Newcastle’s dining scene has evolved rapidly in the last decade. No longer is it the slightly bedraggled, daggy and underwhelming culinary experience of twenty years ago. These days, Newy (as the locals call it) is a regional hub of trendy bars, chic restaurants and cool cafes.
There’s vibrant street art, good shopping, a beautiful harbour, and nearby vineyards too. And it still boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and laidback vibes in NSW.
So take the time to stop and enjoy the wonderful city of Newcastle. It’s only 2 hours drive north of Sydney and there’s oodles of sun, sand and surf, as well as thriving dining scene for foodies and culinary tourists alike.
Two Locations: 127 Darby Street, Cooks Hill NSW 2300 Ph: (02) 4929 4710 / & Coffee Bar 42 Mitchell St, Stockton NSW 2295 Ph: (02) 4920 6392
The Autumn Rooms Cafe is an excellent choice for a chilled breakfast/ brunch/ lunch in the trendy precinct of Newcastle, Darby Street.
You’ll find here all the breakfast classics (crumpets, toasties, porridge, bacon rolls, eggs benedict, etc), as well as some seriously good coffee (Glitch & Guest). The staff are cheerful and the atmosphere is lively.
However, where The Autumn Rooms really excels is in its provision of adventurous brunch offerings, like Green Curry Eggs, Rice Congee, Mushroom Tartine, and our favourite, the Brussels ‘Caesar’ – a delicious mix of garlic sprouts, crispy bacon, parmesan, pangrattato and anchovies.
The cafe opens from early morning to 3pm every day of the week and walk-ins are welcome. Darby Street has a lot to offer, with eclectic retail and hospitality offerings, and you can easily lose a few hours shopping in Newcastle’s hub of quirky boutiques and homeware stores.
Just be sure to secure your table at The Autumn Rooms before the kitchen closes at 2pm. You can book here. There’s a children’s menu too for the little people in your life.
The Autumn Rooms team has also spread its wings into nearby Stockton too. The Stockton cafe serves the same great coffee that you’ll find in the Darby Street mothership, but the food options are simpler and less ambitious (toasties & porridge). The banana smoothie is a winner, though.
Location: 25 King Street, Newcastle NSW 2300 Ph: (02) 4023 5903
Bocados delivers quality contemporary Spanish cuisine and South American tapas from its warm and laidback corner restaurant in the East End of Newcastle.
This is a family-owned bar and eatery that consistently delivers zesty, vibrant, authentic Spanish dishes. Around for over a decade now, Bacados was one of the first restaurants in Newcastle to pioneer the tapas menu, the share plate experience now so popular in the city.
Bocados’ paella is justifiably popular but the regularly changing menu features a great variety of Spanish-style small plates. Recently introduced to the menu is the braised octopus with confit potatoes, adding to the wide variety of choice.
We ordered plenty of tapas and the chorizo, ceviche, fried duck leg (Pato Con Membrillo), chickpea soup, garlic prawns and meatballs (Albondigas) were all excellent. And, like most diners, we chose the Churros (Spanish donuts) to finish.
The Bocados bar has wide range of specialty beers, Spanish wines, sherries and sangria. For those who like an early start to their cocktails, there’s a spicy Bloody Maria, Bocados’ version of the Bloody Mary.
The whitebait is the perfect bar snack. Consume with a bottle of Cusquena, the Peruvian beer brand nicknamed the Gold of the Incas.
Bocados has become a favourite haunt for Novocastrians over the years. The restaurant brings a passion for authentic Spanish cooking to the Newcastle community and has been embraced for doing so. We can heartily recommend.
Location: Alder Park Sports Club, Bridges Rd New Lambton Ph: 0433 330 746
Open – Thursday to Sunday 5.30pm – 9.30pm.
Our Taste of Greece has recently moved from its original location at Dixon Park Surf Club to a new home at Alder Park Bowling Club, New Lambton.
This is a friendly, family-run Greek eatery/ bistro, and is perfect for when you’re seeking a relaxed, laid-back, inexpensive meal that will fill the belly but not empty the wallet.
Our Taste of Greece is not glamorous or trendy, chic or Instagramable. You will be served good, honest, simple and tasty Greek cuisine, made without fuss, but delivered with heart and authenticity. It’s a local favourite that totally deserves it’s spot amongst our best restaurants in Newcastle.
