staff DO sing, and are actually pretty good at it! (The staff are amazing but more about that later).
|I approve of the neon and signage|
So you might be wondering why it’s taken so long for the Hard Rock brand to arrive in the Toon. It’s often a case of finding the right venue (which can take decades), not to mention passionate, persistent people with a vision. Husband and wife team David and Penny Tilly were visiting the Kuala Lumpar branch of the Hard Rock Cafe and came up with the idea to bring it to Newcastle as franchisees. They’ve overcome logistical issues caused by the pandemic, as well as the numerous challenges involved in revamping a listed building to create an amazing, vibrant space with not far off two hundred covers in the restaurant and bar sited across two floors. (There are plans to add more seats outdoors next to the river to capitalise on that great view).
Anyone who’s ever been to a Hard Rock Cafe will probably remember the cool memorabilia as well as the great food/atmosphere. Amongst the standouts hailing from the North East are Sting’s jacket and guitar, a Bryan Ferry jacket and I was happy to see a guitar owned by Matty Healy from my favourite band the 1975 on the upper level. Younger fans will appreciate the Ed Sheeran bomber jacket and the Taylor Swift dress. Staff in the US went through over 80,000 pieces of memorabilia to choose suitable pieces for the venue. (Other pieces include two Amy Winehouse dresses, AC/DC guitars and pieces of clothing worn by Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin).
|Bryan Ferry, Sting, Matt Healy and Taylor memorabilia|
So you’re probably wondering what’s on the menu. There are lots of starters and speciality starters to choose from; I really enjoyed the One Night in Bangkok Spicy Shrimp and the Mini Burger Sliders (the Chicken Tenders are worth a mention too). Burger fans will be happy with the menu, with the star of the show being the Newcastle-inspired Whey-Aye Burger – locally sourced beef, cheese from Northumberland, pease pudding onion ring and Newcastle Brown Ale flavoured onion compote, all in a charcoal brioche bun. The menu also features a wide range of mains such as chicken dishes, salads and sandwiches. I can report that the cocktails are top-notch (fantastic Margaritas and Mojitos – can’t wait to try the signature Hurricane cocktail), and the Boozy Milkshakes are a great dessert alternative, otherwise I would recommend the delicious Brownie if you’ve still got any room left for dessert.
|Starters, sliders and desserts|
The plan is that the cafe will become a popular venue for live music in the city, so I’m really excited to find out more about upcoming events. The shop is stocked full of Hard Rock branded gear for anyone wanting a souvenir of their visit, and I fell in love with the cool pins (especially the limited edition Angel of the North rainbow pin).
Lastly I just wanted to mention the amazing staff who did the memorabilia tours and spent time chatting to me about the menu and other cafes around the world. They made the event really memorable and play a huge part in creating a unique atmosphere – bravo!
|The lovely Linda and Yago|
The Cafe is stringently following the SAFE + SOUND programme developed by hospitality experts following directives from the World Health Organisation to ensure the safety of its customers and staff.
Hard Rock Cafe Newcastle is open from 12pm to 1.30am every day of the week.
To find out more and to book click here (bookings are open now and the restaurant opens on Friday 21st May).