Something of an institution on the Newcastle club scene. One of the longest running house nights for dance floor purists. I fondly remember going here week in week out back in the nineties during its earlier incarnation at the Riverside club (in its dark and dingy heyday). Still going strong and still packing them in every Saturday night. Now located at the Digital club, they consistently attract the world’s top DJ talent and the crowd are as devoted as ever. Storming sound system.
Saturday nights at Digital, Times Square (Turn left out of Central Station, near the Centre for Life)
Newcastle is unashamedly a fashion-led city and while that’s no bad thing (the Toon is vibrant and buzzing etc) the inevitability is that many of the bars are quite formulaic. The Trent House pub defiantly goes against the grain – not in so much as a two fingers up to it’s identikit rivals but more in a ‘we know how it’s done and we don’t follow trends’ kind of way. They know their music but they’re laid back with it (no pretension). Plentiful array of beers, great jukebox, pool table, decent food – all the basics are well covered. Sister venue, World Headquarters puts on some of Newcastle’s top club nights and pulls in the more cutting edge acts to the region.
1-2 Leazes Lane
Near Haymarket Metro Station
By far the best Italian food in Newcastle – if not the whole North East of England. Tucked away on the cobbled side street High Bridge, it’s a charming little eatery that must have been around for the best part of ten years. Genuinely family-run and yes, genuinely Italian speaking – a rarity amongst the rest of the pseudo Italian restaurants in Newcastle. Once upon a time it would just open during the day, but now much expanded and offering a full evening menu. Good wine, fantastic Italian coffee, delicious food, amazing regional specialities, friendly staff. What more can I say? Apart from great prices, of course.
61-65 High Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne
They say Tripoli is the sweet capital of Lebanon, if not the Middle East. This well-known store is certainly the place to look out for. An incredible variety of sweets, ice creams and all sorts of exotic treats. Try their speciality baklava made with pistachios, walnuts and pine nuts – sweet, syrupy and deliciously sickly.
While the top end of Brick Lane is firmly the preserve of the East London hipsteratti, even the wall to wall curry houses (with their questionable Time Out Eating accolades) at the other end seem to be receiving contemporary makeovers these days. That this traditional pub just tucked away on Heneage Street has managed to avoid the wrath of the makeover criminals remains something of a miracle. A veritable oasis amidst the noisy buzz of Brick Lane and the nearby corporate dazzle of the City of London, it’s like stepping into a cosy family-run boozer in a friendly little country village.
Heneage Street (just off Brick Lane towards the Whitechapel end)
Notoriously it was once the most difficult velvet rope to negotiate in Manhattan and apparently they’ll soon be opening a sister venue in London. In it’s heyday, a key card was pre-requisite to gain entry. Whether this concept will work across the pond remains to be seen, and to be fair it’s the kind of place I’d usually avoid like the plague.
But when in New York, and when with a mate-who’s-mate’s-mate-knows-a-mate-of owner Amy Sacco, then why not.
Is it worth the effort? Well, the pretentious git in me did feel kind of smug at leaving the mere mortals behind on the sidewalk, but the place certainly didn’t blow me away.
Inside was “Beverly Hills themed” whatever that means. It was much smaller than expected, music was identikit hip-hop and R&B and there wasn’t a single celebrity du jour to gawp at. The only thing that blew me away was checking my Amex receipts in my wallet the following morning.
515 W. 27th St (between 10th & 11th Aves)
So you’ve slipped over the Mexican border (thus violating the contract of your US hire car company), sidestepped the dirt and desperation of Tijuana, and cruised straight down Highway 1 into Baja California.
You’ve discovered the quaint fishing port town of Ensenada and decided to stay the night. You’re tucking into a freshly cooked swordfish steak and feeling pretty smug at having not been tempted by the sordidness of Tijuana, some couple of hours back up the road.
However, you’ve still got that primitive urge to nail some Mexican beers, down some tequila and go shake it with the locals. Where to go in Ensenda then? Papas & Beer is by far the most fun nightspot here. Sure there’s still the inevitable underage crowds of American college students flashing their fake ID’s and fake tits on the bar (not a bad thing if you’re a smooth-talking but undiscerning English guy with questionable morals) but there’s also a healthy mix of glammed up local senoritas. While it all ended in a blur for me, from what I recall, there were a number of rooms playing party tunes across all the main genres and the atmosphere was very very wild.