The bistro is situated within the bowling club and offers views of the greens. It has the feel of a long-standing neighbourhood favourite – welcoming, unfussy and slightly unfashionable.
The owners, Don and Martes Kakavas, have a long history in the Newcastle hospitality industry, running their own catering company and selling food direct to the public at local markets and street fairs. They have also, for a long time, wholesaled to many Newcastle restaurants and cafes.
With Con’s Greek heritage and Martes’ Maltese background, Our Taste of Greece delivers fresh homemade and handmade Greek cuisine of a high standard.
The usual Greek favourites (spanakopita, moussaka, souvlaki) are flavoursome and hearty. The seafood dishes are simple (beer battered fish, calimari), and don’t break any boundaries, but come in large portion sizes and are cooked well.
We ordered the healthy halloumi salad (tasty and fresh), but reluctantly didn’t have room for the new halloumi pizza (dammit…). The pastitsio (Greek lasagne) was delicious and filling.
Our Taste of Greece is a throwback to yesteryear: the food is fresh and plentiful, home cooked, well priced and unpretentious. When the bill comes, you’ll be full and will not wince at the numbers. And the carpet may remind you of your yia-yia’s 🙂
Location: 23 Watt St, Newcastle, NSW 2300 Ph: 0434 700 257
This classy Italian dining room has found a winning formula if the consistently enthusiastic reviews are anything to go by.
Rather than bewilder patrons with an over-stuffed menu, they have streamlined the options down to a 4 Course Italian-themed set meal. Thus allowing the kitchen staff to really perfect a handful of dishes – much to the benefits of their dinners.
If you love pasta, buy yourself a Marcato 2700 Atlas Pasta Machine and start making your own at home. Honestly, it’s easier to do than you think!
The set menu changes with the months and features bread and antipasti followed by pasta or perhaps gnocchi option. Next comes a Secondi, accompanied by a side and finally, a Dolce.
Hence the current offerings include Fennel Salami, Mozzarella & Pickles, eggplant-rich Gnocchi alla Norma and Slow Roasted Pork. If you still have room, dessert is Buttermilk Pannacotta. Bliss!
One happy customer summed up Una Volta as balancing the warm atmosphere of a small restaurant with fine dining quality food. So no wonder bookings are recommended!
Location: 2/1 King St, Newcastle, NSW 2300 Ph: (02) 4929 3333
We couldn’t really do a rundown of the best restaurants in Newcastle and not write about Rustica Newcastle Beach.
As the name implies, the location alone makes it worthy of a mention. Rustica is blessed with commanding views over beautiful Newcastle Beach.
However, it isn’t just what’s outside the windows that speaks of special occasions, the decor inside conjures a rustic-chic vibe. We particularly like the clustered lanterns lighting design.
And the food? Well, that’s pretty striking too.
Rustica Newcastle Beach does traditional Mediterranean food ‘with a little twist’. There is a strong Greek influence in the menu of Small and Large Plates, both of which invite sharing over good conversation. Try the King Prawns Baked in Kataifi Pastry and Cypriot Grain Salad, Fetta Mousse, with Toasted Almond Skordalia.
Or perhaps Rustica’s Kleftico Lamb Shoulder, Oregano Potatoes, Seasonal Greens, Candied Walnuts and Lemon. Both will transport you to the Greek Isles and lazy lunches overlooking the Aegean.
With friendly, attentive service and a lively ambience, this is the perfect spot to meet with friends for a birthday or anniversary celebration.
If navigating the menu proves too much for you, go for the Greek Banquet at $68 pp. The kitchen brigade will choose dishes that highlight the best of their skills and all you have to do is sit back, soak up the atmosphere and watch the waves roll in the bay outside.
Location: 102 Darby St, Cooks Hill, NSW 2300 Ph: (02) 4929 4854
Phillip and Toby, the father and son team behind Wil & Sons, are no strangers to the Newcastle dining scene. Being veterans of spots such as The Edwards, they knew exactly what they were aiming for when they launched their own establishment – a great overall experience based on ‘good food, good beer, good service’.
Well, let me tell you, they are hitting that goal and smashing it out of the park.
