If you’re longing for a quick getaway from Sydney, Newcastle is the perfect destination as long as you’re into small towns, food and ocean baths. Most people would probably drive to Newcastle, but we take the train. Within Newcastle we take buses (where Opal also works, FYI) to get around quite easily.
The reason Eric takes me to Newcastle for the weekend is for an anniversary dinner at subo. The five course menu for $85 is fantastic value. The first course of mooloolaba scallop, ‘XO’ stock, Jamon Iberico and lemon balm is too gingery for me, but the next course of steamed barramundi from Arnhem Land, dashi, braised daikon & puffed barley is perfection. The dashi is full of flavor, the barley is crunchy, the barra is tender. It’s an easy favorite tonight. Roasted Byron Bay Berskhire pork, prune, hazelnut and sansho follows. It’s beautifully plated – a flawless balance of sweet and savory. The penultimate course is a segue to desserts: the black grape granita and buttermilk sorbet is refreshing but a bit too sweet for my liking. Eric enjoys it a lot though. The final course of passionfruit ice cream with black sesame praline, steamed meringue and candied passionfruit seeds is right up my alley. Tangy, sweet, nutty, soft, crisp – everything I love!
Napoli Centrale Pizza Bar
The pizza is killer here, but I’m not too impressed with the lackluster gnocchi, which seems to be store-bought and doused in a bland tomato sauce. Anyway, get the pizza – it’s good. My go-to is always Diavola (San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella, basil, spicy salami) and I’m not disappointed at Napoli Centrale.
The Lucky Hotel
We stay at The Lucky Hotel for the night, but when we’re hungry in the afternoon we check out the courtyard of the pub. There’s a cool vibe thanks to the exposed brick walls and abundance of greenery. The chilli cheese fries go down a treat with a glass of cider.
Newcastle City Farmers Markets
The Sunday market at Newcastle Showground is well worth a visit. Everything from the freshest produce to food and crafts is available for your browsing pleasure. I make a stop at the Dutch pancake van to get a plate of poffertjes. The mini pancakes are fluffy but not quite like the poffertjes I know (which are a bit rounder and sweeter). Eric picks up a continental breakfast pie filled with bacon, tomato and egg. And then we take back a loaf of sourdough from Baked Uprising plus the best quark I’ve had in Australia from Marrook Farm.
Three Bean Espresso Apothecary Kitchen
We get to Apothecary Kitchen when they’re about to close, but they’re kind enough to let us order a dish of their salads. And they’re freaking tasty! My favorite part is that the salads are out of the box. There’s boiled egg with dill and cornichons; there’s a tomato and potato salad heroing cumin; there’s quinoa teamed with cabbage; there’s pumpkin with pops of sunflower seeds. I look into it later on to find that there’s also a regular menu other than the big bowls of salads they’ve got on offer.
Blue Door Kiosk
Even though it’s cool and cloudy, we take a bus to Merewether Beach. It’s worth it for the beautiful tranquility, and even more worth it for the stunning ocean baths. At the beach I try a raw salted caramel cocowhip, which tastes a lot better than I expected. Made from coconut, it’s a completely vegan soft serve. I was pleasantly surprised by how tasty, fresh and light it is.