Avenida Lopez Mateos and Ruiz, Ensenada
Without doubt THE hub of Beirut’s nightlife. This part of town is absolutely jumping all week. You’re spoilt for choice with the number of bars and clubs vying for your custom on this famous stretch. The locals really dress up when they go out, especially Lebanese women who look intimidatingly beautiful so make sure you look the part. Many of the bars on Rue Monot are seriously glam but worth making the effort for. To say the Lebanese like to party would be an understatement…
Rue Monot, downtown Beirut
Beirut’s most cutting edge neighbourhood. Awash with artists, writers, musicians, film-makers and the like. Think Hoxton if you will. Rue Gourard is the main throughfare and is packed with eclectic bars, cafes, galleries, international restaurants and jazz venues. The nightlife is usually more low key than the Rue Monot but on a weekend this area can get just as busy. During the day it’s a lovely place to take a stroll and people watch.
Rue Gourard is the main artery of Gemayzeh
This place is legendary, in an obscure-as-you-like divey drinking den kind of way. Blink and you could easily miss this bar, it’s so small. Essentially a liquor store with a few tables squeezed in as a mere after thought. Don’t be intimidated by the dark, smoky haze and the seedy pictures on the wall not to mention the resident old timers and their raucous alcoholic chatter. Open the door and go in, the locals will soon make room for you and start pouring out the arak. The beer is also very cheap and the banter top notch.
148 Sharia Bab Sharqi
A life-long teenage ambition to hold his own festival on his family's farmland is finally becoming a reality for Doug, now 50.
Very much a local community-based arts and music festival at heart - three nights of camping, two full days of new and inspiring music - including some very, very special guests!
Doug's family and their army of friends and collaborators are guaranteed to have lots of tricks and surprises up their sleeves to create a truly special and memorable event.
1st-3rd September 2006, Lode village, Cambridgeshire;
Likely to be one of the more popular festival options for the Glastonbury exiles heading overseas this year.
A combination of four-day festival, campsites practically on the beach plus after-show party on the beach on the fifth day, diverse European crowd, Spanish sunshine, numerous stages, a broad range of music genres, plus other contemporary arts such as film, theatre and fashion also represented, oh and did I mention the beach?!
Headliners for Summer 2006 include The Pixies, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Scissor Sisters, however the big names seem to be in the minority, with the festival more in favour of championing more alternative artists to cater across the musical spectrum. With some quality bands and DJ talent performing, this year is guaranteed to be a stormer.
Benicassim is located on the Costa Azahar, one of Spain's less-developed Costas. About an hour north of Valencia and a couple of hours south of Barcelona, flight options are plentiful.
A well-established Shoreditch favourite that consistently manages to remain just the right side of cool to keep the style-conscious local crowd happy, yet relaxed enough to still be welcoming to out of town incomers to EC2. Inventively taking the name from its previous incarnation as a leather goods store, this bar has ever-changing murals inside which keep the decor evolving. It’s a fairly small place with an additional bar and seating area downstairs. Local DJs ensure things are busier and more lively on the weekends.
34 - 36 Kingsland Road, Shoreditch
(Nearest tubes: Old Street or Liverpool Street)
Very famous nightclub that wouldn't be out of place in New York or Ibiza.
This underground bunker of a club, with a mean sound system, is located on the industrial outskirts of the city.
Formerly the site of a refugee camp stormed by militia during the civil war. Local taxi drivers know where it is and are probably your best bet for getting there since it is a trek from downtown Beirut.
It is however, absolutely awesome. Get there early and it has a hip, lounge bar feel to it, with eerie iconic images of dead musicians and coffin-like folding banquette's that more-than-conveniently double as podiums later on when things really kick off!
Architecturally and design wise, this place is really remarkable. The big crowds start arriving post-midnight due to the hedonistic club's reputation as the after-hours venue of choice. When the sun comes up, the roof retracts, flooding daylight into the open arms and bleary eyes of the most hardened house and techno enthusiasts as the fierce beats keep their feet stomping.
