Saturday 14 June 2014

The world's best chips

We have eaten wonderfully well every day so far in England - better, no question, than we did in Paris - but the high point has to be the chips (fries) at the outwardly unprepossessing Bridge Tavern here in Newcastle right under the Tyne Bridge. Don't mock: to get such a delicately crispy outside with heavenly light fluffiness inside is the work of a master. They're triple-cooked - boiled, cooled, fried, cooled, fried and served, hot and delicious. The tragedy was, I hadn't ordered any, and had to steal a scant half-dozen from my host's plate. So I'm feeling unfulfilled, chip-wise, and would return to Newcastle for that reason alone.

But there are lots of others: the Georgian grandeur of curving Grey Street, the splendidly opulent Theatre Royal, the blackened stump of the Castle Keep with its appalling oubliettes. It's not all old stuff: the graceful tilting arch of the Millennium Bridge is a marvel, and the Metrocentre shopping mall is vast and varied. Shamefully, we didn't make it inside any of the art galleries they're so proud of, but I did enjoy Seven Stories, a celebration of British children's literature - wonderful treasures in there. Lots of old friends, plus some surprises - Little Red Riding Hood is AKA Donkeyskin, did you know?
The World Cup has just begun and there are flags and bunting everywhere, so it was appropriate to take a tour of St James's Park, the city's very central stadium, even if my interest - abusing the term somewhat - is in next year's Rugby World Cup when the All Blacks play a game here.

It was surprisingly interesting and impressive, even though I recognised only one name - Bobby Robson - and I enjoyed exploring the stadium from top to bottom. There were all sorts of fascinating facts, but best of all was to see the away team's dressing room - small, bare, brightly lit, showers running either boiling or freezing; and then the home team's - spacious, tastefully decorated, comfortable, luxuriously fitted out. Such shameless gamesmanship! Let's hope the All Blacks win the dressing room toss in 2015.

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