Wil & Sons fosters a chilled surfer vibe that belies the quality of its food. Take the breakfast menu, for example. The ubiquitous Avocado isn’t simply ‘smashed’, but matched with Burrata, Heirloom Tomato, Dukka & Lemon on Sonoma Sourdough. Even better, they have the confidence to serve the Indonesian classic, Nasi Goreng complete with Satay Chicken, Pickles, Fried Egg & Shallot. Fantastic!
Dinner features Smalls such as Sardines, Sourdough, Fresh tomato & Lemon and Prawn Toast, Wasabi Mayo & Black Salt. For Mains, the Pork Belly, Miso Sauce, Fried Broccoli, Sticky Soy & Shallot Crunch gets rave reviews. And if you love your shellfish, the 1kg portion of Saffron Mussels, Chilli, Garlic, Ginger & Tomato with Sonoma Sourdough is a must-try.
Even the lunchtime crowd is catered for with their Sandwich Deli knocking out fresh, filling sangas like Egg & Lettuce (Curried Egg, Capers, Iceberg Lettuce & Aioli) and Cubano (Pork, Ham, Pickle, Swiss Cheese, Mustard & Mayo).
All this, with cocktails and craft beer, great coffee, sensitivity to special dietary requirements and friendly service. No wonder Wil & Sons is one of the best restaurants in Newcastle.
Location: 551D Hunter St, Newcastle West NSW, 2302 Ph: (02) 4023 4048
You can’t talk about the best restaurants in Newcastle and overlook the One-Hatted (Good Food Guide) Subo.
This compact, fine dining restaurant with its unpretentious fit-out and knowledgeable staff deserves all its accolades and more.
At first glance, the menu is minimal. But don’t fret. The team at Subo curate a single, 6-Course tasting menu of Modern Australian fare which changes every 6 weeks.
Some may be concerned that the food descriptions are alarmingly sparse. ‘Snacks – Seasonal’ and ‘Kangaroo – Purple Carrots, Pistachio, Black Olive’ really doesn’t give much away. However, diners are in safe hands. Ingredients are sourced with care – often from local, small producers – prepared with love and presented beautifully.
And this dedication to quality and locality is also on display in the drinks list. Subo proudly offers Australian-only wines which have undergone the minimum of intervention.
Finally, if you follow a plant-based diet, Subo can prepare a vegetarian menu upon request. Moreover, their website makes it clear that a number of dietary requirements can be accommodated, providing you call in advance and talk to them first.
It is details like this – plus the divine food – that make Subo such a special place to dine.
Location: 367 Glebe Rd, Merewether, NSW 2291 Ph: (02) 4963 2369
We hop over to the beachside suburb of Merewether for the next of our best restaurants in Newcastle.
First off, we are happy to report that Sapphire Indian Restaurant has scored an Australia Good Food Guide Readers’ Choice Award this year in the Indian cuisine category. What does this mean? Great food with a loyal and enthusiastic local following – and that is recommendation enough for us.
Oh. And this is in addition to the Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award that they received last year.
So what it all the fuss about? Describing itself as an Indian fine dining restaurant, Sapphire serves much-loved classic Indian dishes, cooked with love and a little bit of culinary polish.
Biryanis are warm with spices, the naan is fluffy and light and regulars travel across Newcastle for the Goan Fish Curry. And if we lived nearer, we would too!
All the dishes are competitively priced, especially given the quality of the food.
Sapphire Indian restaurant offers 3 Banquet Menus, for those who are feeling especially hungry. They also have a generous number of both vegetarian and vegan options for those pursuing a plant-based diet.
The residents of the area are rhapsodic about their local Indian eatery and so they should be. The food at Sapphire Indian Restaurant deserves all its praise.
Location: Quest Newcastle Apartment Hotel, 575 Hunter St, Newcastle, NSW 2302 Ph: (02) 4031 8332
Opening early for brekkie, rustling up lunches for those in need and keeping the food coming into dinner – this Happy Wombat is a busy little soul!
This is a friendly cafe-cum-restaurant with perky, helpful staff and a relaxed, welcoming ambience.
Start the day with a their Atomic Bacon & Egg Roll and get a kick start from the liberal slug of Spicy BBQ Sauce. Or maybe the Apple & Cinnamon Porridge with Macadamia Milk, Apple Compote & Candied Walnuts appeals more?
