Out and About

We never know where we might end up on a weekend…

When The Alchemist Came To Fat Hippo

Sian Colman

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I’m not going to lie, when I heard that the Alchemist were doing a take over of Fat Hippo, I felt a jolt of excitement run through me. I’ve made it my mini(ish) mission to make my way around the many restaurants of Newcastle and I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of the The Alchemist later this month so I couldn’t give this a miss!  I booked a table straight up for myself, my boyfriend James and my brother Connor.

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Everyone I know who has been to Fat Hippo is a huge fan, whether it be my personal favourite, Underground – just off Grey Street , Jesmond or Durham, its reputation is well deserved. You can’t go wrong with a juicy 8oz patty, brioche bun and tonnes of cheese. There are some fabulous burger places in Newcastle but not many stand alongside Fat Hippo. The Alchemist on the other hand, at least up here in our neck of the woods, is largely unheard of. That was until they announced that they are to open a bar within the Greys Quarter of Eldon Square. With a tantalising selection of cocktails and snacks on offer, news of The Alchemist’s arrival is a big talking points with local restaurant goers. For one night only, they took over Fat Hippo Underground on Shakespeare Street. I was so excited! I tried to eat as little I could beforehand so I could go all out!

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Unfortunately we couldn’t get a table till 8.45pm – a little later than I normally like to eat if I’m honest. I was also a little dubious as it was a school night, however, that changed pretty quickly after a drink at The Lady Grey, our meeting point for the evening. Connor was naturally late but that didn’t dull my mood, it’s not like I’d talked about my evening all day at work or anything. The place was totally packed out. As we reached the bottom of the stairs – the cocktail preparation was all go. I was curious, I’d already seen the menu for this special event, and I knew there would be cocktails but I didn’t know what to expect, but it looked fun. We were taken to a table in the heart of the atmosphere and shown our menu for this evening.

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First up – Drinks –I’d been anticipating what could be on tonight’s menu. There was a choice of 3 cocktails: two alcoholic and one non- alcoholic. Looking around the room, I seemed to make the same choice as lot of people. I started off with a ‘Bubble Bath’ – Tanquery gin, Aperol, Chambord, lemon, apple and fairly liquid (which may be code for dry ice). Our server brought over a glass with dry ice in the bottom and a conical flask of liquid. She asked if she should pour it or if we’d like to do it ourselves. I couldn’t resist. It was magical! As soon as the liquid hit the ice, bubbles erupted from the glass, smoke started pouring out and the fun began. This was amazing, a drink filled with so much fun, and gin, lets not forget that. I was in my element! I think my glass had a bigger piece of dry ice in it, it bubbled on and on for ages! I’d already pre-picked my choice for food this evening. Id talked about it from the time we booked the table, and I have mentioned it once or twice during my day at work. I, like most, had my eye on this evening’s special – ‘Deer Old Fashioned’ – Double 4oz patty, smoked cheddar, braised venison, maple candied bacon, truffle mayo and old fashioned onion strings soaked in whiskey and milk, served with hand cut chips. I ordered mine without onions – yes I’m one of those, it’s pretty hard not liking onions. James and Connor followed suit – with onions. There was only one choice for all of us this evening. As much as I love the normal menu, I couldn’t pass up giving this a try. The burgers arrive and they looked sensational. Venison was oozing out the sides. My approach to taking on such a feat was to cut it straight down the middle, I can only handle so much as a time.

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It was delicious, the patty was pink, their signature. The truffle mayo definitely had truffle in it, it was pretty strong and there was plenty of it, I wasn’t complaining! The bacon had sweetness to it from the maple. I love cheese; the smokiness of this one though added a different element to it. It all went together so well. I went in with high hopes and they were satisfied completely. I could quite happily have eaten that all night – unfortunately I just couldn’t manage it all! James and Connor did extremely well and helped me finish mine. Part of me is sad that next time I visit it won’t be on the menu – but I hope The alchemist brings something similar to their own establishment! Before we wrapped it all up, sitting in the delight of our food coma’s I couldn’t help myself and ordered myself the other alcoholic cocktail on choice, the ‘Smokey Old Fashioned’ – Woodford Reserve Whiskey, Maple syrup, Dilution, Jerry Thomas Bitters, Smoke. Our waitress brought over a whisky glass filled with a round ice cube, which was very cool in itself. It was accompanied by another conical flask, filled with liquid and then wonderfully filled with smoke using a smoking gun. The smell was incredible, not too overpowering, earthy but had sweet notes. I poured the liquid onto the ice and the smoke followed. What a show it was, it tasted delicious, smooth and delicate but rich in flavour. I’m not the biggest whisky fan but I could have drank that all night. From what I’ve seen tonight, I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come from The Alchemist. It was exciting and innovative. Fresh with new ideas and exciting flavours. I, like a lot of others, am excited with what’s to come following its opening on 21st March. 

Brockbushes Farm

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Sunday afternoons are a perfect time to catch up with all the family.  Whenever we can, we all meet up at my Mam’s house for a Sunday roast (it’s always better when Mam makes it) and I usually offer to bring along the dessert.  

My all-time favourite dessert is meringue! Pavlova, nests, Eton Mess, I don’t care! It was one of the first recipes I learned to make as a child, stood on a chair in my Nanna’s kitchen, whisk in hand, dying to try the finished product with some fresh strawberries and pouring cream! 

Anyway, for a recent Sunday afternoon dessert I decided to make a Pavlova. I don’t think you can beat a crunchy meringue with a gooey centre, combined with fresh cream and mixed berries. It is just heavenly! 

As I was making the meringue from scratch I thought it would be fun to pick my own berries for it too (much better than just picking up a punnet of strawberries from the local supermarket) so on the Sunday morning (fruit picked on the day, it doesn’t get much fresher than that!) my fiancé Grant and I took a trip to Brockbushes Farm.  

We had passed this place loads of times before when Grant was going to play rugby in Corbridge and I had always wanted to visit.  There is just something so satisfying about picking your own fresh fruit!

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When we arrived I was instantly drawn in by their farm shop with its fresh, locally sourced fruit and veg and homemade cakes, breads and pies.  Everything looked so good! We then went through to the picking fields where we were given our own basket to fill with fresh fruit.  

There was a fantastic selection including strawberries, blackberries, plums and raspberries. The selection changes with the seasons so it is definitely worth visiting again throughout the year.  We spent about an hour and a half just filling our basket full of yummy berries, even Grant got into it, looking for the biggest strawberries he could find, like a big kid!

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I was so surprised when we went to pay for our now overflowing basket and the whole thing came to a grand total of £3!  Not much to pay for a lovely morning out in the sunshine and plenty of delicious fruit.  You can really tell that it has been freshly picked; the flavours were amazing! It all tasted so good piled on top of the Pavlova and fresh whipped cream, everyone went back for a second helping!

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