I recall a huge amount of buzz was created when a new burger joint was teased at on Twitter nearly two years ago. Scheduled to open in what was formerly Fleet Street on Pudding Chare, this proposed smokehouse and cocktail bar sounded like something a bit different for Newcastle.
Unfortunately the plan did not come to fruition on schedule, and the owners eventually had to search for a new location. Settling on The Northumberland Arms pub close to Eldon Square, The Purple Bear finally opened its doors to the public last Thursday (16th March). In those two years the dining scene of Newcastle has changed quite dramatically, however. We have had a spate of burger bar openings in this time – Five Guys, Byron, Smashburger and Red’s True BBQ are all high profile locals now – which made me wonder whether there was a need for yet another in the Toon.
It can’t be denied that there’s been an effort put in to the interior of The Purple Bear, and with its avian wallpaper and fancy lighting it certainly felt a step up from its previous incarnation. I took along a meat eating chum to get an expert opinion on the patties, knowing that my experience would be limited to what was on offer for a veggie. He seemed pretty stoked about the selection on offer, and in keeping with the theme the burgers are named after different bear types. Having contacted the team ahead of our visit to check their Falafel burger was suitable for a vegan (it was, sans bread), I also enquired about how the fries were cooked. Vegetable oil, for those who are interested. There are also chicken breast burgers available for those who try to avoid red meat. Gluten free buns are available on request, and apparently they are hoping to get a vegan friendly bun by the end of this week. Thought had clearly been put in to accommodating those with dietary requirements, so credit was due in that regard.
The patties are made from 100% beef and just a sprinkling of black pepper, which will be music to the ears of puritans. There was a temptation (not on my part) to try the Parmesan Truffle Fries, as well as a to-ing and fro-ing over which burger to opt for. He eventually went for the Yokey, topped with smoked bacon, a fried egg and maple syrup. My Falafel seemed a bit pitiful in comparison, it has to be said. Without a bun it sat sadly on the plate, topped with some onion rings to make it seem less naked. It needed to sit on kitchen towel for a bit to absorb some of its cooking fat after frying. Of course, whether a non-meat eater can complain too much about the offerings of a smokehouse I’m sure will be up for debate once I post this, as is often the case. I enquired what my friend thought about his burger (as their target audience) and he enjoyed it. He said he was surprised by how well his combo worked together. I guessed as much when I had get him extra kitchen roll – what is it with these places that don’t have serviettes?! – for the egg he was clearly saving for later in his beard 🙂
We were chatting afterwards about the price and the Twitter hype surrounding the previous mooted opening. I asked if he’d ever tried the burgers at Fat Hippo, which remains one of my favourite places in the North East to get a (veggie or otherwise) burger. He hasn’t, so I think we’ll have to remedy that situation soon. He also hadn’t heard of The Grind @ No. 28, but as they don’t have a vegan option he may have to find another dining companion for that one!
There’s nothing wrong with The Purple Bear and I really hope they do well. I unfortunately feel they may have missed the boat on this one, however. Hopefully once word gets out trade will pick up for them. The location doesn’t help, as it is tucked away between M&S and Eldon Square where there isn’t a lot of passing trade. The team seemed adept where social media is concerned in the past, so I’m sure they’ll be able to work their magic again.
Thanks for reading,