Lot# 317, la Quarantine, Medawar, Beyrouth
Head out of the city and its just off the Dora highway near the Forum de Beyrouth...
So hip, it's bordering on tragic. Decor-wise it's all Philipe Starck transparent chairs with Hello Kitty-esque faces printed on them, huge geisha print on the ceiling, and a panoramic roof-top view of Paris from this ultra-stylish restaurant on the top floor of the Kenzo building by the Pont Neuf. My foie gras and steak were both superb, however you're more likely to be won over by the cool factor than anything else. Cocktails are very good, and yes, it was THAT restaurant in Sex & The City!
1, rue du Pont Neuf; nearest metro: Chatelet or Pont Neuf
To hell with the detractors who will no doubt bemoan the inevitable gentrification of Broadway Market. I for one, only just happened upon this much-forgotten (but very rapidly being rediscovered by all and sundry it would seem) corner of London, when I moved to Hackney last summer. And thus on the same note, to hell with those who will inevitably proclaim this gem of a pub isn’t as good as it used to be. What a wonderful place! A mighty fine array of Belgian beers are available in this relaxed and very cosy boozer that also has a lovely restaurant next door. Admittedly, I can’t vouch for the Sunday lunches, however having sampled the varied menu on offer during the week I can attest that the dishes are far superior to your usual gastro-pub offerings. The manager gave us a genuine welcome and went out of his way to ensure everything was to our satisfaction – something which is again a breath of fresh air in this city where apathetic service seems to be the norm.
24-28 Broadway Market, Hackney
Spectacular Thai-fusion restaurant in Williamsburg. A key destination in the hipster enclave of Brooklyn (think Shoreditch, but less twattish). When you enter the restaurant and are greeted with mirror balls, transparent chairs hanging from the ceiling and leather bean bags to one side and pod-like toilet cubicles shrouded in the centre of the bar area to the other side, you could be forgiven for thinking that you're in the chill out room of an uber-cool techno club. Oh no. Order yourself a fierce mojito or one of their speciality martinis (lychee was particularly tasty, I recall) relax and wait to be seated.
This place is big, mega-busy, but worth waiting for. As you're led through into the restaurant itself, you're met with the centre-piece of the room; a reflective pool of water with a Buddha statue presiding over it. The cosy tables alongside the water feature are quite romantic, while the cool design of the space and the various nooks and crannies also allow for bench style tables that can accommodate large groups of friends.
The place is always buzzing and the food is first rate and reasonably priced. More of a south-east Asian fusion than strictly Thai (hence the SEA name) the usual red/green curries and pad thai noodle dishes are all sublime while the fresh fish and sea-food specialities are awesome too. A very cool restaurant in one of the more interesting neighbourhoods of New York.
114 N 6th St (between Berry and Whythe St), Brooklyn, NY
Take the L train to Bedford Ave station (the first stop in Brooklyn when leaving Manhattan); tel: 718 384 8850
Legend has it, this was once some sort of illicit opium den. Perhaps an exaggeration, however it certainly feels like you're entering a crack den as you're casting one eye over your shoulder at the dealers on the street corner whilst looking out for the unmarked entrance to this once illegal (inevitably now legit) after hours drinking den in Alphabet City.
Tip: look out for the yellow liquor store sign, enter the apartment block next door and go upstairs. Trust me, you wouldn't happen upon this place by accident! Inside is awash with chandeliers, dim red lighting, and comfy sofas (if you're they're early) an ominous looking mannequin behind the bar and a mischievous atmosphere.
Due to the sheer challenge of finding this place, you're invariably going to find great music, cool bar staff, plus a like-minded, fun-loving, up for it, and good-looking crowd. Open very late and when busy (always) it may feel like you’ve unwittingly forced your way into a random person’s loft party just as things are getting messy.
Avenue B, between 13th and 14th
A quintessential Lower East Side bar. Cool but not in a too-cool-for-school sense. Trashy but in a retro suburban American living room way. A top mixture of locals, visitors, workers and hipsters all quenching their thirst on $1.50 cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon at the tiny bar. Very fond memories of working downtown during a harsh New York winter and venturing out in a balaclava to brave the elements in search of a drink. This bar was always the first port of call. Great jukebox, great characters.
123 Rivington Street (between Essex and Norfolk St)
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