For lunch, share the Lamb & Harissa Sausage Rolls with a mate. But if sharing doesn’t do it for you, order one of the Happy Wombat’s Burgers instead. We’re pleased to report that the vegans amongst us are well-catered for with an Eggplant Schnitzel Burger complete with Vegan Cheese and House Made Tomato Relish. And chips, of course. There have to be chips.
Come dinner, parts of the lunch menu remain but the kitchen also fries up the char. This adds Steaks to the food offerings, along with some pasta dishes, a fish option and a couple of slow-cooked options. The 12 Hour Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with House Made Potato Gnocchi, Seasonal Mushrooms, Spinach, Goats Cheese and Rosella Flower and Tasmanian Pepper Berry Jus sounds right up our alley.
Over in the bar, Craft Beer flows and we’re pleased to say that Hunter Valley Wines are well-represented on the wine list.
In addition to all this, the Happy Wombat also hosts Live Music and Comedy Nights, along with a number of other themed evenings. With so much to offer, this lively venue sits confidently on our rundown of the best restaurants in Newcastle.
Location: 9 Albert St, Wickham, NSW 2293 Ph: (02) 4965 3885
There are more that a few diners who reckon that Flotilla is not only one of the finest restaurants in Newcastle, but also one of the areas best kept secrets.
Though small, this is a special occasion kind of place that takes premium local produce and elevates it beyond the everyday to something really rather wonderful.
And so the current menus tease tantalising flavours such as a Smoked Beetroot Tartare and Shaved Cuttlefish, Scallop, Roe Cream, Fermented Pumpkin and Melon. And who could possibly resist a dessert of Honey Comb, Milk Ice, Smoked Creme Fraiche and Mandarin Jam?
If you love home cooking, investing in an Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer is one of the smartest thing you’ll ever do. This amazing appliance is a 11-in-1 function multi-cooker and can do everything from air frying and slow cooking to dehydrating and baking!
Since 1 September, The Flotilla has gone to serving Set Menus exclusively. Lunch Menus come in at $85 and Dinner at $95 (up to $120 with additions). Pleasingly, both the Lunch and Dinner Set menus also have vegetarian sister menus which sound just as exciting as the regular ones. Personally, I’d love to try the Buttermilk Fried Aubergine, Chilli Tamarind and Smoked Peanuts.
Drinks wise, the wine list is predominantly local and French. This includes a pretty good selection of Champagnes – just in case you are celebrating. And yes, the cocktails look pretty good too, with the Paper Plane – Gospel Rye, Amaro Nonino, Aperol & Lemon ($21) – sounding particularly appealing.
Finally, it’s great to see that Flotilla has a chef’s table. So if you really want to experience the glory of this chic little eatery in full, make sure you get a seat close to the action.
Location: 5-7 Darby St, Newcastle, NSW 2300 Ph: 0499 611 836
Light Years are slowly spreading their likeable take on modern Asian food amongst the coastal towns of east Australia.
Already with successful restaurants in Burleigh, Byron & Noosa, they opened an outpost in Newcastle in late December 2021 and it’s fair to say that the place took off straight away.
And why wouldn’t it?
The blush salmon pink and pale wood decor with its statement palm trees is just kitsch enough to be fun and welcoming. Plus, the Asian fusion menu is loaded with tasty dishes.
Starting with Bao Buns and Dumplings, the menu then moves into the popular Small, Medium and Large plate format that lends itself to willingly to sharing amongst a group of friends.
The Fire Cracker Chicken ($22) does just what it says on the tin. Meanwhile, the Mee Goreng Spiced Fried Chicken with Fire Cracker Sauce, Thai Basil and Chilli packs a welcome punch of authentic heat. If you find the burn too much, pair it with the Pickled Papaya & Cabbage Slaw ($15) or the sweet, citrusy Watermelon Salad ($12).
Other favourites include the Crispy Masterstock Pork Belly ($32), which is impossible to leave alone with its Sticky Chilli Caramel, Charred Pineapple and Herbs. The Turmeric & Coconut Curry ($36) with Kaffir Lime, Snake Beans, & Herbs is creamy and yet fresh. And who would have thought that Miso Butter would be the perfect accompaniment to Corn? But it is, as the addictive Miso Corn ($15) shows.
If all of this deliciousness is too much for you to process, there are 2 Feed Me! menus at $65pp and $85pp, respectively.
