The Steel City has rejuvenated itself in a big way over the last decade, and it seems there's a new bar, cafe, deli, or restaurant throwing open its doors every week. Darby Street in Cooks Hill and Beaumont Street in Hamilton are still the main drink-n-dine strips but there's no shortage of great eats popping up in Newcastle's old industrial spots too.
Chef Beau Vincent flies the innovation flag at Subo, the only two-hatted restaurant in town. Expect inventive dishes such astataki of hiramasa kingfish with dehydrated miso and black sesame or goat's curd ice-cream with watermelon and lemon aspen granita. Up the other end of Hunter Street, the big-night-out, one-hatted Restaurant Mason serves top-notch produce cooked with classic technique by chef Chris Thornton.
For something casual, Napoli Centrale has Newcastle's best and most blistered-crust pizza, or if you feel takeaway fish 'n chips on the beach then visit local-institution Scottie's where catch-of-the-day has been frying since 1950.
In the morning, hop over to the sleepy industrial island of Carrington and hit the super-relaxed Ground Up Espresso for what might be the region's best coffee. The black stuff at the share-house-like Suspension Espresso is sensational too (Ground Up actually uses Suspension beans) and see Rolador, Dark Horse Espresso, Welsh Blacks and Good Brother for other quality cake and caffeine hits.
If you want something more substantial than just coffee for breakfast, the local-produce-loving Three Bean Espresso serves velvety scrambled eggs on La Tartine sourdough and French toast with poached blood plums, creme anglaise, and creme fraiche (not the healthiest start to day, sure, but a damn delicious one).
Subo, 551D Hunter Street, Newcastle West, 02 4023 4048, subo.com.au
Restaurant Mason, 3/35 Hunter Street, Newcastle, 02 4926 1014, restaurantmason.com
Napoli Centrale, 173 King Street, Newcastle, 02 4023 2339, napolicentrale.com.au
Scottie's, 36 Scott Street, Newcastle East, 02 4926 3780
Ground Up Espresso, 87 Young Street, Carrington, 02 4965 3901
Suspension Espresso, 3 Beaumont Street, Isinglington, 02 4962 2717, suspensionespresso.com.au
Rolador, 1 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, 02 4969 1786
Dark Horse Espresso, 24 Greenway Street, Wickham, 0449 540 463
Welsh Blacks, 84 Bull Street, Cooks Hill, 02 4927 5534
Good Brother, 40 King Street, 02 4023 3158
Three Bean Espresso, 103 Tudor Street, Hamilton, 02 4961 2020
Craft-beer boffins are well served in Novocastria. What was once a grain and keg warehouse for Tooheys is now The Grain Store, a handsomely refurbished, timber-floored bar, with 21 unique taps featuring beers from Australian breweries like Mountain Goat, Prickly Moses, Murrays, and Hargreaves Hill. Additionally, The Blind Monk has 12 craft taps (and $1 oysters on Sundays), The Albion Hotel stocks a huge range of bottled beer from around the globe, and The Hop Factory is the place for a burger and Batlow cider.
In an old bank near Hunter Street Mall, Reserve Wine Bar has Newcastle's most encyclopaedic and fun wine list. Any of the owners on duty will be more than happy to guide you through the carefully curated selections of Hunter semillon and Lake's Folly cabernet. One of the newer kids on the bar block is Fortunate Son where former Bacchus sommelier and general manager Andrew Clifton-Smith and his wife Liz have created a cosy little nook for grown-ups. The couple have put together a sharp wine list that focuses on low intervention, natural winemaking and a flip of the page reveals a knock-out selection of whisky, rye, and gin. There's also killer bar snacks by way of ox-tongue croquettes, sake pickled carrots, and black pudding with brioche and quince.
Casa de Loco offers a slice of Mexican summer with the scent of ocean salt in the air and jugs of sangria laden with watermelon, mint, cinnamon and lemonade. It also has more than 80 tequilas and mezcals and very agreeable pecorino cheese empanadas.
For the best all-round bar, head to The Edwards, and old coin-op laundry transformed into one of Newcastle's hottest spots by Chris Johnston (Suspension, Good Brother) and Silverchair bass player Chris Joannou. The high-ceilinged, heavily-timbered joint features whole lemon-roast chickens, a rocking vinyl soundtrack, and Young Henrys on tap.
The Grain Store Craft Beer Cafe, 64-66 Scott Street, Newcastle East, 02 4023 2707, grainstorenewcastle.com.au
The Blind Monk, 76 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, 02 4023 5290, theblindmonk.com.au
The Albion Hotel, 72 Hannell Street, Wickham, 02 4962 2411, thealbion.com.au
The Hop Factory, 102 Darby Street, Cooks Hill, 02 4929 4854, thehopfactory.com.au
Reserve Wine Bar, 102 Hunter Street, Newcastle, 02 4929 3393, reservewinebar.com.au
Fortunate Son, 131 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, 02 4961 0512, fortunateson.com.au
Casa de Loco, 10 Pacific Street, Newcastle East, 02 4929 6828, casadeloco.com.au
The Edwards, 148 Parry Street, Newcastle West, 02 4965 3845, theedwards.com.au
It's not hard to load up on delicious produce and baked goods in "Newy". The Newcastle Farmers' Market is held Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings at the Newcastle Showground and neighbouring Hunter Stadium. You'll find all the fresh fruit and veg one expects at farmers' market plus Port Stephens oysters, saltbush lamb, and Jersey-cow milk from Over the Moon that takes creaminess to new levels. Hunter Valley Pasta Co. usually has a stall there too, but if you can't make it to market the fresh pasta masters have a store open six days a week. The butternut pumpkin, sage, and goats cheese ravioli is well worth picking up.
For all things smoked and cured, take a drive to Mayfield for a visit to Pork Ewe Deli where owner Shannon Davis stocks a beaut range of charcuterie, antipasto and international cheese. You'll probably want to take that cheese and charcuterie to King Edward Park, and you'll probably want some bread to eat it with it. Swing by the exposed brick of Baked Uprising for one Alice Lees' excellent baguettes and grab a couple of lamingtons while you're at it.
Newcastle Farmers' Market, Turton Road, Broadmeadow, 02 4930 5156, newcastlecityfarmersmarket.com.au
Hunter Valley Pasta Co., 126 Bridges Road, New Lambton, 02 4952 8022, huntervalleypastaco.com.au
Pork Ewe Deli, 144 Maitland Road, Mayfield, 0434 988 336, porkewe.com.au
Baked Uprising, 21/25 Downie Street, Maryville, 02 4962 5669, bakeduprising.com.au
Carrington Place is a beautifully restored corner-pub with comfortable rooms and a fine-dining restaurant downstairs that makes up for the shared bathrooms upstairs. Crowne Plaza overlooks the mouth of the Hunter River and there's a number of bars and restaurants close by in the Honeysuckle precinct. If it's sea spray you're after, Noah's on the Beach has Newcastle's finest ocean views.
Carrington Place, 132 Young Street, Carrington, 02 4961 1116, carringtonplace.com.au
Crowne Plaza Newcastle, Corner of Merewether Street and Wharf Road, Newcastle, 02 4907 5000, crowneplazanewcastle.com.au
Noah's on the Beach, Shortland Esplanade, Newcastle East, 02 4929 5181, noahsonthebeach.com.au