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Published on December 4, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Film set splendour

The opulence of the Victorian era is celebrated in a South Shields pub, writes Ed Waugh

South Shields may not be the weekend thriving party place it once was but there’s still life in the old town. A strip 100 yards long and 30 yards across from the Ocean Road/King Street junction up Mile End Road boasts no fewer than 11 assorted watering holes.

Ranging from pubs and a workingmen’s club to a gin house, these are well frequented. The jewel in the crown of this Bacchanalian plethora, however, is The Criterion. A new kid on the block, literally; it is situated above the Ladbrokes shop where Ocean Road meets King Street, a mere 30 yards from South Shields Metro station.

Built in the 1860s and based on the opulent Criterion Restaurant in London’s Piccadilly, this historic pub became a shadow of its former self and closed in 2012. However, the upper floor has re-opened after a £200,000 overhaul by new owners. Young entrepreneurs Christopher Pickering and Kevin McKeith aimed to restore the room to its original 1860s splendour.

Approaching the Criterion and looking up, the first thing that strikes you are the four beautiful chandeliers emitting seductive light through the windows; a magnet on a cold, winter’s night.

Entering the downstairs door one is faced with 20 steps of a wooden stairway that reach a large, ornate door which, when opened, reveals a beautiful bar room, the likes of which has been idealised in many a Victorian film.

To the right of the door is a fireplace blazing with a coal fire. In front, customers snuggle up on a leather settee and upholstered chairs. To the left is another open fire, this time in the large range that would have been used back in the day to cook gastronomic treats for weary travellers and revellers.

The enterprising duo have succeeded big time in restoring many of the original Victorian features hidden by successive refurbs, including the fires, bar, cornices, light fittings and clock. The pub is stunning, and a comfortable setting for around 60 people.

OK, the decor may be elegant, but a pub is only as good as the drinks it serves. The great news is The Criterion will carry two local real ales. Great North Eastern Brewing Co Rivet Catcher and Delta APA are currently on tap – both are crystal clear and taste divine… and only £2.95 a pint!

A large-screen television shows live Sky matches for the clientele that ranges from young male and female singles to predominantly groups of middle-aged people coming out for a sociable drink. Try it once and you’ll be hooked. I was!

For further information visit: facebook.com/thecriterionsouthshields


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Alastair Gilmour



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