An unexpected space in the diary recently afforded Mylatestfind a free day in Newcastle. And on that note, what can you do that is free?

A visit to The Hatton was top of the list. The Marilyn Monroe exhibition is a must-see and the other current exhibitions are fabulous too. The Merz Barn wall was mesmerising.

Around the corner, we timed it just right for a lunchtime concert at Kings Hall. The performances start promptly at 1.10pm and finish around 2pm. The performance this Thursday (20th Feb) features ballads and songs from the English-speaking tradition in preparation for spring and renewal.

Heading next to Northumbria University Gallery. The current exhibition is by the wonderful Ørnulf Opdahl. His landscapes and seascapes are brimming with drama and upstairs is a calming space with a film featuring the artist.

And then it was off to another meeting having barely scratched the surface of the free offerings around the city, but feeling refreshed and relaxed (if a little peckish). Of course donations are welcomed at all of these venues, but they are available to all.

Thankfully the next stop was towards Central Station, so Settle Down Cafe sorted us out with a sarnie and you can’t argue with a cup of tea for £1.

 

What a treat last Tuesday. My dining partner and I expected an evening of canapes and fizz at the fabulous Irvin’s Brasserie for their Christmas party. This was exciting enough. There was a brilliant buzz in the bar area. Christmas tree and fairy lights in place and enough time to lust over the deli delights and to peruse the titles on the bookshelf.

Then we were called to table. The dining area was unusually quiet and then the penny dropped. We were there for dinner. The intimate feel of the evening was increased by the ‘family-style’ seating and the banter was great. We were treated to another glass of bubbly.

We started with a delicious chowder and tiny loaves of bread. Inspired by this, one of the team has already added the appropriate tin to his Christmas list to replicate at our New Year party.

Two glasses of white arrived and we were talked through the selection. Learning lots and scribbling notes, we’ll try to remember the recommendations.

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The soup provided a meal in itself, but the main course of cottage pie was on its way. The staff are clearly passionate about their craft and we were treated to generous measures of two reds. The alcohol softened the blow of learning the name of the beast we were dishing up. Jack was tasty though!

At this point we realised we shouldn’t have tried so many of the moreish smoked salmon canapes. Even our team-member who isn’t too keen on fish was hooked.

More food was on its way preceded by two dessert wines. Not something I would usually order but I really enjoyed the flavours. They complemented the tartin and custard to perfection. We were very restrained in serving ourselves a sensible portion to leave room for coffee.

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Usually one for milky coffee, drinking both samples black was refreshing at the end of a wonderful meal. The conversation was as nourishing as the meal and we finished with a midnight stroll along the quayside to plan our next dinner date at Irvin’s.

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Thanks guys and Merry Christmas!

If you’re house-sharing for the first time and looking for a few key pieces to make your room feel like home, head east of Newcastle City Centre and nestled right underneath Byker Bridge, about a fifteen minute walk from Monument, you’ll discover Recycle Your Furniture / Refunk Your Junk. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave of comfy chairs, coffee tables and bookshelves; lovingly restored or revitalised with a bit of retro upholstering. Student-friendly prices too and a part of town you should get to know anyway! Be lured into The Cumberland Arms for some great views from the beer garden.

If you don’t want to stray that far, check out Attica just off High Bridge in Old George Yard in the centre of town. Perfect for lighting, glassware and small furnuture items; you’ll also be very tempted by the 20th century vintage clothing downstairs.

 

Today we’re serving up a delicious interview with Graeme Cuthell, founder and owner of Irvins Brasserie.

You used to be the private chef for Andrew Lloyd Webber – how did that opportunity come about?
I got the nod from a lad who was JP Getty’s chef

What was it like having Andrew as a boss?
More down to earth than I expected, no airs and graces or sirs and lords, all first names but there was a standard that HAD to be met.

Did he has celebrity dinner parties and, if so, with who?
Loads of dinners, and the A list. Also a lot of business lunches.

What’s Andrew’s favourite dish?
Fish pie

Did Andrew have any unusual culinary requests?
Only good food

Was there any food that he really couldn’t stand?
None that I came across

We hear he has an incredible wine collection – can you tell us a little more about this?
I could but where to start …’96 batard montrachet?

Your new bar opened recently, can you tell us a little more about it?
We wanted to create a space that was available for people to pop in without booking to have a glass and a snack.

