Bianca: When one is obsessed with food, I think it’s pretty normal to plan entire holidays around indulgent foodie sights. That is exactly what my weekend away in Newcastle was. This was kind of a long time coming, having planned to make the trek up to test the burger waters over at Newy Burger Co. Which will be its very own post and spoiler alert, they were very good!
Day 1 – Side kick sorted, Felicity and I made the short drive up and dove straight into brunch at Bolton Street Pantry. Doubling as a small providore and I do mean small… they offer your usual standard café menu with a slight health twist. Anything with an Acai bowl on the menu instantly has that label from me. Service was a little haphazard, having to wait 15 minutes for our orders to be taken despite only 2 other occupied tables. I was fighting the good fight with a cold/cough I couldn’t shake so went the herbal tea route.
Felicity shaking it up with the Teff Pancakes – teff & almond milk pancakes, banana, raspberry coulis and maple syrup $17. What is teff you ask? A grain similar to quinoa, which apparently doesn’t leave you feeling all bloaty and shithouse. These were perfectly adequate but I think by the very notion of ordering pancakes you kind of want something guilt inducing.
After flitting back and forth I finally went with the Haloumi Breakfast – fried Haloumi, poached eggs, avocado, rocket, green pesto and sourdough $19 w/extra haloumi $5. Felicity randomly has obsessions with different food & drinks, currently its haloumi. So she got a little side portion for herself because #onholidays. This had its pluses and minuses, the haloumi was probably the best I’ve had in a café anywhere and the pesto was great. But the rocket without any dressing was bland and the ultimate cardinal sin? My poached egg was served to me, broken and oozing all over the joint. That buddy, is my job!
We then pottered around Blackbutt Reserve, a 3km walk is probably not recommended after such a heavy breakfast. But the tree-lined walk was tres purdy and it broke up the intense eating. Next up was a spot of coffee at Sherwood Coffee a cute little café serving Grounds of Alexandria coffee and jaffles. Felicity opting for a hot chocolate and perhaps not to make me jealous, they also threw in a little marshmallow for me. It’s the little things.
I have a weakness for home-wares and one place that kept popping up on my Newy searches was Pappa Sven. A small store specialising in Scandinavian home-wares and pieces. Everything is truly gorgeous and walking out of there with a single plate just goes to show how much restraint I have. Owner Libby also spent a great deal of time with us chatting about Newcastle and gave us some great suggestions for shops to visit and a little place for a tipple before dinner.
After impulse buying all along Darby Street we made it to Fort Scratchley just before they closed up shop. Not to mention the gorgeous views over Nobbys Lighthouse.
Our home away from home was Noahs on the Beach, which is you guessed it…on the beach. Overlooking Newcastle beach and the esplanade and apparently the bee’s knees back in the day but Noahs is sure looking tirrrreeed.
After a great recommendation from Libby earlier in the day, we stopped in at Coal & Cedar for a pre-dinner beverage. This place is SWANKY and not to mention hard to find. It’s housed in an unassuming office block. With a locked front door, a sign greets customers who then have to text to gain entry. And then out pops a gentleman that could easily be from a prohibition era 1920’s speakeasy. Its dark and sexy and we were two straight gals on the town, imagine if you were on a date!! There is a small kitchen that also churns out cheese and antipasto platters. Happy to sip on our cocktails, with our favourites being the dark rum based Artichoke Hold and the scotch and sherry based Fino Evil.
And on to our much-anticipated dinner at arguably one of the best restaurants in Newcastle, Subo. Once Subo was mentioned in a conversation with Newy locals, their faces instantaneously lit up. I knew we were on to a good thing but convincing Felicity was going to be another story entirely. She’s not overly adventurous when it comes to dining out and I knew that she would find the menu challenging. But a quick email to Subo and I was fairly reassured she wouldn’t just be eating bread and butter. But then the bread and butter was soo good that that might not have been so bad after all.
We were warmly greeted by owner Susie, one half of the husband and wife duo. After some general chit-chat we realised we both grew up in the Hills area which I found rather entertaining. She left us to peruse the five course winter menu, they agreeably swapped out a fish dish with a potato dish for Felicity and we began on our way. Please excuse the shitty photos, it was close quarters and I didn’t feel using flash would be appropriate.
Bread and butter, an oh so simple combination but when it’s done badly you know it. Showcasing Baked Uprisings ‘city loaf’ and Subos house churned herbed butter. Between us we had 5 slices… shame shame shame!
First course was the Globe Artichoke Royal –w/ leek, mustard and miso. Which Felicity referred to as ‘the dip’. This was really more about the textures for me than the actual flavour. With the julienned fried leeks adding an interesting mouth feel alongside the artichoke custard.
