Monday, 25 April 2011

Newcastle Delights

Nobbys Head, Newcastle
To many, Newcastle is best known as being the major coal port in NSW and the gateway to the Hunter Valley. To others, Newcastle is remembered for the infamous Pashabolka incident, birthplace of Silverchair and hometown of Jennifer Hawkins. However, did you know Newcastle was named in the top 10 must-see destinations in the world, according to Lonely Planet's 'Best in Travel 2011' book?
Recently, Mr FBC and I spent a weekend in Newcastle visiting our good Novocastrian friends, Frenchie and the PM. It was a fun filled weekend of eating, chatting and relaxing with our friends who showed us around their hometown and their local haunts. Here are a few of the Newcastle delights that we found: 
 Sprocket Roasters, Newcastle CBD

We started the weekend with a coffee at Sprocket Roasters which is set in an old heritage listed ex-bank building in the heart of the Newcastle CBD. Well, everyone except for Mr FBC who has recently given up coffee. One day he woke up, had a coffee and decided he just didn’t like it anymore.

Our friends hadn’t actually been here before, but were given a recommendation from a couple they met the night before at a Trivia night fundraising for their local Community Garden. Very random. Even more random was bumping into said 'Community Garden Trivia night couple' at the cafĂ©. 
Sprocket is quirky with a bit of a rockabilly feel to it. It serves its award winning Sprocket Roasters Coffee which according to it's website is "brought to you by a rogue collective - engineers, farmers, lawyers, teachers, winemakers and yoga instructors - who have quit our days jobs as we have a consuming passion for all things coffee".
Frenchie tried ordering his new favourite coffee, a cortado. I had no idea what it was and I’m not sure if the barista knew either. According to Wikipedia, a cortado is an expresso cut with a small amount of warm milk to reduce to acidity. The ratio of milk to coffee is between 1:1 – 1:2 and the milk is added after the expresso. On this occasion, I think Frenchie got a piccolo latte which is probably more well known. It’s also meant to be a shot of espresso topped with steamed milk.

Croquembouche Taste Testing
A big drawcard for this particular visit to Newcastle was the invitation to be  official ‘Croquenbouche’ taste testers in selecting a wedding cake for Frenchie and the PM's upcoming nuptials.  
We had planned to visit a few patisseries in the Newcastle area and naively thought each patisserie would miraculously have profiteroles to taste.  Unfortunately, our profiterole miracle didn’t eventuate at our first stop – Snows Patisserie at The Junction - although there was an abundant array of delectable pastries and baked goods available.
In desperation, we thought we could try and estimate the potential quality of a Snow Patisserie profiterole by correlating against tasting quality of a croissant and a blueberry tart. OK - perhaps it's just that we didn't want to leave the place without trying something. Frenchie said the croissant was very flaky and the blueberry tart was tasty. Overall profiterole score: N/A.
Croissant at Snows Patisserie
Blueberry Tart
We were actually in luck at the second patisserie shop - Sweet Poison in Market-town, Newcastle West. The pastry chef was actually preparing a croquembuche for an order and could provide 2 profiteroles to taste test if we were willing to wait for about 10 minutes.
Cakes on display at Sweet Poison
We were actually legitimate with our taste testing quest, but I wonder if people go around to pastry shops pretending to taste test for a potential wedding cake? "Oh, I’d like to try some of the red velvet cake and the..ermmm.. cheese cake… it’s for a ‘wedding’". Don’t get any ideas now!
Profiterole - Ready for  the taste test
After idling  our time looking at the typical surburban shops in Newcastle West Market-town, it was time to taste our pair of profiteroles. 
Profiterole Cross Section
Overall Profiterole Score: Shape = good, Custard = plenty of vanilla creaminess and not too eggy, Toffee= Loved the generous amount of toffee which produced a  lovely crunch. (Note: Frenchie and the PM have decided to go with the profiterole tower at Poisson for their wedding cake).

Newcastle Fishermans Coop (Wickham) 
We’d been tirelessly driving around Newcastle in search of profiteroles and we needed lunch. Frenchie thought it be great to pick up some fresh seafood from the Newcastle Fishermans Coop in Wickham for a tasty BBQ seafood lunch. There was plenty good selection of seafood and I even found lots of local products, including Myall Lakes Prawns. They have an interesting website where you can view the types of seafood available

Fresh Fish
Remnants from our tasty seafood lunch

Longworth House – Cocktails and Tapas

Later in the evening, PM had a great idea of trying out a tapas bar in Newcastle CBD at Longworth House, located in one of Newcastle's most significant heritage buildings and built in 1892. 
Longworth House contains a number of ballrooms which can be used for functions, but it also has an informal lounge area where you can enjoy cocktails and tapas in elegant surrounds. Picture marble fireplaces, murano glass chandeliers, chaise lounges and velvet curtains. It's pretty dark inside -apologies for the really grainy looking photos.

The issue I have with tapas menus is that there is often too much choice and decision making is difficult.  This is usually overcome by making sure you have enough people to order nearly every on the menu.
We started with polenta bites with aoili, which were stacked in a Jenga puzzle like arrangement. They were beautifully crisp and filled with fluffy polenta.
Polenta Bites 10
The stuffed squid with chorizo and fetta was delicious although difficult to share as a tapas item.
Stuffed Squid w/- Chorizo and Fetta 16
A crowd favourite was the mushroom arrancini balls.
Mushroom Arrancini 12
Can you often guess what your husband, wife or partner will order from a menu? I can... Mr FBC likes anything with pork belly in it. Thus, we ordered the confit pork belly.  
Confit Pork Belly 16
We ordered sherry mushrooms for good measure.  I really love the simplicity of sauteed mushrooms, particularly swiss browns.
Sherry Roasted Mushrooms 10
Mr FBC also has a thing for meatballs. These meatballs morsels were delicious and slathered with a thick flavoursome tomato sauce.  To help lap up the sauce, we ordered some grilled flat bread. 
Grilled Flat Bread 5

Breakfast at Rolador, Hamilton
For Sunday brunch,  we decided to check out Rolador cafe in Hamilton. It's a favourite of Frenchie and the PM with its great coffee, funky character and smattering of retro knicknacks. The breakfast menu is extensive ranging from bacon and egg rolls to breakfast burritos.
Bacon and Egg Roll
Breakfast Burrito

Newcastle really suprised me with it's array of food delights. I think we only scratched the surface of what Newcastle has to offer. Until next time.....
Big thanks to Frenchie and the PM for showing us all the Newcastle Delights :)

68 Hunter Street (corner Watt Street)
Newcastle NSW
Sweet Poison
Market Town Shopping Centre, Shop 15, Parry St
Newcastle West NSW
Snows Patisserie
144 Union St, The Junction NSW
Newcastle Fishermans Coop
97 Hannell Street
Wickham NSW
Longworth House
129 Scott Street,
Newcastle NSW
Wed - Fri 5pm-12pm
1 Beaumont Street
Hamilton NSW