Light Years Asian Bar and Diner is definitely a hit in Newcastle, and we suspect there will be more of their relaxed, friendly restaurants cropping up in the future. At least, we hope so!
Whilst we’re talking about the Light Years empire, you can find out more about their Noosa venue – and other dining options in our post on the Best Restaurants in Noosa.
Location: 185 Hunter St, Newcastle, NSW 2300 Ph: (02) 6396 4000
Now don’t worry, this hasn’t become an accommodation review site. What we’re interested at the shiny new QT Hotel Newcastle in the old David Jones Building is the Rooftop at QT Bar and the Jana Restaurant and Bar. So let’s get to it:
Promising a ‘touch of Tokyo’, the deep blue and gold decor of the indoors portion of the QT Bar Newcastle is illuminated by a galaxy of moonlike globes. Exit through the expansive doors to the outside deck and you’ll find views over the waterfront and the Hunter River. It’s a great spot for a pre-dinner cocktail or a late night snack.
Food-wise, the menu consolidates on the Japanese direction with Tempura Prawns & Wasabi Mayo ($22), 2 types of Gyoza ($24) and a Chicken Katsu Burger ($24), amongst other tempting morsels. Similarly, the Cocktails play with Japanese favourites such as Yuzu, Suntory Toki Whiskey and Umeshu.
Whilst not as big or glamorous as it’s sister rooftop bar at the QT Melbourne, it’s still the perfect place to watch the sun go down.
Meanwhile, at Jana Restaurant & Bar, the team curates a Modern Australian menu which aims to take diners ‘from pasture to vinyard’.
Start you day with Eggs Benedict ($19) or the loaded QT Big Breakfast ($29). Come the evening, the options become more fine dining, though the choices are limited – and on the smaller size.
Having said that, the staff get universally rave reviews and the Wine List is good.
Finally, we love that a larger lunar globe has sneaked downstairs from the Rooftop at QT to adorn the dining room.
Location: 9 Darby St, Newcastle, NSW 2300 Ph: (02) 4925 2226
As you tuck happily into the generous sharing menus at MEET, you’ll probably find yourself wondering why there aren’t more Brazilian restaurants in Australia. After all, many of the courses are a tasty play on the BBQ dishes that us Aussie love so much.
But then MEET is a winner on all fronts.
Firstly, the space is huge. The move to a new spot has resulted in an industrial chic fit-out with NY warehouse vibes. If you aren’t overly hungry, you can lounge at the dimly lit bar and people watch. Whilst there, indulge in an original Cocktail such as the fruity Acai Me Up ($23) – Grainshaker Vodka, Cedilla Acai Liqueur, Strawberry & Acai Syrup – and a share plate or 2.
Alternatively, get a group of ravenous mates together and settle in for a feast. From the Corn Bread & Chipotle Butter ($10) to the Wagyu Brisket with Cauliflower Puree ($45), everything is suitably smoky and perfectly cooked.
And if you’re a plant-based eater, don’t fret. Although Brazilian cuisine tends towards the carnivorous, at MEET they are smart enough to offer more. In fact, there is even a Vegan Menu. But whatever your dietary choices, make sure you order the Celeriac Steak with Mushroom & Walnut Ragout ($32). It’s a stand-out.
If you’re nipping up to Broadbeach or Surfers Paradise, see our recommendations for the Best Restaurants on the Gold Coast.
Location: 131 Beaumont Street, Hamilton, NSW 2300 Ph: (02) 9043 1046
Mockingbird is the first cafe from the team behind the well-respected local catering company Fennel & Co.
You’ll find delicious coffee and freshy, tasty food in comfortable surrounds that give off Melbourne vibes. Expect modern Oz cuisine that embraces Asian and Middle-Eastern flavours combined with attentive service and reasonable prices.
Try the beautifully presented French Toast topped with an assortment of fresh fruit and flowers or the Shawarma Brisket and Burrata. Both are imaginative twists on standard brunch classics.
There’s a wholesome and impressive looking Vegan Buddha Bowl too, if that’s your thing.
If you’re heading out to the Hunter Valley you’ll find the sister Mockingbird Cafe located at Tatler Wines in Lovedale, in the heart of beautiful wine country. It’s a wonderful setting for leisurely lunch.