Built into one of the railway arches under the main east coast line just down from Newcastle Central Station the Herb Garden, Newcastle certainly dares to be different. The tables and seating are bar style benches and tables, so if you are not a party of 4 chances are you will double up with someone else. It is a quirky urban style of decor making the most of it’s unusual setting. The menu is mostly pizza but all very imaginative toppings, plenty of choice for all tastes.
It calls itself a pizza kitchen, but it also has the wildest interior.
You should go there just to see the “garden” – a wall of herbs growing in metal cylinders under a balloon sky of paper lanterns, like those people bought in the 1970s to go with Greek flokati rugs. There are scores of them glowing in the ceiling space of this railway arch under the East Coast line, close to Newcastle’s Central Station, and next to Couley’s tattoo studio.
The walls are steel, painted shaker blue, the concrete floors are polished, and a curiosity shop of bric-a-brac has been emptied into it, including antique mirrors and a horse on roller skates. It has reclaimed teak and smart beige vinyl banquettes, high tables with high stools, wine goblet chandeliers and ’70s disco music. Mrs Diner told me the sink in the ladies’ loo is a trough. The Herb Garden is quirky, idiosyncratic and different.
You can see little green herbs shooting out of their containers up the wall. These little barrels of light and water are a new system of hydroponics – pods of soil-free growth, and the main point of this venture. Richard Marks and Ryan Darrington have a company called Clean Growing Ltd. They’re hoping their pods can produce pest and dirt-free salads for the restaurant industry, and it looks like The Herb Garden is their Newcastle experiment.
In the window are two large pizza ovens, big versions of those domed things with chimneys you can buy for your garden. The pizzas on the menu have numbers, not names. Take a look at number 8: a red pizza with garlic, olives, capers, anchovies, basil and parsley.
Be seduced by the blackboard specials: “Super Sexy Super Healthy Superfood Salad”, a “Big Buff Burger”, and “The Herb Garden’s Chilli con Carne”, with coriander rice and freshly-cooked nachos.