Tuesday, August 28, 2012

spoiled rotten

I live less than five minutes walk from this: the largest ocean baths in the Southern Hemisphere. And, arguably, one of the prettiest. My breath never ceases to be taken whenever I stand at the headland looking down over Merewether, across the gorgeous new SurfHouse, down past Dixon to Bar Beach. It's stunning. It's one of the reasons why we moved back to Newcastle 11 years ago.

When we moved to Sydney I thought we'd never come back here. But in the few short years we lived in Newtown and then Bronte Newcastle started experiencing an incredible renaissance. Darby Street swelled from a couple of restaurants and a cafe to the fabulous eating strip that it is now - and that confidence has now spread across the town. People are doing great things - which is inspiring others to try as well.

We are spoiled for choice. When I want to catch up with a friend for coffee we can easily rattle off a list of 10 cafés to meet at. Easily. And we've left off loads. Sure, we have our faves {often ones without the annoying parking metres out the front that double the cost of your latte} - but there are still many on my must-try list.

And fine dining? Woah. Where do I start? I think what makes Newcastle's dining scene so exceptional is the genuine delight the chefs have in their food and in their town. I follow a few chefs on Twitter and love checking out their pics where they're foraging for Samphire off the Newcastle coastline to feature in that night's dishes. Tim Montgomery from Bacchus {which would have to win some kind of prize for the country's most stunning restaurant, with an inspired menu to match} showed pics the other day of the community garden they're working on near the cathedral - talk about herbs with a view! And every time there's a glowing article about Newcastle {and there are MANY - the secret is out} the chefs and cafés are the first to sing each other's praises.

We do cool things in Newy too. Like this:

This is the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery cocktail night for The Archibalds. Local restaurant Silo, on the grittily-pretty Honeysuckle harbour, supplied the cocktails and fingerfood for the night. While local artists and a subject discussed their work. Brilliant. Unique. Novel. I can't wait to see what they come up with when they expand.

Here's a pic from one of my fave nights recently. The Roost Creative {a Renew Newcastle project} came up with a brilliant idea to host an exhibition at Good Brother café - featuring local business Sid Cohen's rubber stamps. It was called Good Rubber and a range of fab artists redesigned their art for a new medium. Rubber stamps. So. Much. Talent. The night went off. Over 200 people RSVPd on facebook saying they were coming and the people spilling out onto the sidewalk pretty much backed up those numbers. The joy in the room was palpable.

At the end of the night most of us trekked down to The Terrace Bar, the newest small bar to open in Newcastle. It was like stepping into a very cool party. There was a DJ spinning vintage vinyl, with tunes from the 50s, and loads of sharp-dressed guys and gals dancing up a storm: complete with authentic moves. Can you imagine? Joyful.

I love new ideas, new concepts, new things to do. Last Saturday night was the first Darby Street Bohemia Festival - so we went along. We saw a lot of cool things. Like this:

Look at the love and care put into the stall at Blackbird Corner. Vintage tablecloths, gorgeous bunting, fabulous smiling faces. It's people like these that make this town a true pleasure to live in.

And it continues. Work is currently taking place in the old ANZ Bank building in Newcastle, turning it into a small bar. Excitement doesn't quite cover how I feel. And it won't be the last. While we continue to enthusiastically support these new initiatives, more will be born. How GOOD is that?

Here's the latest article, complete with food recommendations by chefs. Great, now I have to add MORE places to try...

Love this city. Do you? Share your tales here. Go on - hit me with MORE places I need to try.


  1. Yep, yep and yep. xT

  2. I really need to get to Carrington Place, Sinofood and one of the seasonal dinners at Inner City Winemakers. TOO. MUCH. CHOICE.

  3. Actually it's people like these that make this town a true pleasure to live in.
    Your enthusiasm never ceases to pep me up!
    Thankyou for complimenting our first ever stall. Glad you liked it! We coiuldn't stop being giggling gerties all night. Such fun!

    1. See, just what I love! Enthusiasm, sharing the love, giggling, general awesomness...

  4. Hi. I left Newcastle in 1991 and moved back last year, almost to the day! I lived in Sydney then the Central Coast for those twenty years, but never lost contact with Newcastle because my family still lived here.

    The changes in Newcastle have been enormous. The cafe scene that has emerged over time reminds me of Balmain or Newtown in the '90's, without the parking and traffic nightmares of Sydney.

    I have loved discovering (I'm sure you're aware of them already) some of the specialist strip shops in various suburbs around town, such as Lambton, New Lambton and Cooks Hill.

    I went to an antiques shop in Lambton looking for vintage material, which I found. They threw in some vintage lace edging for free! I have a sewing venture in the pipeline as a creative outlet. One off scarves and wraps. Still researching and haven't had the time to dedicate to the project as yet, but I will. I've been meaning to take myself off to the various markets around town to see everything that's on offer.

    Coffee shop wise I have a soft spot for Goldbergs, although the parking is becoming a little nutty in Cooks Hill these days. I love the Bank Cafe on Bellevue Street near Bank Corner and the Fernleigh Cafe just down from the Fernleigh Track at Adamstown. Great food and service at both of them.

    BTW, love your blog!

    1. Wow, we must have left around the same time! I also love Bank Corner cafe - I wrote a blog post a while back on Instagrammable cafes and it features strongly!

      You must visit Olive Tree Markets this saturday at The Junction school - they're amazing. Thanks for commenting, and popping by x

  5. When we come home, I'd seriously consider moving to Newcastle. It's on the list. xx

  6. I am a failed surfie chick from Merewether having lived through my own Puberty Blues in the 70s then Newcastle's mini "new wave" trends of the 80s. After finishing Uni I left in 1988 and thought I would never return. After years in Sydney (11) and London (4) our little family decided to "get a life" and returned 10 years ago. It was the best thing we ever did. I too catch my breath when I look along the beach towards Bar and sighting the ocean baths at Merewether is such a tonic. The days of my (misspent) youth are long gone and I am loving the "new" Newey.

    1. Hi Lou, sounds like there are lots of parallels between our lives (although I'm dead-envious of your London-years). It is a gorgeous place isn't it? Lucky, lucky us.

  7. The Terrance bar is a awesome place to be.


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