Cooking up a storm

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With bespoke, rock-and-roll haute cuisine and a drinks offering to match, it is no wonder that the Cluny in Newcastle is attracting an eclectic mix...

With bespoke, rock-and-roll haute cuisine and a drinks offering to match, it is no wonder that the Cluny in Newcastle is attracting an eclectic mix of customers Each day that cheffing couple Ettrick and Rachel Scott enter the Cluny pub, in Newcastle, it reminds them of the day they got married. For the pub is not just the place they cook up a storm each day for hungry punters, it was also the venue for their wedding reception five years ago. "I really love this place," says Ettrick. "It was always our local watering hole even before we had our wedding here. But back then, I used to think the food wasn't up to much and I dreamt of coming back and turning the culinary side around. When the opportunity came along we snapped it up." The food Ettrick and Rachel produce has played a big part in what's made the Cluny one of only two pubs in Newcastle to be included in the 2004 Good Pub Guide. Based in the commercial valley of Ouseburn, one mile east of the city centre, the canalside pub (aptly housed inside a former whisky bottling plant) has grown from strength to strength, attracting an eclectic crowd, including local artists who create and display their art in the building, and top-name bands who perform on its stage. Following the recent doubling in size of the kitchen, which now operates under the name the Cluny Kitchen, the pub has significantly enhanced the scope of its menu. In fact, exotic, daily-changing special have overshadowed the fixed-menu items. Ciabattas, burgers and salads are just the tip of the iceberg when customers can choose from a range that, in addition, includes chicken satay kebabs, asparagus and green bean salad, lamb koftas, vegetable antipasto with hummus, and costada of fried chicken with chorizo salsa. "I would describe the food here as bespoke, rock-and-roll haute cuisine," says Ettrick. "Though it's pubby, it has definite interest that makes it stand out from the crowd. This stops us getting bored in the kitchen and gives customers lots of interest. We started off simple at first but now the menu is constantly evolving and we see what works and what doesn't." And the biggest hit on the menu? "We do a spicy rice dish, called a jambalaya, with chorizo sausages," says Rachel. "Customers just can't get enough and as soon as I've cooked a batch it's gone and I'm having to cook some more!" Manager Dave Campbell agrees and says: "Customers don't want to go into a pub and time and time again find the same food. We have an eclectic, fusion theme, and the specials board allows us to experiment with food from different regions and countries. There is a big emphasis on the homemade too, and this fits in with the whole ethos of the place. We encourage local artists to display their work in the bar, we stock local beers and the food is made fresh on the premises." Ettrick and Rachel also try hard to source the majority of produce from local producers. "We regularly attend farmers' markets and get most of our meat from the independent butchers there," says Ettrick. "We'd love to use more organic produce but it's very expensive and we'd have to pass on that cost to the customers ­ at the end of the day it's pub food and people expect pub prices no matter what." But help may be at hand on that score ­ and right on their doorstep. Opposite the Cluny is the City Farm, which, though currently undergoing renovation, Ettrick hopes may have some ground on which they can grow produce. "We've already approached them about growing vegetables and herbs on the land and they seem very supportive of the idea. It would be wonderful to have fresh produce and be able to offer customers dishes that we can guarantee have really fresh and locally-sourced ingredients." The pub can also pride itself on the wide choice of drinks, which complement the menu. "If a customer asks for something and I haven't got it, I will have it when they come back," says Campbell. Testament to this is the fact the pub now has one of the best ranges of bottled beers and real ales in Newcastle. Campbell says: "We always try to be one step ahead of the trends here, and we listen carefully to what people want. We don't worry about what the big boys are doing ­ we ignore the competition and do our own thing. It's great to have the freedom to do that ­ and for customers to appreciate it. We are honest, experimental and individual. It's important to us that nothing gets tired." And in the last year Ettrick and Rachel have expanded on their culinary skills and now cater for other people's weddings at the pub, with full buffets and wedding breakfasts. "The quirky and informal air really appeals to brides and grooms-to-be," says Campbell. "They also like the fact that the beer side is catered for ­ they can have anything they want off the back bar." Obviously, Ettrick is convinced there is no better place for such a celebration. "This is where we got married ­ and it's the only place I've ever wanted to work.

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