The Waterline - Jolly Fisherman
This review was initially prepared when the then Waterline was being operated by three sisters who seemed to have strayed from an especially bad production of the Scottish Play. Should creditors be curious they might pop into Cracklin on Market St for lunch..
However a refurb, a change in name and an improvement in service has left the former Waterline with fewer customers than an Anne Widdicombe look alike offering naked massages.
Picture the scene if you can. Tarquin and Jeremy, the leading designers of concept bars are sitting drinking their Perriers in the Waterline.
Tarquin and Jeremy have been given a mission; to re design the bar, giving it a contemporary feel. It’s a little after 1pm and they’re surrounded by refugees from the nearby law courts, striped suits and cucumber sandwiches. The only tatoos to be seen are sported by a shell suited thug who’s decided to celebrate his latest ASBO with a pint of fosters.
Tarquin has a vision, a contemporary lounge-cafe-bar, modern, cutting edge. A place where solicitors drink chardonnay before walking into the bar café for an evening of contemporary cuisine. Jeremy agrees; no riff-raff, a bar for uber cosmpolitans, Prada not Primark. Barluga on Tyne.
The vision is clear; Tarquin and Jeremy are ready to sell the plans to their employers.
Five hours later and the first stag party arrives on the Quayside. Twelve shell suited scousers, all unsure whether to watch the toothless hag masquerading as a stripper or to step back and try and pull one of the hen party slappers squawking their way through their sixth sophisticated shooter. The blushing bride is a mere seven months pregnant and in deference to her condition she’s decided only to smoke a packet of Lamberts with a snakebite or two. As the stripper tries to recover her zimmer frame and false teeth the lucky groom scurrys off to the sewer masquerading as a toilet to wipe the shaving foam and bacteria from his walnut sized penis.
This is the Hieronymus Bosch vision of hell that is Newcastle’s quayside every Friday and Saturday night, not the chardonnay sipping fantasy of Tarquin, Jeremy and every failed pub and lounge bar venture to inflict itself on Newcastle over the last five or so years.
Tarquin and Jeremy should have seen the signs. During the week Newcastle’s quayside resembles a post nuclear holocaust scene from a Jean Luc Goddard film. Tumbleweed blows down deserted streets, bars are darkened, quiet, empty save for a local or two. Every weekend the quayside is a vomit soaked war zone filled with a lethal cocktail of tatooed lumpen proletarians, shrieking underage jailbait, squawking geriatric witches and out of towners desperate to soak up some of Newcastle’s fabled party scene. The only thing they’ll soak up is piss on their shoes or blood from a wound sustained because of looking at a football shirt sporting baboon ‘the wrong way’.
George Santayana:'Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it'.
The new owners of the Waterline should learn the lessons of history. There is an unalterable law of entropy in the Newcastle quayside pub scene. An exciting new concept lounge car café opens promising to serve daquiris at seven quid a pop to ultra trendies. Six months later they’re scrabbling to serve treble vodka red bulls to the underclass at three pounds a bucket. This latest effort is, like all who forget their history, doomed to fail. Ask around, look around.
The pool room, usually jam packed with footie fans during any sporting event of significance may become a 'restaurant' . Now they might be a pain in the arse but a room full of stella swillers playing pool does more for the bottom line than filling the odd table with couples munching organic lasagne.
Every attempt to drive the Quayside upmarket has failed, and failed abysmally.
Stein beer keller. Risible, dismal, already lost any pretensions and has morphed into Ultimate Leisure redux,
Charlie's, now the wankfest that is Victoria 22
Parisa, now the Slug and Lettuce. About as upmarket as it gets,
The Pitcher and Piano. A nice location and an excuse for vertical drinking
Bar 55, now the seething scumfest that is Linekers, replaced with a restaurant named after a fat religios leader
Stereo, for six months home to the most expensive haircuts in Newcastle, now gently rotting away
Even the Eye on the Tyne, following a refurb it was initially a temple to pretension, but fortunately good management has made it a rather agreeable pub again.
And so on.......
A gastropub ? Which planet are you occupying ladies ? Eating on the quayside falls into two very simple categories:
Beer sponge, or
Going upmarket puts the deal old Waterline slap bang into the Pan Haggerty or even Cafe21's market. Now unless Gordon Ramsay's giving up the TV appearances there's not a cat in fucking hell's chance that the Waterline will beat either of them on price or quality, not least because they are proper restaurants. That leaves you with what the waterline already does very well, decent beer absorbing pub grub. Change that mix at your peril, or rather change it at your lender's peril ! Terry Laybourne can hack it [and hasn't already closed down two other gasto-emporia], the Waterline probably can't.
The whole place is so pretentious that you'd thing they'll change the name of bangers and mash to, oh I don t know, some pretentious toss name like 'sticky chipolatas & crushed potatoes'. Fortunately no one could so mis-read the culture of the Quayside so as to make that mistake.... could they ?
Oh fuck me, they could. It turned up on the menu for a week or so, only to promptly disappear after being greeted with peals of laughter from the customers, one assumes soon to be joined by the equally ridiculous Oinks in Blankets, aka Pigs In Blankets.
In fact there is form on this sort of thing. It's been tried before, not on the Quayside but in the rather more upmarket Eldon Garden. The Waterside's new owners were so successful in operating the Eldon Garden cafe that it's now the true zen eating establishment. No tables, no chairs, no kitchen. In fact no cafe at all, so successful was their guiding hand that it's closed. As did another equally unsuccessful ventures they were associated with; Charleys of Shakespeare Street. Should you want to check:
Cafe in the Garden
In fact, if you have an idle moment try a company search on the various versions of HiyaHoney Ltd and Cafe In the ....try Mall and Garden as a hint, there are a few they've been connected with. Very interesting, though all wholly above board of course ! Perhaps that's why they all look so damn grumpy. Skint again it now hides behind 'Quayside Food and Drink'
Worry not dear reader, the Gastro-line will fail, next step a fun theme pub and then voddy red bulls for 99p. Until then expect pretentious tripe. If anyone fancies buying a recently refurbished pub on the cheap then start saving now. I ll give it 6 months after it's refurb. Offer the reciever 20p in the pound. They'll take it.
Earlier in this review I quoted Santayana, here's a parting thought, this time from H.L. Mencken. 'No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people'. Well no one went broke underestimating the taste of quayside drinkers either, if you're unsure then count heads in the cheap, nasty, sticky and very, very full Akenside.Res ipsa loquitur. I rest my case.