If music is the food of love then a new venture, the first of its kind in Newcastle, promises to unlock passions in the unusual setting of a former bank vault.
Well-known local music historian Chris Phipps is teaming up with recently-opened city centre restaurant Two Fifths to cater for lovers of music and good food by serving up a combination of both.
At the end of the month, the ex-producer of North East groundbreaking music programme The Tube will be launching monthly Eat It! nights - with themes including gangsters and science fiction - in the original vault of the bank on the corner of Collingwood Street which was last home to Saints hair salon.
Chris and owner John Snell came up with the additional use for the underground room, which still contains a safe, enabling customers to enjoy a special music-matched menu in an unique setting.
“I suppose you could say I’ll have a captive audience!” said Chris who has previously hosted sell-out Explore Music nights at Sage Gateshead. “I always like doing something new and I’m really excited about this.
“I don’t think anything like it has been done before in Newcastle.”
He added: “I used to have my hair cut here and John would always tell me about his ambition to have a very individual idiosyncratic restaurant.
“He and I are massive music fans and we would talk about music all the time: what I was collecting and what he was listening to. And he said ‘why not think about extending the idea of Explore Music to food as well?’
“I’ve always been fascinated by the link between food and music.”
Just think Turnip Greens by Little Richard, Shortnin’ Bread by The Beach Boys, Red Beans and Rice by Brian Auger or Meat is Murder by The Smiths.
Guests can expect unusual and quirky insights from Chris whose expertise takes in film and who said: “I’ve collected sound-track music all my life, 40-50 years.”
He’ll host the first of his Eat It! nights on July 30. It will have a “Blaxploitation” theme, focused on film music of 1970-78, at a time of empowerment for Afro-Americans who were starting to take lead roles in cinema, famously in 1971’s Shaft which has a Grammy Award-winning soundtrack by Isaac Hayes and was, says Chris, “obligatory viewing for the Black Panther movement as it was asserting black power”.
“When it came out there were queues around the block and I went wanting to hear the music but I remember in the cinema it sounded like a transistor radio. I’ll be playing it full-blast!”
Others he’ll be chatting about include 1972’s Super Fly, known for its soundtrack by soul singer Curtis Mayfield and said to be one of the few to out-gross the film, while chef Basilhs Koutsioubis has created a soul food menu featuring fried chicken, grits and cornbread to follow the informal talk and music.
And the nights are for everyone, pointed out Chris: “I was talking to someone very young who was interested in Blaxploitation. The generation now is perceiving it as cult status.”
Next up will be Shut It! on August 27 with a British gangster theme which Chris, who has also started doing DJ nights at the venue, thinks will be fun for the setting.
“It’s about British gangster TV and film music, so obviously centred around Get Carter,” he said, revealing there are various versions of the North East-made film’s famous jangly jazz theme by Roy Budd who he said received just £250 for the now-iconic score.
“There’s one on the Dare album by The Human League and even a Tony Christie version called Get Christie!”
TV classics like The Professionals and The Sweeney, which had a big screen remake with Ray Winstone, will be included while a British menu will be based on the idea of a deconstructed Sunday roast.
Upcoming themes will include sci-fi music, matched with a futuristic menu and tie-ins with Latin American; Reggae-Jamaican and veggie options.