You’ve opened a new bar in the restaurant, what’s the inspiration behind that?
We wanted to create a relaxed friendly environment for people to enjoy fresh food in a Mediterranean setting – and dispel the myth that we’re about fine dining.

Will you be inviting your celebrity contacts to come and try the Mediterranean style bar food?!
You have to drop by and see if you can spot anybody!

Flicking through The Evening Standard on a recent journey north from London, I stumbled across a two-page spread suggesting holiday treats in Zone 1; reminding  city-dwellers of the attractions on their doorstep.

With the bank holiday approaching, here are our tips for a lovely long weekend of delights without needing to leave NE1. Enjoy!

As if on holiday, start the day with breakfast in a cafe to watch the world go by. Cafe Royal offers a little sophistication and if you’re a fussy eater, you can toast your own bread and enjoy the holiday-size jams and marmalade.

On to Central Arcade to Tourist Information. Browse the attractions, pick up The Crack and get a plan together. Grab a free map to plot your route. Pick up a souvenir. Ouseburn Coffee Company’s “Coffee Johnny” is a real treat. Although roasted just outside of the postcode, you will find it in so many venues throughout NE1, it’s a must-have taste of the city.

For a hidden gem of a gallery space, wander down to Westgate Road and check out the latest show in the Arts Centre Gallery. A moment of calm in an unexpected haven.

To liven things up, get to Salsa Cafe further down the street for a hot lunch enjoying great sounds and a fabulous array of seating. If you nab a cinema seat, you may be drawn up to Tyneside Cinema for an early screening just next to Monument.

You’ll be ready for an afternoon tipple. Check out the upstairs bar or wander around to The Lady Grey and sit by the window to watch the Theatre Royal antics at the stage door. If you’re having trouble choosing from the drinks menu, keep it simple with the house red. It’s Tempranillo and it’s fabulous. Order some wasabi nuts too.

Stretch your legs along the Quayside and if it’s already shut, peep through the window at the Outsiders Gallery. There’s usually a talking point hanging on the wall.

If there are tickets for a performance at Live Theatre, then take a punt. You’ll always be in for a treat. Enjoy the early bird at Terry Laybourne’s Caffe Vivo,  before the show, then exchange your reviews afterwards in The Broad Chare snug.

Saturday sorted!

 

Fashion is in vogue. Head to Newcastle this week and you’ll see why. It’s not so much being on-trend as setting trends throughout the city. From in-store runways to Northumbria University teaming up with Baltic (perhaps it should be Newcastle-Gateshead Fashion Week (NCLGTSHDFSHNWK) or maybe not. In fact at Baltic for £!0 you can buy your own make your own skirt kit.

On Thursday evening at Number 28 on Nelson Street, Kota Boutique will be celebrating their official launch. Usually to be found in the Antiques Centre at Haymarket, they will be hosting a fashion show and jewellery sale. The other NKOTB (that’s New Kid on the Block for anyone under 30) is Lola Rose on Pudding Chare. Definitely check out their vintage treats when you’re next heading to Central Station.

The rest of the events are just waiting to be discovered but if you want to be part of the action on a budget, nab a limited edition t-shirt from Fenwicks for £10, designed by Electrik Sheep. Our kind of design house.

My Latest Find enjoys a good story and seeks out stories everywhere. So here are a few favourites from local independents.

Scorpio shoes landed in the 60s through the determination of a man named Ken and with £40 in his pocket. Fresh from National Service, Ken defied the rebuffs from shoemakers across the country until he finally made an ally and bought his first batch of shoes.

More than fifty years later, Scorpio is a regional icon. Who hasn’t directed someone through Durham “over the bridge when you see the shoes outside Scorpio” or got their bearings in the Grainger Market by locating the Doc Marten. Here’s to the next fifty years.

Dabbawal‘s story is quite straightforward and it’s often the simple ideas that are the most meaningful. Their aim was to serve fresh, authentic Indian dishes inspired by streetfood. For the linguists out there, the name derives from Dabbawalas, the ‘lunchbox men’ of Mumbai who travelled the streets to provide tasty meals. So inspired by food on the move, and the joy of sharing sharing in mind, you’re guaranteed a great dining experience.

Finally for today, The Polite Room. The Bridge Hotel hosted the first gig in 2009 with the aim of ensuring that performers were properly paid and that their audience listened (and of course to see if the formula worked). Manners certainly are worth something. The Polite Room is now a regular slot at the Tyneside Cinema upstairs bar and at The Gala in Durham. Hope to see you there soon. Thank you for reading!

