Features

Published on February 12, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Tapping into history

Fierce loyalty to their home town is the major driving force behind Tyneside’s latest micropub. Luke Orwin and partner Abbie Naisbitt have opened the Enigma Tap in North Shields because they felt the town desperately needed something of that nature and that its history and contemporary existence should be celebrated far more than it is.

They want to serve great, local beer, of course, and make sure everyone who comes into the Bedford Street pub has a good time. Luke is a chef by profession and he and Abbie had talked incessantly about doing something like this, combining their skills and passion for people. Abbie, a mechanical engineer, designed and built the furniture, using scaffold planks, metal tubing and couplings for a utilitarian but welcoming feel.

The Enigma Tap is named in deference to WWII war hero Thomas Brown from North Shields who unwittingly rescued the Enigma Code details from a sinking German submarine in 1942, which helped code-breakers understand the hugely complex military ciphers and s reckoned to have shortened the war by three years.

Luke and Abbie obtained the pub’s classic 1950s classroom-style chairs at auction. It’s believed the metal legs and supports are made from recycled WWII aircraft which fits their ethos and is a further link to Thomas Brown.

The couple didn’t get the go-ahead for the premises until late October, then planning permission had to be sought, plus the license to gain and the million other things that we customers don’t see. A whirlwind Christmas decorating frenzy helped the Enigma Tap open just as January turned into February.

“It’s all been quite challenging,” says Luke. “We did all the decorating ourselves with the help of family and friends. I really want to impart my own ethos into it. If we couldn’t have done it in North Shields we wouldn’t have done it anywhere. North Shields is part of the concept and we wouldn’t have felt comfortable on someone else’s patch, say Tynemouth or Whitley Bay.

“We were always talking about doing this. It’s part of the local council’s plan to encourage a rise in the night-time economy and we’re flying the flag for North Shields in that respect.”

The attractive double-fronted former nail salon is one of the few original shop fronts on the street. The counter front is being decorated with photographs relating to the town – people, places, architecture, shipping, you name it. The pub walls feature local images from equally local artists and photographers.

Luke, now full-time in the pub, is aided and abetted by Chelsea Venning and Natalie Suniga, both of whom came highly recommended. Beers are from the likes of Almasty, First & Last, Errant and Three Kings (North Shields, of course), with quality “visitors” encouraged.

He says: “What we want to do with the cask and keg beers is to cover every style as much as possible through bitter, pale, golden, IPA, stout and porter, then fruit/sour and low-strength below three percent alcohol “We’re using all-local spirits and mixers so you can have an Alnwick Rum with a Marlish Farm mixer.”

He has being doing some research on hops and discovered Enigma, a new, highly aromatic Australian variety that has such a wide range of aromas and flavours that brewers don’t quite know what to do with it yet. But Newcastle’s Errant Brewery is giving it a go, as is Marble from Manchester, so he has those on order. Squaring the circle is another passion.

He says: “Everything relates to the one single concept – Enigma. I’m a bit picky for detail and we’re going to the nth degree with everything.

“We’re open for everyone – some people don’t want to drink alcohol or just low alcohol but still want to socialise and promote North Shields so they’re very welcome here. We’ve had tremendous support from North East breweries and other micropubs and owners such as the Mean Eyed Cat in Newcastle and Tony Patton from the Dog & Rabbit in Whitley Bay.”

The dictionary definition of enigma is “a person, thing or situation that is mysterious, puzzling or ambiguous”. But there’s nothing puzzling about a new venture like a micropub in North Shields.


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Alastair Gilmour



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