My Pub: Pleased To Meet You, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne & Wear

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Gin boom: the city centre venue won Best Spirit Bar in the Great British Pub Awards 2017 with a particular focus on gin
Gin boom: the city centre venue won Best Spirit Bar in the Great British Pub Awards 2017 with a particular focus on gin
In the beating heart of lively Newcastle-upon-Tyne is the Pleased To Meet You pub that is proud to offer everything from an award-winning spirits range to dining masterclasses. Jessica Branegan tells us more

Facts 'n' stats

Pub name: Pleased to Meet You

Address: 41-45 High Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 1EW

Tenure: Freehouse

Licensee: Jessica Branegan

Staffing: 50

Wet:dry split: 80:20

The pub

The site was acquired in 2006 as part of a group purchase of Noble House Pub Co. It traded as a run-of-the-mill pub with a limited food offer. We continued this for a few years and watched as [nearby] Grey Street started transforming. We knew the site had masses of potential and wanted to celebrate the heritage features that had been hidden by the usual mid-1990s pub fit-out.

With gin going through a massive boom, it seemed only natural to open a gin palace. It was important to choose a name that shouted ‘bar’, not ‘pub’, given the many guises of pub that this site had historically been – our love of The Rolling Stones paved the way for that.

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The publican

After working in bars as a part-time job to support me through my studies I found a passion for the industry and I couldn’t bear to leave. I started full-time management in bars at 19, following that I moved into VIP clubs and restaurants to broaden my experience.

I was then approached to take on my favourite venue in the city, my regular spot on my days off and somewhere I already loved. I jumped at the chance to work for a great operator and to improve the already great reputation Pleased To Meet You had.

Pleased to Meet You - Jessica Branegan - General Manager

The trade

Being located in the city centre of Newcastle, our customer base is very broad with a mixture of locals and tourists of all ages, which helps create the dynamic atmosphere within Pleased to Meet You.

We offer something for everyone. Our large bar area offers an extensive gin, whisky, craft and cask selection, as well as bar food. In our restaurant, we provide fresh and innovative dishes and a function space used for a wide variety of events. Pleased to Meet You offers something to tickle all taste buds.

On any given day we might have a group enjoying afternoon tea; a regular enjoying a pint of bitter; someone conducting a business meeting over lunch and a group of friends enjoying cocktails after a trip to the shops.

We work closely with local businesses and industry, encouraging them to use our venue for working lunches and corporate events. This has also helped establish Pleased to Meet You as a hub for after work drinks and catch-ups.

We also have strong relationships with nearby performance venues, including the theatre and comedy club. We have found that by developing our connections with local venues, we have become one of the go-to spots for preshow dining.

The team

Our team consists of more than 50 members of staff across numerous departments such as: duty managers, bartenders, bar backs, cellar staff, waiters, food runners, chefs and kitchen porters.

Our philosophy for the front of house was to build a core team of full-timers we could develop and cross train through each area of the bar, restaurant and events space. We fill the gaps of busy weekends with part-time locals and some out-of-town students. Every team member gets one-to-one training for their first couple of weeks to ensure they have good knowledge, history and understanding of our key lines: gin, cocktails, whisky, beer and, most importantly, customer service.

Our young management team are front-of-house-focused and all specialise in different areas of the business to cover every area to ensure the venue runs smoothly.

As our restaurant offers the best in seasonal produce and weekend specials composed of high-end items, our restaurant team are briefed daily on the new items, their locality and selling points. This creates a great and close relationship between the front and back of house team members as the communication is constant.

Our kitchen team ranges from an experienced head chef with vast knowledge of sustainable, local food to apprentice chefs that we support from the college to give them a taste of real kitchens before finishing their training.

Drinks

The drink

We are renowned for being specialists in spirits – gin in particular – as recognised by winning the Best Spirit Bar category at the Great British Pub Awards in 2017.