10th March will soon be here and it’s time to get planning something special. There are plenty of spa days, afternoon teas and long lunches on offer, but what about making it a classic.

From 2pm to 4pm, head to QEII Country Park for Dressing The Stars, a costume talk. Enjoy the lecture and the exhibition for £10.

Between 3pm and 4pm, go to Middlesborough Town Hall for something sparkling from the bar and enjoy classic music from some of the region’s top talent.

For a decadent evening, head to the Woodhorn Museum to enjoy a screening of Sense and Sensibility. Doors open at 5.30 pm and the film starts 6.30pm. Tickets are £7.50 or £7 concessions and include a glass of wine on arrival. Divine!

Catch a late night table at The Pump House in Durham for a classic dish in lavish surroundings with a good vintage and toast a classic day.

 

 

 

 

 

My Latest Find had a cuppa with the lovely Alana; Founder of Dress Up Cycle (www.facebook.com/DressUpcycle), to find out a bit more about her brand and grand plans for the business.

What inspired you to set up Dress Up Cycle?

I was so lucky to have an incredible mentor who helped give me the confidence to believe in my idea and to run with it. I’ve helped friends de-clutter and re-style their wardrobes and I had a business model in mind, so one day, I just decided to go for it! It’s the Slow Fashion principle that’s really the inspirational driving force behind the business. The average women wears only 20% of her wardrobe, and the UK sends over 350 000 tonnes of clothing to landfill sites every year. Coupled with the fact that a single clothing chain produces more than one million garments per day, our current Fast Fashion habits are completely unsustainable. After reading Elizabeth Cline’s book ‘Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion’, I was inspired to develop a styling business that not only helps women look and feel great, but also helps save the world (I obviously have ambitions to be a stylish superhero!!!).

What have you been up to so far?

I’ve been having a lot of fun working with women in the North East who want to rethink their wardrobes and personal style. Because Dress Up Cycle is a philosophy as well as a service, I’ve been working on growing our social media base and researching and promoting sustainable brands and ideas. An essential part of what we do is promote the Slow Fashion philosophy, demonstrating how it can be hugely rewarding, super fun and help us live a more ethically responsible life.

Who is your target audience?

Anyone who buys clothes! The clothing industry is the second largest industry in the world (behind food), so we’re committed to creating dedicated followers of Slow Fashion! We’re going to save the world in style…

What is your favourite brand?

My current favourite brand is People Tree. They’ve worked so hard to create a sustainable clothing line that’s both ethical and super-beautiful! I’ve also fallen in love with Olsen Haus and Beyond Skin vegan shoes – often vegan shoes can be rather dull affairs, but these babies are stunners. I started looking for vegan shoes after I learned that leather isn’t a by-product of the meat industry. In response to the huge demand for leather goods, not only are animals killed purely for their hides, but are subjected to cruel and highly unethical treatment. For anyone who’s interested, check out Stella McCartney for PETA.

Who would you love to re-style?

Oooooh, that’s a tricky one. I’d love to re-style ladies that are hooked on Fast-Fashion. Buying lots of clothes cheaply has a way of making you feel kind of crappy about yourself and I know, I was one of them! I had a wardrobe full of clothes and always felt like I had nothing to wear because I bought items because they were pretty and cheap and I didn’t really think about whether they fit well or if the colour and shape were right for me. Now I have a capsule wardrobe that works for me, my shape and my personality. Looking in my wardrobe is soooo much more fun now!

Tonight at 8pm, the must-see Suggestibles are at The Cumberland Arms. It’s £10 (£7 concessions) a ticket and worth every penny for interactive comedy in a cosy venue. You’ll be part of the show.

Tomorrow night it must be Beck’s Song Reader gig with interpretations of Beck’s DIY album from an exciting mix of artists. Featuring performances from Calf and Nathalie Stern among others, this will be a rare treat. At £4 a ticket it’s worth checking out.

Or for something completely different, check out The Burlesque Show at Middlesbrough Theatre. Tickets are £19 and the show starts at 7.30pm

On Sunday, head back to The Cumberland Arms between 5 and 10pm for an eclectic soundtrack to your afternoon. Bring £3 to get in, a pair of comfy dancing shoes and prepare to shake your Funky Butt.

If you’re ready for more comedy, then get your tickets for the Durham Revue. The Cambridge Footlights and Oxford Revue will also be taking to the stage. It’s £12 a ticket (£10 for students). The show starts at 8pm. Be there!