Work led me back up to Newcastle and the Hunter region this week. I’ve been in this role for a few months now and luckily I am finding my feet as it’s getting to the point where I can no longer pass myself off as a newbie. But while work becomes more routine, the trips up north continue to feel foreign.
When I first arrived to boarding school in Australia, I never imagined I would, well, still be here today. When I started my law degree, it obviously never occurred to me that I would end up graduating and not using it. And when I started my first big girl job around this time last year, I never would have fathomed that my pinball-esque trajectory would lead me to a career in regional NSW.
We were a day early for the purpose of our visit which gave us a bit of leisure time. You wouldn’t have thought it but Newcastle is fast becoming a spot on the map to mark if you’re passionate about food like I am. It took a bit of tricky web navigation to find a restaurant that was open for dinner on a Sunday night, but we ended up picking one that afforded us a nice scenic walk along the foreshore.
I found Supper Lane on HunterHunter and it was touted as a bread and cheese specialty shop. Absolutely no surprises that it was the restaurant we went with, as those are literally my two favourite things to eat in the whole world. Putting aside sea urchin, steamed fish with superior sauce, ocean trout, bagels, dumplings and all that jazzed up food of course, sometimes simple is best. If you’re a local then you already know that Supper Lane is a venture by Baked Uprising, a well-known Newcastle bakery.
It was a slightly chilly night for summer, a long table outside of the restaurant had patrons bundled up in woollen blankets. Walking in, you got that same home-y vibe of toasted marshmallows, mulled wine and a warm fire going. The aroma inside told the same story, mostly due to a freshly baked orange tart strategically placed at the centre of the room, stealing the show.
The dinner menu has just the right amount of variety. There are smalls to share, several mains, some sides and DIY cured meats and cheese platter options. We’re all visual creatures though and it doesn’t take us long to be drawn to the cheese cabinet that boasts well more than a dozen varieties.
Cheeseboard with 3 varieties $27 – Heidi Farm Tilsit, Gorgonzola Dolce, Buche de Chevre
A knowledgeable waitress helped us make informed decisions on which cheese to get. It’s a no-brainer for me to always get a goats cheese when available. The Buche de Chevre intrigued me because of its log-shape and the clear markings of two different textures. The outer ring is creamy like a brie while the inner section is slightly chalky. It’s salty, pungent and slightly sour, not one for the faint hearted or a goats cheese virgin. It worked best for me with the muted rye bread.
Gorgonzola cheese generally needs no introduction as a variety of blue cheese and again, this was one of the strongest cheeses I’ve ever had. It’s slightly too salty for me but pairing this one with the sourdough made it more palatable. True to its name, there is a slightly sweet note at the end.
Last but definitely not least is the Heidi Farm Tilsit, a waitress recommendation after I asked for a semi-hard cheese. Texture-wise, it’s quite similar to other semi-hards like Comte and Jarlsberg. But where Jarlsberg has a more watered down taste, the Tilsit is a lot more savoury. In comparison to the other two, it was very easy-going and the least salty. I liked it with the dried fruit but you could even have it on its own.
Tartare – Fillet, beetroot, chevre, rye, caraway $17
Supper Lane’s tartare was good. I particularly liked how orange the egg yolk was and how the fresh bits of what I can only guess to be onion and salad things revitalised it. According to the menu there was also chevre in the mix, which is again, goats cheese.
The hallmark of a good tartare for me, aside from quality, fresh beef, has to be a decent amount of the right seasoning. There are no cooking techniques to hide behind when it comes to tartare, it’s about as butt naked as you can get with raw meat and you don’t want it to taste like dead animal. I like a lot of my food raw and tartare has always been a favourite of mine. But ever since having the Korean rendition, yukhoe, at Kim Restaurant (now closed) I haven’t really been able to appreciate its Western counterpart in the same way.
Chicken liver parfait $17
At this point we were probably hitting our sodium intake for the year but out came the final piece to our dinner puzzle, a liver parfait. While it was very smooth, I thought it was slightly dense and more paté than parfait. But consistency and semantics aside, this was another incredibly tasty offering. I’ve also never had parfait with cherries and it absolutely works, especially with the gelatinous base that was made out of some kind of cherry syrup.
We left feeling quite satiated and all for the reasonable price of $32 per person (without drinks). Dessert was tempting but being comfortably full seemed like the right adult thing to do instead of my usual eating out strategy of being stupidly full.
I woke up the next morning at my daily ridiculous hour to use the gym before work. After I finished my routine, I couldn’t help but take a quick wander to the pier as the sun was rising. It was still early enough that no one was around, it felt like the water, the grass, the ground and the exposed brick walls were just waking up. The way the light was hitting at life that morning, reaffirmed what I already knew. That there was absolutely no way I could have envisioned a path in my life that would take me somewhere this beautiful.