When travelling into non-metro NSW, the first thing one should do is Google whether there are any hatted restaurants in the area.
Newcastle wasn’t my first choice of holiday destination, but it was the most affordable in early January and its appeal was boosted by the fact that it boasts TWO one hat restaurants. Restaurant Deux and Bacchus. I chose Bacchus due to its more impressive website and the great reviews it has on Eatability.
We walked from our accom to the restaurant and there were a few “Are we on the wrong street?” moments because all we could see were run-down buildings and car parks. The restaurant’s exterior is unassuming, just an old looking brick building and a sign. But then you walk into this…
Totally unexpected loveliness!! The ambience is so romantic – this is the kind of restaurant you would propose in. It was a bit wasted on two girlfriends, but if you’re ever looking for a hot date spot in Newcastle – THIS IS IT. One of the prettiest restaurants I’ve been to – the dining area is in the centre of the room on a timber floor that feels like it used to be a dance floor. The seated area is bordered by cocktail lounges and a wall-length bar at the back. Ornate chandeliers hang off the ceiling which is double storey heigh with a viewing balcony all the way around the perimeter of the second floor. The restaurant is open, spacious, and intimate at the same time.
The building that houses the restaurant is the old Newcastle Central Hall – opened in 1903 it appears to have had a history as a movie theatre, a live theatre, and a Methodist place of worship. The interior is so well preserved and the rustic, theatrical charm creates a rare and truly unique restaurant space. I’ve seen nothing like it.
Being the Tiger Bride, my immediate thought was “This would be a beautiful place for a wedding reception!” and I was SO right. Check out I Love Wednesdays’ gorgeous wedding photos of the venue. Scroll down about halfway – her photos actually do the venue justice.
OH MY WORD it gets better – more photos from Something Blue Photography. WAAAHH having a bad case of wedding venue envy!!!!!!!
But enough of that… on to the food! I had high expectations – there was no way a venue like this could be let down with mediocre food.
My cocktail du jour. Apples this way, apples that way, something something and a chilli rinse. Sweet, tart with a tingly sensation to finish off . Sip sip!
Not one, but TWO bread rolls! Little things like this excite me. It’s the first thing you eat so I like to judge a restaurant by its bread. The top was wholemeal with some unidentifiable flavour (cheese maybe?) and the second was a soft damper-like white. I usually like my breads crusty but warm and pillowy is second best!
Amuse bouche – Labneh with pistachios, pomegranate and olives. This was SO GOOD – a really simple but creative and delicious “salad” starter. Often the amuse is my favourite part of the meal… the fact that it is sort of “complimentary” probably helps haha.
This is a bit random but I really liked the cutlery too! Unique and stylish cutlery does make a difference.
Entree – Veal sweetbread, fig, smoked duck and albufera. What’s albufera?? I have no idea… Googling it now. Okay it appears to be some sort of french “minor sauce” whatever that means….. WHOA just found a recipe for it with no less than 15 ingredients!! Gosh, respect to all sauces and sauciers. Needless to say, this was delicious – veal sweetbreads are always a neverfail menu choice.
White pyrenees lamb, yoghurt soup, mint and potato. White pyrenees lamb appears to be some super-breed of lamb reared in the Pyrenees ranges of Victoria. When I saw this dish my first thought was “This is tiny!!!” (the photo is VERY zoomed in) but by the time I finished it I was surprisingly full. At first glance, it appears to only have one piece of lamb, but you soon realise that its lamb done four ways. Describing the four ways is beyond me – but there was definitely enough meat on the plate. And some gnocchi-style potato cushions and a yogurt soup I could have drunk from the vessel!
Dessert – YES IT WAS AS GOOD AS IT LOOKS! The humble menu name for this dish was “Chocolate, Coconut, Cherry”. The pretentious molecular name for this dish would be “Deconstructed Cherry Ripe” – cherry sorbet, glace cherries, liquid nitrogen frozen coconut pieces, chocolate cake pieces and chocolate “dirt”. And it tasted exactly like Cherry Ripe, or it’s rich and elegant great-grand mother.
If Bacchus was in Sydney, I would definitely go back. Every year. On Valentines Day or my anniversary. I didn’t expect a regional one-hat to be this good, but everything was perfect – from the atmosphere, to the friendly service, to the sophisticated yet unpretentious food, to the toilets. And that leads me too…
Like the bread rolls, I also judge a restaurant by its toilets. You can’t quite grasp the standard of luxury of a place until a visit to the bathroom. You don’t want your trip to the ladies to be a harsh fluorescent contrast to the rest of your evening. It needs to blend into the entire experience. A truly successful bathroom sustains the illusion and makes you feel like you’re exploring a private salon – not just a row of cubicles. I don’t know anything about interior decorating – this is just my personal toilet philosophy.
Yup, I took photos in the toilets. I felt creepy doing it, but luckily no one caught me. So how did Bacchus fare in the toilet test?
Cute design – Check (one huge mirror with an elaborate frame and an antique Singer sewing machine sitting next to the towls)
Ambience – Check (candles!)
Branded toiletries – Check (L’occitane hand wash and hand cream. I used both of course.)
ACTUAL towels – Check (in a nice pyramid stack)
So whether its for the ambience, the food or the toilets – Bacchus is definitely worth a visit. Worth a 1.5hour drive from Sydney? Well is there anywhere in Sydney where you can dine in a historic theatre? Exactly.