At any one time, our back bar is stocked with over 150 gins from around the world and we pride ourselves on our knowledge in the area. Our skilled bartenders will ask the customer for their flavour preferences and build their order around them. To promote the spirit, we frequently run gin specials and recommended serves, closely tied with various drink events.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve spent time developing our cocktail menu, creating original bespoke cocktails that cannot be bought anywhere else. During a 12-month period, more than 70% of the cocktails sold were our own in-house creations.

We also have an extensive keg and cask selection. At present, we have 15 designated craft lines and five hand pulls, enabling us to champion the burgeoning Newcastle beer scene and also source the best new beers from further afield, ensuring that we have a variety of drinks that suit all tastes.

On the menu

  • Black truffle celeriac soup with hazelnuts and sourdough (v) – £6
  • Heritage marinated beetroot salad with pickled walnuts and black truffle honey (v) – £7
  • Ground brisket beef and marrowbone burger with thrice-cooked chips – £13
  • Pleased To Meet You handcrafted pie with root mash, buttered winter, greens and jus – £14
  • Venison cottage pie with root mash and braised red cabbage – £14
  • Herb-fed chicken with creamed leeks, heritage carrots and horseradish gnocchi – £15
  • Confit duck with hand-rolled pasta, 12-hour caramelised shallots, figs and toasted pistachios – £16
Pleased to meet you food

The food

Set in the heart of Newcastle, Pleased to Meet You houses three distinct areas: the bar, a chic and sophisticated drinking and dining area; the dining space, where it’s modern British dishes that take centre stage; and the Viceroy, where private dining and bespoke events take place, tailored for the client using local, sustainable, seasonal produce crafted by our chefs, all with a modern British feel.

Pleased To Meet You represents local dining at its very best. From home comforts, we produce uncomplicated food made from the highest-quality ingredients, all centred around British seasonality, crafted and designed by Nick Phillips our executive head chef.

Our day and night menus combine the very best of seasonal, locally sourced produce from the farms, coasts and woodlands right here on our doorstep in the heart of the north-east. Our dishes take on a modern, British approach.

The events

A lot of our events are food and drink led, championing the best on offer.

In the past, we’ve teamed up with gin brands to host gin and food pairing evenings, the most recent example being an evening with Sipsmith Gin, where Sipsmith Master Distiller and notable drinks historian Jared Brown guided us through a five-course menu that had been paired with gin.

Our next event will be in partnership with Hepple Gin and Schweppes 1783 tonic. We’ll be officially opening our outdoor garden area and will have a pop-up Hepple Gin Bar, as well as outdoor DJs, barbecue and rock oyster bar.

We’ve also hosted Meet the Brewers events, the most recent featuring Pirate Life Brewing from Australia. We had exclusivity on the product in Newcastle, which was a great selling point and an ideal way to promote a new product.

Every Sunday, we have an acoustic night in the bar where we showcase the best in local talent and, each week, we have two artists performing back to back. Since its launch earlier in the year, the night has gone from strength to strength, attracting a loyal fan base.

In our basement bar, Viceroy, we also hold a whole manner of events throughout the year such as birthdays, wedding receptions, product launches, private dining, masterclasses and corporate functions.

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The future

Since the launch of Pleased To Meet You in 2013, we have added an outside area; dedicated restaurant; function suite/ overspill bar area.

Year on year, we have seen sales growth – particularly pleasing in light of the many openings Newcastle city centre has seen. We firmly see this as a brand capable of rollout. We’ve already started developing our second site in Morpeth, Northumberland. Set among the ground floor of a 17th century coaching inn, we’re taking the best bits of our tried and tested concept in Newcastle and adding a Northumbrian twist.

The new site will include a tearoom, restaurant and bar, with a menu befitting of the area. The latter stages of the development will see the addition of a 20-bed boutique hotel on the upper floors. It’s an exciting time, and we’re always on the lookout for potential developments elsewhere.

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