Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Perfect Night Out

I’ve never been to Tup Tup Palace, that nightclub of dreams in the centre of Newcastle. 

Not just because the bouncers wouldn’t let me in – no amount of “don’t you know who I am?” could squeeze me through those doors – but I honestly can’t think of a more horrendous way to spend a Friday night. I’m sure the hundreds of young people who swagger in and stagger out again at 3am into urine-sodden streets have a wonderful time; I’d rather endure an evening with Nigel Farage at a UKIP rally.

Of course it’s an age thing. Newcastle may call itself the party capital of Europe, but by night our city only really welcomes the young and inebriated. 

Together Mrs Gutteridge and I have lived over a century between us (and of course, the bulk of those years are down to me), but even she feels uncomfortable walking through the Bigg Market after sunset. Nevertheless Jo and I really do like the odd date night and, much as we love our local Italian restaurant, we exhausted all its menu options long ago. 

So how can those of us with a little more maturity enjoy a fun night out in Newcastle? Last Friday I learnt a little secret: Jesmond Dene House Hotel has a monthly jazz supper. 

Now as I love jazz almost as much as I love supper, Jo knew there couldn’t be a nicer combination for my birthday present. Normally any supper that goes with jazz isn’t worth writing about. When I lived in London, I endured many terrible burgers at Ronnie Scott’s. In a jazz venue, food tends to be an afterthought, like the drum solo. But Jesmond Dene House undoubtedly serves the best food in the city, so this was a very promising combo. 

Best of all, when the hotel found out we were coming, they insisted on putting us up for the night. What a perfect birthday treat: jazz and a lie-in without worrying about dogs, Izzy, or who would be the designated driver. 

You’re not wearing those, said Jo, when she saw the black shirt and trousers laid out on the bed. 

Why not? I asked. I have the delusional conviction of all overweight men that simply wearing black will magically remove inches from my corpulence. 

You’ll look like the band, she said, perhaps fearful that a couple of glasses of wine would encourage me to try and join in. 

She was right, of course. The band did wear black: I wore jeans. The three course meal was perfect, the service immaculate. The music, played by those stalwarts of many a northeast society wedding, The Paul James Band, hit the mark, aided by an excellent imported session guitarist called Phil Hudson. 

Sure, it drifted off into cruise ship standards from time to time, but the band got everyone’s feet tapping and, when they started to play The Shadow of Your Smile, I got quite tearful watching the generation gap dissolving as one by one couples took to the dance floor. 

The first brave pair in their early 20s were soon joined by another in – well, they might call even me a whippersnapper. Soon female heads of all ages were lovingly resting on rocking shoulders and undulating beer bellies. What a great night. 

The supper was held in the Grand Hall, the hotel’s romantic neo-medieval dining room. I can’t recommend the evening highly enough, however young you are. 

As for our room: well, now I know why Jesmond Dene House recently won the 2013 Good Hotel Guide’s best city hotel award. We stayed in The Apartment suite. It was divided into bedroom, sitting room and dressing room, and it had an enormous bathroom with a double shower with his and hers shower heads, as well as a giant double bath. 

It was one of the funkiest rooms we’ve ever stayed in, and the champagne breakfast was out of this world. Those young people in Tup Tup Palace have no clue what they’re missing.

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