Colonel Porter’s Emporium has a lot going for it, from a great location to a fascinating history through to a remarkable sense of style and a great vibe.
We spoke to Colonel Porter's Marketing & Events Coordinator Honor McAuley-Brand to find out more about the bar and why it's such a must-visit Newcastle haunt.
Found on the ground floor of one of Newcastle’s most remarkable buildings – the huge and labyrinthine Milburn House (also home to the NE1 headquarters) – and on the corner of three of its most interesting streets, Colonel Porter’s Emporium is impressive before you even pass through its doors.
Opened in 2017, the bar takes much of its identity from Colonel Porter himself – James Herbert Porter, a local man who came from a brewing family (Newcastle Breweries) and after a distinguished military career, returned home to make beer. Working with chemist Archie Jones and hoping to replicate the success of Bass Brewery, the pair emerged with Newcastle Brown Ale in 1927, a Tyneside institution with its distinctive logo and smooth, rich taste.
As Honor tells us, Porter’s life and career is reflected all over the bar in its eclectic, lavish décor - full of curiosities, Victoriana and antiques, often commemorating Porter’s own adventures.
“The idea is to breathe new life into the old tales of explorers and adventurers, offering a truly unique setting for those seeking something different in the city centre," explains Honor. "The Emporium stands as a venue dedicated to celebrating his extraordinary journey across the globe. From floor to ceiling, every inch of the walls are adorned with various antiques and artefacts, all believed to have been collected by Colonel Porter himself during his worldly travels.”
Of course, as striking as the décor might be – and it is very striking - a successful bar needs a lot more to make it work, which is why Colonel Porter’s has a passionate management team and some top-notch master mixologists. A big part of the bar’s appeal is its music policy, as Honor explains:
“The atmosphere at Porters is truly fantastic, and we make sure to have live music on every single night, starting from 7-9pm on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesdays are reserved for our open mic nights, hosted by the amazing Kieran Taylor, running from 7-10pm. On Fridays, we extend these timings, beginning at 5pm and continuing into the night with DJ extraordinaire Keith Martin, treating everyone to funk, soul and house music from 10pm until late. On Saturdays, the live music kicks off at 4pm, ensuring all guests are up on their feet well into the early hours of Sunday morning.”
Colonel Porter’s is also something of an institution for the city’s house fans, luring big names and big promoters to the city for the monthly Colonel’s House Parties.
“Not only do we host the best local talents, but we’re also known for throwing our Colonel’s House Parties," says Honor. "With local DJs teaming up with world-famous Ibiza legends, we’ve been in cahoots with these incredible artists for quite a few years now. Think names like Brandon Block, Graeme Park, Paul Reynold and, Ryan McDermott – they’ve all added their magic to our unforgettable events.”
Another big draw for the bar is its remarkable collection of rums (or rhums – they are slightly different!). The bar stocks more than 125 rums of every variety – a nod, perhaps, to the Colonel’s fondness for a tipple, and the spirit is found in many of the bespoke cocktails cooked up by the bar’s mixologists (they even offer mixology classes).
There are plenty of drink offers too, focusing on a different drink each night (Rhum Tuesday, offering 3 shots and a mixer for £15, looks especially tempting). The bar also offers Tipsy Teas from 12.30 to 3pm from Thursday to Sunday, with finger sandwiches, sweet treats and some special cocktails starting from £14.95. There are buffets and private hire options too, which can be catered for up to 350 people!
Another jewel in the Victoriana crown is Archie’s Secret Lab, named for Porter’s chemist collaborator, a concealed bar found via a bookcase, for full mysterious effect.
“This is where we host the most scandalous of private parties. It's inspired by Colonel Porter’s time concealed within the confines of a secret laboratory alongside Chief Chemist Archie Jones”, explains Honor. “Throughout the latter part of 2023, we had an exciting secret in the works as the lab underwent an extensive refurbishment, aiming to retell this forgotten tale and breathe life back into the room.”
Themed as a speakeasy, with moody lighting and lots of lab-inspired décor, Archie’s has its own bar and is available for private hire, with the bar’s team available to help you arrange a perfect night.
When asked what the bar does to make it so special and worth a visit, Honor counted the Colonel Porter's team as quintessential to its pull:
“Among the countless aspects that make our establishment stand out, the true stars of the show are the people that make up Porters - from friends, musicians, and team members alike, they are the essence of what makes Porters shine. Our dedicated team are the heart of our bar, and we wouldn’t be the establishment we are today without them. It’s a staff base that truly enhances the overall experience, and we don’t claim to have the best Master Mixologists in town without reason.”
So there you have it: a bar with a distinct vibe, a fascinating drinks menu and a lot going on all the time, Colonel Porter’s Emporium is something of a gem on the Newcastle nightlife scene, and definitely worth a visit if you fancy something a little bit different.
Colonel Porter’s Emporium is at the bottom of Dean Street at the southern corner of Milburn House, and is open from 4pm on weekdays and midday at weekends, until late.