Eye for an eye: Newcastle upon Tyne speakeasy ASE

All Seeing Eye Blackie Boy Newcastle upon Tyne Fluid Group

Fluid Group has overhauled late-night favourite, the Blackie Boy, in Newcastle upon Tyne, adding a speakeasy-style cocktail bar

The Blackie Boy in Newcastle upon Tyne’s Groat Market has had a colourful history. It was originally built in the early 18th century on the site of a former blacksmiths where ale was sold and, although it was rebuilt in 1889, it is still one of the oldest pubs in the city. It has just gone through another landmark with the major refurbishment by current operator, Tyneside-based Fluid Group, which not only overhauled the main venue but created a new speakeasy-style bar called The All Seeing Eye.

The project was carried out in partnership with the site’s owner, Heineken’s Star Pubs & Bars, working with award-winning designer Simon Mcilwraith of Collective Design. The All Seeing Eye, or the ASE, was created out of a rarely used function room on the first floor, stripped back to expose brickwork and opened up into the rafters to create a downtown New York City vibe. It is only accessible via an old external staircase which was unearthed after being hidden for decades.

Simon describes the interior of the new bar as “theatrical” and “a timeless example of the darker side of Newcastle”. He adds: “The design is an eclectic mix of industrial vintage and 1920s architectural grandeur. The two styles make for an authentic and lavish speakeasy.”

The bar keeps a metaphorical eye on its customers with an animated projection up above of an eye that casts its gaze over the room. A snug offers a secretive retreat, furnished with low fixed seating and adorned with objects sourced from around the world. In the main bar area, the figure of Jesus looks down on the goings-on below.

Open to 3am, the ASE has extended the choice of late-night options at the Blackie Boy which, after 11pm, also serves as the third bar for sister venue Perdu. Dave Walker, Fluid Group area manager, says: “The ASE is a cutting-edge late-night venue and part of the evolution of the Newcastle nightscape. Investment in the site has enabled us to create an amazing experience for customers that they won’t find anywhere else in Newcastle.”

A new cocktail menu has been created for the ASE by head bartender Adam McDonough, with a range of drinks that he describes as “modern and quirky with a hint of molecular mixology”. They are themed along the lines of sins featured in Dante’s Inferno, the 14th-century Italian poem about a journey through Hell. Under “Limbo” is one of the bar’s most popular cocktails, Dante’s Miracle, which is made with Stolichnaya Citros vodka, apple juice, citrus fruits and lemon bitters. The “miracle” comes from being served with a miracle berry sweet that transforms your taste buds so that sour flavours taste sweet.

The menu features many of the classics, such as a Pornstar Martini listed under “Lust” and a selection of twisted Mojitos, Margaritas and Daiquiris under the heading of “Heresy”. One section, titled “Wray-th”, is dedicated to Wray & Nephew Overproof rum, such as a 50 Shades of Wray which is described as Wray & Nephew “bent over with Kwai Feh [lychee liqueur], spanked with pineapple juice, a good length of orange juice and bled with grenadine, finished off with a pearl necklace”.

The team have brought together some of their favourite cocktails from other bars, such as Maid in Cuba from 2014 Bacardi Legacy global winner Tom Walker of The American Bar at The Savoy in London. Another is the Squid Ink Margarita, created by JJ Goodman at London Cocktail Club for Diageo Reserve World Class and made with real squid ink. Although all credited, these are listed under the heading of “Fraud”.

The cocktails are mostly priced between £6.50 and £7, while mocktails – under the banner of “Treachery” – include non-alcoholic variants on the likes of a Mojito and Piña Colada for £3. There is also a short selection of red, white and sparkling wines including champagne. Downstairs in the main Blackie Boy bar, the menu continues as a mix of classic and contemporary cocktails.

For the ciders and beers, including Heineken Extra Cold, Star Pubs & Bars has installed the latest Heineken Smart Dispense technology to guarantee a high-quality pour every time. “Fluid Group recognises the need to review, refine and continue to invest in their pubs to keep them current and attract customers in an increasingly competitive market,” adds Chris Jowsey, trading director at Star Pubs & Bars. “It is no longer enough to open the doors and expect customers to come to you – it is all about raising the bar, giving customers that bit extra and offering them the very best.”

All Seeing Eye and Blackie Boy, 11 Groat Market, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1UQ Tel: 0191 232 0730 www.blackieboy.co.uk
All Seeing Eye Newcastle upon Tyne Fluid Group
Blackie Boy Newcastle upon Tyne
Originally published in the July 2014 issue of Bar magazine.

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