Second course for Felicity was the vegetarian option of Confit of purple potatoes –w/brie, smoked almonds & truffles. This was an interesting one, while it did read better on paper than it tasted in reality there was a lot going for it. The crunch of the almonds was subtle but essential to what would have been a one note dish texturally. In one sentence, it was the best potato salad I’m sure I’ll ever eat.
My second course dish was Snowy Mountains Hot Smoked Rainbow Trout –w/chamomile, white soy & nasturtium. Not overly fishy which is how I judge all fish dishes, long story… Catapulting this dish to something truly special was the method of cooking. With the smokiness complimenting the refined chamomile cream. The salmon eggs were one of the wackiest things I’ve ever eaten, giving off no discernible taste but the consistency was out of this world.
Getting into the hearty main, the third course Byron Bay Berkshire Pork Cheek –w/tamarind, black olive and endive. Poor poor Felicity, I informed on her last bite that she was eating Babe’s face. The look on her face was priceless! That’s what happens when you don’t read the menu properly! Essentially passing as a breaded ‘schnitzel’ a hunk of pulled pork cheek. We both agreed that this was the standout. The tamarind and black olive paste was genius and paired with the accompanying side of pickled cauliflower it was an incredibly memorable dish. We initially questioned the cauliflower but once you had it in conjunction with the pork it really did cut through the richness of the dish.
The fourth course was a palate cleanser of sorts, a delightfully refreshing Mandarin Sorbet –w/rhubarb granita & black pepper. Granita has always been a little airy fairy for me, preferring a more in your face bold flavouring but the sorbet was masterful and the sprinkles of black pepper constantly confused the palate and had you going back for more.
And lastly fifth course, dessert. A house made brioche pain perdu –w/ quince, orange & zabaglione. On paper I was not wowed and boy did I feel foolish afterwards, the brioche was sweet, soft and crispy. Like a croissant on steroids. I enjoyed the quince and orange segments and tying it all together, the light zabaglione. Which instantly reminded me of the concoction my nonna would whip up for us when we were younger. Her Tuorlo sbattuto con zucchero e marsala, in English ‘beaten egg yolk with sugar and marsala.
More than anything I was surprised by how much Felicity enjoyed her meal at Subo, the food is progressive but not alienating. And with two well deserved chef hats Newcastle folks are pretty lucky to have this as a local. While it is on the pricier scale, comparable to a five course degustation in Sydney it’s well placed and well worth the price point.
And with that we began the slow crawl back to our hotel.
DAY 2 – And it was an early start. Our first stop was breakfast at One Penny Black, once considered the pinnacle in Newy. With some great coffees to boot, but I’d heard with the change of owners the quality had dipped.
There was no table service which I found a little odd, especially with no signage to announce this (only a small line on a menu, which you also needed to grab from indoors). Felicity opted for the Big Breakfast $20-22. Boy was she an unhappy camper. Bread was really not the best quality, crappola knives for cutting, over poached hardboiled eggs. I enjoyed the mushrooms and she liked the house made baked beans. But for that price you would really expect a lot more.
My decision to play it safe paid off, my choice of the Porridge with fruit $14-18 was a hearty and warming bowl of sunshine fit for the freezing early morning temps. It was a generous serve and I struggled to finish it.
And then began our hunt for treats… We picked up some doughnuts from Doughheads – a drive past at a more reasonable time saw scores of people lining the streets, enjoying their doughnuts, shakes and coffees. I got an 8 pack mini sampler and a large original glazed. Was I wowed? Not particularly, we’re kind of going through a doughnut renaissance in Sydney at the moment so we have a bit to compare to. My pick of the lot was definitely the Raspberry truffle. My Nutella doughnut had nary a Nutella injection…. No idea what happened there.
And probably my most anticipated stop Baked Uprising/ Uprising Kitchen & Bakery. A really cool artisan bakery churning out fresh breads and pastries. The setup kind of reminded me of Lune in Melbs. We both scored ourselves the city loaf that we enjoyed so much the night before at Subo. And on my never-ending quest for the perfect almond croissant, I picked up one of their monstrous giant Almond Croissants. To date, on par with Margaret River Bakery and Le Renaissance. So a strong recommendation for that one!
We then stopped in for a quick coffee at the quirky Empire Coffee Co, a Star Wars themed café. I wasn’t overly blown away by my coffee but the fit-out was cool.
And just a few paces away, the darling little Hello Naomi. A small specialist cake store that makes made to order cakes for occasions, as well as a Thurs – Sat operation selling cupcakes, small cakes and cookies. My Choc Chip Cookie was crispy and chewy. Everything you want in a cookie really.
After a general squiz around Merewether beach we made our final trip to Darby Street to check out a few stores, did a bit of impulse buying and picked up the cutest burger earrings at Blackbird Corner.
And with that we bid adieu to Newcastle and make our way over to our final stop, lunch at Newy Burger Co which I’ll detail in a separate post.
Newy you’re pretty cool and really not all that far away.