The One Where I Write A Review Of Hop & Cleaver

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I’d call Hop and Cleaver a hidden gem, but I’d be lying. I first spotted their large advertising hoarding by chance while passing St Nicholas’ Cathedral in the height of last summer, and the promise of plentiful bourbon and chicken wings seemed too good to be true. Alas, I was passing far too quickly to note down the name of this magical promised land, and I was forced to go without my chicken and whisky fix. It wasn’t until a few months later, quite by chance, that I stumbled upon it. And I was damn glad that I did.

The joint is owned by the same group who control such as RedHouse, to which Hop and Cleaver is connected via labyrinthine medieval passages and alleyways – probably the coolest trip to the bathroom you’ll find in Newcastle. As with their other properties, the bar is targeted with a particular niche in mind: in this case, a whiskey bar combined with a dash of smokehouse restaurant. In this respect, Hop and Cleaver does not disappoint. Their menu boasts an enviable 50 different varieties of American and Canadian bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, rye, and blends, and their shelves appear stacked with an even larger selection of spirits. This selection ranges from your standard, Jim Beam-level offerings (though it is notable that they do not stock any variations of Jack Daniel’s other than the upmarket Single Barrel variety, opting instead for their vastly underappreciated rivals George Dickel for their standard Tennessee fix) to several truly top-notch whiskies, including the super-premium Thomas H. Handy Sazerac rye – which was recently selected by Whisky Magazine as their American Whiskey of the Year, and runs at up to 400 quid for a bottle. So, not cheap. For non-Whiskey fans, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a huge range of craft beers and ales on offer. There’s even a slick-looking side room (The Tap Room) which is available for private hire.

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The cocktail selection is equally impressive, seemingly running the entire gamut of classic American whiskey cocktails, with a good range of their own creations too if you fancy trying something different. I usually elect my go-to choice of the classic Old Fashioned, which (when made by capable hands such as those found at the H&C) never disappoints. Hop and Cleaver mix it with. Top marks for the bartenders too, as this is the only place where I’ve been asked how I take my Old Fashioneds (strong, but very sweet if you’re taking notes). The next stop is generally a Whiskey Sour. A minor complaint here – I’m not sure why so many bars (in Newcastle, especially) are electing to serve their Sours with crushed ice rather than cubed. The final effect is something feeling like an alcoholic lemon slushy, which ends up being nowhere near as pleasant as it sounds. I can only assume that this is related to the more modern Amaretto and Midori sours rather than the more traditional Whiskey variety (traditionally served straight up) – though I have noticed several cocktail guides advocating the crushed ice Whiskey Sour. Perhaps I should start a petition. Anyway, a final nod has to be given to their build-your-own Manhattan, which is one of the best ideas I’ve ever come across. Pick your whiskey (Jim Beam Rye, please), your garnish, your bitters etc. Genuinely brilliant. For non-whiskey lovers a selection of other drinks are available, most notably the hard-shake cocktails available in Mojito and Daiquiri varieties, amongst others.

As Hop and Cleaver puts such stock in their smokehouse offerings, it would be unfair to not briefly comment on the food in this (admittedly cocktail-based) review. I’ll admit that the bar’s sheer unabashed popularity means that I haven’t been able to sample the cuisine as often as I’d like – getting a table on the fly over the weekend, and even on some weeknights, is impossible. So book in advance! However, I can only speak incredibly highly of their offerings, with a particular shoutout to the BBQ chicken wings. I’ll often pair that with the half-roast chicken in BBQ catsup for an extravagant chicken feast. One day I’ll try that Tomahawk steak…one day.

Rating: The Sazerac Rye of whiskey bars.

Follow them on Twitter @hopandcleaver, and find them online at hopandcleaver.co.uk. Or even better, pay them a visit down on the Newcastle Quayside at 40 Sandhill. Give them a call on 0191 261 1037 to book a table for food – a must if you’re eating on a busy night, or during Restaurant Week!

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The One Where I Write A Review Of Hop & Cleaver

Pleased to Meet You? You Should Be.

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Pleased to Meet You is one of my favourite places to head to in the middle of the day for a drink in town. It’s never that quiet (for a place at, say, 2pm on a Wednesday), but you can usually always get a good table. Excellent drinks, brilliant food, proper music, and great place to sit and contemplate the world. Of course, it’s just as excellent at night. Come for the gin, stay for the Martini Lunch (albeit two, not three), get a taxi home at 1AM. Excellent.

I’d like to think that I’m one of PTMY’s longest standing customers, having first visited a few days after they first opened. I have fond memories of that being the last time my friend and I were able to get a seat at the bat without any issues. Yes, PTMY is now perpetually rammed whatever day of the week you visit. Hopefully their new extension – comprising a fancy-looking outdoor terrace, basement colonial cocktail bar, and more – will go some way to alleviating the crush, but you can’t be too harsh on the people of Newcastle for having good taste. Because PTMY is genuinely one of the best cocktail bars in the city – brilliant décor, great staff, good drinks. The selection of gins alone is frankly ridiculous (I maintain that one day I may get through them all), but for those who aren’t such a fan of gin they offer a great selection of other drinks as well; ranging from guest ales to an enviable selection of whiskies and bourbons (any place that stocks Tin Cup is fine by me). Until recently I had a bit of a bugbear with the cocktail list, though I’m a big fan of their new Aviation-ful Spring/Summer menu. If you chaps could only find some way to include an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, or Sazerac on there for us whisky lovers, it may be perfect. Though I do have to give good marks for the staff, who never seem to have an issue with preparing me an Old Fashioned off the menu.

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As mentioned it’s a perpetual haunt for me for lunch, and the food is never anything less than spectacular. Try the jumbo fish and thrice-cooked chips, which really isn’t false advertising, Seriously, it’s like they raided the set of Jaws for those things. Consistently some of the best cooked fish-and-chips in town. Their ribeye steak has also always been a perennial favourite, though there are plenty of good vegetarian options on there too. With Newcastle’s ever-popular Restaurant Week coming around again, it’s not like you even need an excuse for sampling their delicious grub.

Rating: A perfectly-stirred gin martini.

PTMY is easily one of the most popular places in town, so I doubt any of what you just read is news to you. But do them a visit in town if you haven’t already on High Bridge (NE1 1EW), or online (I hear that’s the big thing these days) at www.ptmy-newcastle.co.uk or @ptmynewcastle. They take table bookings for food during the week – give them a call on 0191 340 5137.

Pleased to Meet You? You Should Be.