Thursday 5th December 2013
This is a quite beautiful pub from the 19th Century that is quite close to Newcastle Central station; less than ten minutes walk. It is owned by Sir John Fitzgerald Ltd, a small pub chain (around 15) based in the North-East. If all pub-owning companies were as good as this one then our pubs wouldn't be in crisis mode today. They spend money on their houses and use quality materials to decorate them. One only has to walk a short distance along Westgate Street to see pubs owned by the national chains that provide a telling comparison.
Whilst researching the pub's story I noticed multiple references that state it has a lot of history, yet very little information on what that actually is. I have details of its beginnings and its later life, with nothing much in between.
It opened around 1862 as the Black Bull Inn. There was a three storey brew house out the back and around the turn of the century, during the construction of the Pavilion Theatre nearby, the brewery collapsed. However it was rebuilt and re-opened in 1903.
The history of the pub after then is a little vague and I can find no references to it until it was purchased by Sir John Fitzgerald in 1995 when it had already closed. I did see one mention of it being a music hall at one time. I wonder if this was as a stand alone enterprise or as part of the pub, a not uncommon situation. Inside there is evidence of what was a division around half way down the bar room, so maybe there was a music hall at the rear.
It seems that the frontage to Westgate Street was new when it became a Fitzgerald's pub, even though it is in an old style. Inside its true beauty becomes apparent. The bar is varnished dark wood and at the far end beyond the former wall it becomes curved with shiny metal bands in the style of a barrel. The fitted bench seating around the walls is in many styles with comfortable stuffed leather cushioning. I also noticed the magnificent tiled floor.
The most noticeable architectural features are the two stained glass domes in the ceiling that give the pub an airy feeling during daylight. There are absolutely fabulous, please see the photographs.
There is more beauty in glass provided by the brewery advertising mirrors that decorate the walls. I was amazed by their superb condition; they look as if they are almost new. There are many historic framed photographs on the other walls. In some parts of the room there is wood panelling to half height.
When I visited, I thought the beer selection was quite superb. I had a choice of the following: Oakham (Peterborough, Cambs) Citra (4.2%); Big Lamp (Newburn, Tyne & Wear) Prince Bishop Ale (4.8%); Harbour Brewing (Trekillick, Cornwall) India Pale Ale (5.0%); Fyne Ales (Achadunan, Argyllshire, Scotland) Jarl (3.8%); Allendale (Allendale, Northumberland) Oat Stout (4.0%) and Sauvin 600 (4.9%); Wild Beer (Evercreech, Somerset) Scarlet Fever (4.8%) and finally: Wentworth (Wentworth, South Yorks) Mr Monaco (3.8%).
There is a very extensive selection of foreign bottled beers for those who like that sort of thing. They are also noted for a good selection of Scotch whiskies. The pub holds a popular prize quiz every Wednesday at 20.30. This is a great pub and should on everybody's list of "must do" pubs amongst the excellent selection available in central Newcastle.
Just after publishing this article we heard that Congratulations should go to the Bodega for becoming the CAMRA Tyneside Pub of the Year 2014. Well done.
The Bodega, 125 Westgate Road, Newcastle NE1 6BX. Tel: 0191 221 1552
Open: Monday-Thursday 11.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday 11.00-24.00; Sunday 12.00-22.30
The Bodega is around five to ten minutes walk from the Central station. This has train services to many parts of the country provided by many companies. It also has a station on the Tyne & Wear Metro. It is also less than ten minutes from Eldon Square Bus Station, which is served by many routes.