Continuous golden beaches flow down the coast in either direction into a horizon of shipping barges coming and going. “We are different in that we have this laid-back surf culture that mixes with the working class, pub-rocking theme and somehow at this mix comes unique things. It’s such an amazing city because it’s so dynamic,” Steven Pickett, Director of Newcastle Live and Managing Director of EAO Entertainment, told us in voice that boomed with proudness for his hometown. “If you tried to recreate it, it just wouldn’t work.” It is this singular and distinctive setting that has defined, cured and conditioned Newcastle to be a potent dose of beach, food and music in modern Australia.
Dine x Drink
Opened in 2014, one visit to The Edwards proved they have already established a unique foundation in the city’s food scene. It is co-owned by former Silverchair bass player Chris Joannou and Chris Johnston who have designed an industrial chic environment that is raw, yet warm.
The menu is hearty and extensive and you can expect everything from Smoked Potato with nduja dressing and mojo mayo ($12) to Sticky Chicken Wings with molasses and chilli ($12) to risotto, fish and burger assortments. We went with the Pork Belly with Pea Puree, Fried Zucchini Flower, Prune, Sherry and Macadamia ($28). Visually, it’s stunning. The pea puree pops next to the brown prune, the white pork belly meat and the light brown and glistening pork crackle and fried zucchini flower. The minced prune forms a sticky jam that is a vibrant hit of sweetness against the earthy, silky pea puree and pork that dissolves in your mouth.
The Edwards has 12 rotating taps of beer which were taken up by independent breweries as well as a widespread list of cocktails and wines from the nearby Hunter Valley to help you explore the tastes of the surrounding regions.
The Edwards is more than a café stop. You can add record store and laundromat to that. Yes, a laundromat. It’s an homage to the locations earlier role as a laundromat and offers the complete, professional wash & steam laundry services of blankets, doonas, ironing, bed linen, business shirts, fluff & fold and coin-operate machines. An overhead vacuum captures excess steam during their wash & steam service and recycles it to lessen their energy usage. If you ever needed motivation to do your laundry, perhaps having a beer whilst you do it will get you there.
The record store next door is run by Chris “Dunny” Dunn who used to run Sydney’s Waterfront records in the 1990’s. After overhearing Chris politely correct a customer that a band was not from Newcastle but “actually more around Maitland”, Chris proudly boasted to me that The Edwards is “the most unique place in Australia; get a beer and then get a record” and well, you can add doing your laundry to that list too Chris.
Merewether Surfhouse Café
With a complete view of Merewether Beach’s golden sands, the Surfhouse Café is the perfect sun-bleached spot for a lazy, late brunch or early, post-morning workout. The Café is open 7 days a week and sits on the promenade below the rest of the Surfhouse’s spaces: Surfhouse Restaurant, Surfhouse Bar and Pizza Kiosk. All of which off their own different offerings.
The fresh breeze blew in our hair as the sounds of nearby crashing waves soundtracked our delightful, and light start to the day. Amongst a list that contained the likes of Ricotta Pancakes ($18.90) and Grilled Salmon Fillet ($24.90), we chose the fresh and bright Fresh Breakfast Board ($21.90).
A punch of chili in the labna livened up the stacked leg ham, poached egg and tomato salsa towers we constructed on top of the toasted rye bread. It was the quintessential café experience – quick service mixed with a cheerful meal in the fresh airs of the early-morning glow of a new day.
The Grain Store
When it comes to Newcastle spirit we didn’t experience it more anywhere else than The Grain Store Craft Beer Cafe. It was the only location to be showing celebrations about the Newcastle Jets upcoming A-League Final appearance that was being played in Newcastle. Red and blue balloons adorned the entrance way to the building and once inside, more red and blue decorations filled the space.
But The Grain Store wasn’t ending their cheerfulness at streamers and balloons. We met owner Corey Crooks whose hands were tinted blue from, as he showed us on his phone, adding red and blue coloured dyes to their beers for social media posts. “I probably overdid it,” Corey said with a laugh as he inspected his hands, “we won’t be selling them on [Grand Final night] but I guess if anyone requests it we’ll do it for them.”
Located in Newcastle’s Historic East End, the building on the corner of Scott and Telford St. was built in 1885 by J.T. Toohey of Tooheys Brewery; but don’t expect to find any Tooheys on tap or in bottles. Corey is happy to boast about the venues 21 beer taps that only feature 100% independently owned and 100% Australian brewed craft beers.
For Koningsdad (King’s Day in the Netherlands), the week prior to our visit Corey sourced in Dutch beers as well as added Dutch food items to their kitchen. The tap-list behind the bar constantly evolves by the week so patrons can expect something new every time they visit.
Staples like a Rib Eye on the Bone ($39) are sourced from the Hunter Valley and their menu is largely to focused on Americana-barbeque with the likes of ribs, brisket and wings. The Grain Store offers crab, mushroom, chicken, brisket and kransky options for their burgers and all are nicely priced between $16 and $21. All items on the menu are paired with suggestions on what type of beer would accompany your meal best.
The Lucky Hotel
Located on Hunter Street, The Lucky Hotels’ normal front entrance is engulfed by the city’s ongoing light-rail construction. But whilst staff remarked to us that Hunter Streets closure to car traffic and majority of pedestrians has impacted their day-trade, the venue was a hive of energy for our visit which speaks volumes to their food, bar and room offerings. The building dates back to the 1800s and even after a major renovation in 2014, they have naturally kept original features as the heroes of their historic yet trendy aesthetic and vibe.
The restaurant space is a roofed-courtyard space with a ceiling that is 3 storeys above you. Animations and projections are paired with scattered fairy lights to create a dimly lit, warm and comfortable environment. Whilst the venue pays homage to its colonial architecture, the menu does a complete opposite. Enter The Lucky’s American Barbeque feast.
Their meats are smoked slow and low over hickory wood for up to 14 hours at 115 degrees and we advise you try and not eat for 14 hours before you head over because portion sizes will more than satisfy you and more than likely induce you into a hickory, carnivorous coma.
The bar offers 16 different cocktails and all are priced under $19. After trying to make our minds up between such intrigues like the Lemon Meringue Pie ($17) or Unicorn Punch ($17), we opted for The Churchill ($17). It’s base of Scotch, Fireball, Licor 43, Espresso, Maple Syrup and Black Walnut Bitters was the perfect earthy yet sweet friend to the Smoked Pork Ribs ($29).
Soon enough, two glistening, rods of 5cm thick pork ribs floated towards our table. At first, the size of the stacked plate being carried out of the kitchen had us thinking someone had ordered one of their sharing meat platters ($80-$130) but then it was lowered (its weight meant two hands were needed) in front of us. Thinly charred sides opposed the pale pork meat that fell of the bone with a simple swipe of the fork. It was the best value-for-money dish we’ve had in recent memory.
The writer stayed as a guest of Visit Newcastle. While in Newcastle, we stayed at The Lucky Hotel. For more information on all businesses covered in the piece, or to explore more you can head to Visit Newcastle HERE.